HALIFAX – Ryan MacDougall was fed up with expensive beard oils from chain stores like Sephora. Top brands just weren’t cutting it when it came to taming his mane.
So, with a Dominos pizza in one hand and a pen in the other, he and girlfriend Danielle Grasley wrote a grocery list; olive oil, hemp seed oil and castor oil.
Six months later they launched East Coast Beard Bros., an online shop and lifestyle blog to encourage men to care for their skin using the couple’s line of handmade beard oils, soaps and balms.
“We’re trying to really educate men on the benefits of not only beard care but skin care as well,” MacDougall said.
MacDougall, 31, has been growing a beard for about five years. But, only recently he discovered how to properly groom his locks.
“My beard was very wiry, not very soft and not very healthy,” MacDougall said. “I didn’t realize that there were actually beard care products out there.”
MacDougall is part of a growing number of North American and European men who have put down their razors in favor of thick, full-bodied facial hair.
“My beard… it’s a part of who I am,” MacDougall said. “It’s kind of a permanent fixture on my face.”
The trend is popular among millennials on Instagram, where there are over 100,000 posts featuring men and their perfectly coiffed beards with the hashtag “beardgoals. It’s a far cry from clean-shaven trends popular 10 to 20 years ago, MacDougall says.
And drugstore and luxury brands are taking note.
A 2016 report by Allied Market Research reveals men’s global personal care market, which includes skin and facial hair products, is expected to grow to $166 billion by 2022.
In the United Kingdom, data analysts at IRI say sales of beard care products have risen by 226 per cent within the last three years, while sales of disposable razors have plummeted.
But, MacDougall and Grasley say men are still in the dark about purchasing the best products for their needs.
“A lot of the products in the market now have a lot of filler ingredients that really have no benefits to either your beard or your skin,” MacDougall said.
Filler ingredients, like silicone, are not proven to benefit skin or hair but are often the first ingredients found in high-to-low end beard oils.
Through trial and error, the pair created their own recipes using locally sourced, high-quality essential oils.
“My partner said, ‘why don’t we sell these?’ So we did,” MacDougall said.
Grasley and MacDougall now hand-mix and pour several different blends that each target skin and hair issues like dandruff and blemishes.
Most of their products are certified organic, vegan and are all mixed in small batches in the couple’s home. They are made to order so customers receive fresh products at $14 a bottle – each with its own Nova Scotia-inspired name including “Haligonia” and “Darkside.”
Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, MacDougall and Grasley moved to Nova Scotia a little over two years ago.
“It’s great, we love it here,” MacDougall said. “Both of us have been thriving here much more than we did back home.”
Their brand is a homage to the East Coast’s easy-going, minimalist lifestyle, which the couple hopes will resonate with locals.
“We want our products to be approachable,” Grasley said. “We want to keep it pretty simple.”
MacDougall currently works full-time in marketing and Grasley, who is 28, is a licenced make-up artist, so, for now, they are happy serving small-scale, weekly orders for the Maritimes.
“The goal is to grow to the point where this is our full-time job,” MacDougall said. “But we’re just not there yet.”