How I dealt with random beard baldness

Hair loss has been a fear of mine since I was old enough to start worrying about my looks.

According to my family history, there are signs it could be on the horizon. My own father is balding but not yet bald. There’s a crucial difference between ‘bald’ as a verb and as an adjective: one is the process and the other is the result. How you navigate between the two is up to you.

The thing that really bugs me about hair loss is the lack of control. You can do everything right—cleanse, tone, moisturize, repeat!—and still lose your hair. This is exactly what happened three years ago when I finally embraced my own hairiness and grew a beard.

SEE ALSO: How to be your own quarantine barber

I enjoy having a beard for a number of reasons. I like how facial hair frames my face and complements my dark features. Plus, George Michael (my style icon and general hero) had one. Nowadays, there’s a whole subculture around beard maintenance. Having a beard is not a personality trait per se, but dealing with random beard baldness can definitely build character. I would know.

I had developed a pretty reliable routine in shaping and trimming my beard line (neck beard maintenance is its own type of hell) when I noticed a small bald patch right under my jawline. The spot was no bigger than a coin but still fairly noticeable. Weird! I thought. But my body had been through weirder things and always sorted itself out. I thought these little bald spots would do the same.

This wasn’t the case. One bald spot soon became two, which then quickly expanded to four giant craters on my neck. The hairless spots were so clean, too—it was as if overnight someone had placed random patches of Nair around my beard line like a cruel sleepover prank. It made my overall beard look super uneven and patchy, and made me feel generally unsexy. Hoping to find the cause and a solution to this mysterious hair loss, I booked an appointment at Spring Street Dermatology to deal with the crop circles that had invaded my beard.

The author at his appointment at Spring Street Dermatology.

Alopecia, aka spot baldness, is a fairly common condition in “which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.” Instead of gradual hair loss, it’s as if clumps of hair fall out overnight and then refuse to grow back for months.

“The common mechanism is that the immune system essentially goes haywire and instead of attacking foreign pathogens like bacteria and viruses, it sets its sights inwards against the hair follicles,” Dr. Nikhil Dhingra, a dermatologist (and lifesaver) at Spring Street Dermatology, explains over email. It affects around 200,000 people per year in the US and there is currently no cure.

There are different types of alopecia, but some of the most common include androgenetic alopecia, AKA male pattern baldness, and alopecia barbae, which affects the beard. The latter is what I had the pleasure of being formally diagnosed with.

There’s no exact known cause of alopecia, but stress is believed to be a major factor. “The predisposing factors aren’t well known; genetics may play a role, but stress has been associated as a trigger for many patients, potentially via a spike in cortisol which can upregulate circulating immune cells,” says Dr. Dhingra. “For someone predisposed, this heightened immunologic surveillance may lead to a sudden episode of hair loss.”

Unsurprisingly, this random hair loss can be quite jarring, which in turn has the potential to cause more stress and further perpetuate the severity of the condition. Essentially, hair loss plus stress related to the aforementioned hair loss equals more hair loss. Alopecia can be a cruel, self-fulfilling cycle.

The good news is that the condition isn’t usually symptomatic of a larger health problem, and Dr. Dhingra says most cases will “spontaneously improve in 12-18 months.” Tragically, this wasn’t the case for me. But for those who lack patience, there are a few treatments available.

The most common treatment is steroid injections which are administered directly into the affected areas. “The steroids themselves don’t boost hair production, but diminish the cause of the loss,” Dr. Dhingra explains. Once applied, patients can expect to see hair growth improve naturally over time. For best results, repeat this treatment every month. It’s common for the hair growth to be light at first before resuming its normal frequency in approximately 3-6 months.

If you’re not into needles, there are other options available. “Topical steroids can sometimes be used, and off-label use of a laser with UV light has been effective for combating the inflammation that causes hair loss.”

I’ve received steroid injections intermittently over the past three years. Since alopecia is an actual medical condition, the treatment was covered by my health insurance. (The one silver lining in this whole ordeal.) “Otherwise, it’s like $50,” says Dr. Dhingra. 

The author after receiving one steroid treatment to treat beard alopecia.

As much of an aesthetic headache as it is, alopecia is not the end of the world. It’s also much more common than you think. Once I was diagnosed, I started noticing more and more people with random beard baldness. I was tempted to show solidarity with my beard-bald brethren, but if you know someone dealing with random hair loss, it’s probably best that you don’t bring it up.

Three years and over a dozen steroid injections later, my alopecia has waned and my beard is as full as ever. Since I don’t plan on giving up a life of stress anytime soon, it’s possible that the beard patches will return, but at least this time I’ll know what I’m dealing with. Until then, it’s just one less thing to worry about.

This one product made Bradley Cooper look like a buffet platter at the Oscars 2019

Bradley Cooper oscars

(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images)

While Bradley Cooper may have looked like a piece of worn – and distressed – vintage leather in ‘A Star is Born,’ he looked like an entire buffet platter at Sunday’s Oscars.

The star, who dazzled audiences with his directorial debut for ‘A Star is Born,’ is nominated for Best Actor and looked every bit an Oscar-winner. And can we talk about transformation? He went from playing a troubled country singer onscreen to poised director on the red carpet – and it’s kind of unbelievable to witness IRL. With lightly tousled hair, a dewy complexion, a neatly trimmed beard and an even-toned complexion, he looked extremely dapper with a mix of Hollywood Handsome and laidback California cool.

SEE ALSO: Here’s the correct order of skincare and makeup

While his look may have seemed seamless, behind the scenes, it took some work and a magical touch from celebrity groomer, Natalia Bruschi. The stylist took a quick photo of all of her magical supplies she used – all 12 products – to get Bradley’s final look. That included Acqua di Parma’s new Barbiere line (which doesn’t even hit stores until March!), Peter Thomas Roth products ranging from the Max Anti-Shine Mattifying Gel to the brand’s Hydra-Gel Eye Patches, Redken Brews’ hair products, eye drops, to a de-puffing device.

Below, Natalia spills the tea on all things Bradley, shedding tips on how to use products for facial hair, the one product every guy needs, and how he luxuriated with a face mask for 10-minutes before heading to the award show.

Bradley Cooper oscars grooming

(Photo by Natalia Bruschi)

How did you prep Bradley’s skin today for the Oscars?

For the Oscars I prepped Bradley’s skin using the Acqua di Parma Barbiere Face Scrub.  I then applied the Clay Face Mask and left it on for 10 minutes. I used the Acqua di Parma Barbiere Moisturizing Face Cream for the SAG’s but tonight Bradley wanted to minimize shine so I skipped right to the Moisturizing Eye Cream. The soothing roller ball on the end of the Eye Cream helped to depuff and minimize dark circles. It’s also a nice relaxing moment during a pretty hectic day. To further define the face I use the Jillian Dempsey Gold Bar.

How did you style his beard and hair for the Oscars?

I used the Acqua di Parma Beard Cream on Bradley’s beard – he really likes the scent.  I combined the Acqua di Parma Beard Serum with some medium texture styling cream to give his hair some subtle shine. 

Do you have any at home/self-care suggestions for clients to help prep their skin in the week before a big event like the Oscars?  i.e., facial, refrain from shaving, peel or exfoliate?

In the weeks leading up to a big event, I always suggest clients minimize alcohol intake and double up on water. A consistent few extra hours of sleep and a bit more exercise can help up the glow. I recommend my clients book professional facial or laser treatments one week to 10 days before a big event. However, this isn’t the time to try anything new. It’s best to book a treatment that you’ve had before – one that’s not especially aggressive.  You also can’t do enough masking. I recommend hydrating masks 2 – 3 times a week.

Have you found any favourite Acqua di Parma products that work especially well on Bradley when he is clean shaven? 

When Bradley is clean shaven, I use the Acqua di Parma Moisturizing Face Cream and Moisturizing Eye Cream. Before applying the Face Cream, I pat the Refreshing After Shave into the skin until it’s fully absorbed. It’s incredibly lightweight and the cooling formula helps combat any razor burn.

When he has stubble or a beard?

For looks that involve a beard or stubble I use the same hydrating Acqua di Parma facial products (Moisturizing Face Cream and Moisturizing Eye Cream), but swap in the Acqua di Parma Beard Serum to address any facial hair. It absorbs beautifully into the skin and the scent is smells really fresh – so good. I love using excess product on the neck and even in the hair for shine.

What are the must-have grooming products that every man should own?

Every man should own a quality razor.  In terms of grooming products the basics include face wash, face scrub, facial moisturizer and shaving cream. Eye cream and body lotion are also key.  I love the scent of a nice cologne like Acqua di Parma and recommend layering with a scented body lotion.  Hair product specific to a guy’s hair texture is essential, along with shampoo, and maybe conditioner, depending on hair type. 

What shaving tools do you think every man should own? 

Every man should own a pair of clippers or trimmers and a good quality razor is a must-have.  I like the new Acqua di Parma razor and shaving accessories.  They remind me of what you’d see in an old school barbershop in Milan.

When you’re creating a red carpet look for a client does their suit or wardrobe play a role?

I definitely consider a client’s suit or wardrobe when we are choosing a grooming style. If it’s a daytime event, I’ll keep the hair loose, use limited product, and create something more fun and playful. If it’s an evening event and my client’s wearing a suit, I’ll tighten up the look by adding more product so it’s a bit more polished. For a black tie event, I’ll create something more sleek.

Beautycounter just launched Counterman, making ‘clean beauty’ sexy for the boys, too

Ever since Google came out with their list of 2018’s biggest trending terms, I’ve been curious about the beauty brand called Beautycounter.

The company beat out Fenty, Glossier, Drunk Elephant and everyone else as the biggest searched beauty brand, coming in at #1. That’s quite a feat. Doing a little more research, I discovered that the brand, which has been around since 2011, has championed clean beauty before it was trending. A browse through the site brings us to “The Never List,” a guide that details 1,500 or so ingredients and why they could be harmful. “We live in a country that regulates everything,” its founder, Gregg Renfrew says on Beautycounter’s website. “So imagine my surprise when I learned that when it comes to the personal care industry, that’s simply not the case. Companies are allowed to use harmful ingredients and make their own judgments about safety.”

SEE ALSO: I tested CBD for half a year. Here’s what actually works

It’s true. Currently, the FDA is virtually free of regulations, allowing the beauty industry to use most products and ingredients banned elsewhere like in the E.U. Beautycounter’s mission is to become more transparent when it comes to what ingredients they use and is proactive when it comes to demanding change. Last year, the brand and its 100 sales consultants, lobbied for the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which pushes the FDA to closely regulate personal care products.

The mission for change as well as being a great resource for consumers, reminds me of what Paula’s Choice used to be when the brand first launched. With so much interest from Beautycounter, it was only natural that the brand would foray into men’s. Just this month, Beautycounter launched Counterman, an entire clean beauty brand created for men. From a daily exfoliating cleanser, toner pads, oil-free face lotion, to shaving products just for guys.

Below, we spoke with Michael McGeever, the head developer for the entire brand who gave a breakdown to why he believes guys need Counterman in their regimens.

Very Good Light: What makes Counterman products so different from others?

Michael McGeever: Our formulas help keep men’s skin looking healthy in the form of cleaner products designed specifically for their unique skin needs. Each Counterman product features our high-tech Sequoia Stem Cell Complex to protect the skin from every day stress. We handpick every ingredient that goes into our products using our rigorous selection and testing process to ensure our products are high-performing and safer.  

VGL: There are so many men’s products out there now. What was the goal in going into men’s with the brand?

MM: A men’s line was the number one request from our customers, both women shopping for men and men who were using our unisex products. We previewed men’s as a Holiday set in 2017 – it sold out in less than 12 hours when it was planned to last the entire season, so we knew we were headed in the right direction. Men’s skin has specific biological needs, so it’s best to use products that are designed specifically for them. We believe that men deserve safer skincare, too.

VGL: Okay, so tell me then about what the main ingredients are for Counterman

MM: The signature ingredient in each product is the Sequoia Stem Cell Complex. Plant stem cells have the ability to self-renew, and never undergo an aging process. Technology helps increase the availability of these extracts and allows us to have consistency in our formulas. In addition to the Sequoia Stem Cell Complex, each individual product is created with ingredients that help deliver the results of that formula. A few examples of our key ingredients are:

  • Daily Exfoliating Cleanser – jojoba beads provide gentle mechanical exfoliation
  • Clarifying Toner Pads – witch hazel and green tea help tighten pores
  • Oil-Free Face Lotion – taurine for skin resiliency

VGL: Finally, are men ready for progressive grooming in 2019? How do you perceive men and their skincare in 2019? 

MM: Prestige men’s skincare is trending as men start to pay more attention to the products they’re using. There’s an opportunity to provide enhanced education to this audience around their skin and how safer products can make a difference. We haven’t seen anyone leading the conversation around cleaner products for this market and we’re hoping to change that with Counterman.

Below, our favorite items from the brand:

Conditioning beard oil, $30

This lightweight beard oil instantly relieves dry skin. Created with oils like sunflower, jojoba and macadamia, it’s super hydrating. You don’t have to use it just for beard though – use it as an all-over face oil. BUY HERE

Clarifying Toner Pads, $36

The pads make this super easy to tone your face. Created with witch hazel and green tea, it helps to remove excess impurities from your pores. Includes beautiful bergamot and vetiver essential oils – super Earthy. BUY HERE

Energizing Charcoal body wash, $25

Made with activated charcoal and Sequoia Stem Cell Complex to detoxify skin, this beautifully blended body wash (a mix of citrus, mint, rosemary and cedarwood oils!), is so soothing and refreshing, you won’t want to leave your shower. BUY HERE

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Grooming Awards 2018: The best shaving products of the year.

Shaving: It’s a rite of passage for all guys.

Lightning Awards

Whether you take to a razor, an electric trimmer, or let it grow (and go!), facial hair is a major part of a man’s identity. Which is why it’s also become big business over the past decade. With so much fascination over facial hair, it’s estimated that the beard industry will grow to $3.37 billion by 2020.

At Very Good Light, we’ve highlighted the best facial hair products this year from multiple categories. From beard washes (yes, that’s a thing!), new shaving formulations, to new technologies, the below is everything to is THE BEST on the market for trimming, teasing, balming, and everything in between.

SEE ALSO: The Lightning Award  2018 for best body goes to… 

BEST SHAVE CREAM: Cremo Cooling Shave Cream

Even the sharpest blade leaves behind a tiny bit of irritation. Sure you can use a a post-shave balm to soothe your skin, but why not start the process before you shave? This smooth cream’s trio of peppermint, menthol, and tea tree will chill your face, so a close shave won’t phase you at all.

BUY HERE, $10

BEST BEARD TOOL: Art of Shaving Power Brush

At night, your beard hairs get tangled and matted to your face, making them hard for your trimmer or razor to catch. This tool lifts them up, exfoliates your face, and prepares you for the best shave ever. It’ll also save you from painful ingrowns. Its gentle massaging effect is just a nice bonus. 

BUY HERE, $40

BEST PRE-SHAVE OIL: eShave Pre Shave Oil 

Think of pre-shave as your last line of defense—the only thing standing between your face and a paper-thin steel blade. That’s why you want this smooth oil with a lightly scented, white tea formula that starts soothing your skin before your first stroke. Give yourself the luxe treatment and prep your face with a hot towel before applying. 

BUY HERE, $22

BEST AFTER SHAVE: Harry’s Post Shave Balm

Post-shave care is all about telling your skin to chill. This Harry’s balm uses aloe extract to do just that. It leaves out the harsh alcohol of your dad’s aftershave, and its quick-dry formula will do the job and not overstay its welcome. Apply a cold towel after your shave to calm your face, and your face will thank you. 

BUY HERE, $8

BEST BEARD OIL: Kiehl’s Nourishing Beard Grooming Oil

I love grooming oil because it’s one of those products that solves so many problems: a scratchy beard, flaky skin, dry hairs, and more. It’ll soften stubble and help detangle longer beards for easy brushing. Lighter in weight than most on the market, this oil enriches your skin and gives a refreshing burst of cedarwood and eucalyptus. 

BUY HERE, $27

BEST BEARD BALM: Bulldog Original Beard Balm

If you have an oily beard, you might want to use a balm instead of an oil. This one has a creamy texture that absorbs quickly and won’t leave a greasy feel behind. Over the a few weeks of use, you’ll notice the hair of your face feeling more like the hair on your head. 

BUY HERE, $7

BEST BEARD SCRUB: Brickell Face Scrub

Many of us beard-owners know how to care for the beard itself, but what about the skin underneath? Dead skin cells can accumulate and cause ingrown hairs, zits, or worse—beardruff. I like to slough it away with this refreshing scrub. Its strange, gelatinous texture gets in between every hair and gives your beard a squeaky, clean feeling.  

BUY HERE, $12

BEST BEARD WASH: Maapilim Beard Wash

Harsh detergents in many shampoos can dry your hair and make it coarse and dry. This beard wash uses nourishing oils—argan, cedarwood, and Mardarin orange—to keep your beard hydrated as it cleanses. Use a dime-sized amount once or twice a week to prevent your beard from drying out.   

BUY HERE, $27

BEST BEARD TRIMMER: Wahl Lithium Ion+ Stainless Steel Grooming Kit

If you’re like me, you don’t have time for awkward cords, inconsistent cuts, or cheap trimmers that break after a year or two. That’s why I don’t mind spending a bit extra for quality. I’ve been using this cordless model for years now, and it’s the best I’ve seen far. It’s sturdy, slim, and reliable—all the things a quality trimmer should be.

BUY HERE, $60

BEST STUBBLE TRIMMER: PHILIPS Norelco OneBlade Face + Body Hybrid Electric Trimmer and Shaver

The beard industry hasn’t seen a true innovation since the cartridge razor—until the OneBlade. If you like to sport a 5 o’clock shadow, this is the only trimmer you’ll need. It shaves almost as low as a traditional razor, comes with easy three guards, and best of all works on your body. Quite simply, it’s one of the best investments you can fit in your medicine cabinet. 

BUY HERE, $50

BEST BLADE RAZOR: Gillette Fusion5

Looking for a blade razor? The most obvious choice is the right one. Gillette’s newest razor has five insanely thin blades that use less force than other models, for a close shave that won’t result in ingrown hairs. A lubricant strip helps the blades glide effortlessly, and you can use the precision blade on the back to edge around your sideburns and neck. 

BUY HERE, $7

BEST SHAVE GEL: Dr. Carver’s Shave Butter

OK, so this product isn’t a gel in the traditional sense. It’s more of a gel-cream hybrid—and that’s what makes it so great. It turns your face into a buttery Slip-N-Slide that will protect it from pesky nicks and cuts, without the need to reapply. As a bonus, this big bottle costs half as much as competitors. 

BUY HERE, $6

BEST INGROWN HAIR TREATMENT: Malin + Goetz Ingrown Hair Cream

Some guys are prone to ingrown hairs, and others get them from shaving too close. Prevent them by shaving with your hair’s grain, not against, and treat them with this soothing cream that uses vitamins to reduces inflammation and salicylic acid to exfoliate old layers of skin to release the trapped hair.

BUY HERE, $34

BEST NEW LAUNCH: Maximum Hydration Body Shaving Protecting Shave Stick

Seriously, why did no one think of this before? This easy stick applies a lubricating shave cream that goes on clear so you can see what you’re shaving—essential when dealing with your most sensitive parts—and washes off with a clean feeling. Going hairless just got easier. 

BUY HERE, $10

Best Electric Razor: Panasonic ARC5 Men’s Electric Wet/Dry Shaver

If you want a clean shave, but you’re not into blade razors or the clean up they require, this is the razor for you. Its cordless design automatically adjusts to your beard density, easily glides across your face’s contours—even in the shower—and cleans the blades when you’re done.

BUY HERE, $200

Best Nick & Cut Treatment: Asiatica Calming Ampoule

When shaving, nicks and cuts happen. But rather than put a bandage on your face, apply this treatment that lets you heal quickly and naturally. It’s infused with Centella Asiatica, an antibacterial herb found in the wild that wounded tigers are known to rub against to aid with healing.

BUY HERE, $38

Movember and No-Shave November are NOT the same.

November is that time of year when your bro decides he has to grow out his beard.

Like, he’s been waiting ALL. YEAR. LONG. to join his officemates in a brotastic bonding ritual that requires one to throw their dopp kits into a communal fire.

Yes, among sipping on pumpkin spiced tea and football or something, it’s peak beard season. That means every other furry man crawls out of of his cave to sit, wait, and grow, while patting himself on the back for “doing good for mankind.” We know better. This is a classic excuse for being lazy AF and foregoing grooming altogether. That’s unacceptable and also a crime to humanity. There’s absolutely no reason why others should be forced to bask in the presence of Sasquatches who revel in their own musk.

SEE ALSO: Why mental health conversations with men have to change

While they might be using the month of November as an excuse for their poor hygiene, men who are showing off their beards in hordes are actually promoting a conversation for good. Turns out, beards are actually promoting men’s health and awareness. Specifically, through social movements through two organizations: No-Shave November and Movember.

You may have heard of one, both, or thought they were one in the same. They’re actually two separate organizations for very different causes, lumped together in the same exact month.

First came Movember, an international movement started in Australia in 2003 and attempts to brings awareness to men’s health. The organization asks people to donate to the Movember Foundation, a top nongovernmental funder of prostate and testicular cancer research. Since it began, the organization has raised over $837 million across more than 20 countries. Pretty impressive. This year, the organization expects more than 400,000 “Mo Bros” (mustaches are called a uh, mo in Australia) and “Most Sistas” to participate. They expect to raise over $100 million this year alone. They’re also partnering locally, with places like NYC’s The Assemblage, a co-working and living space. For the entire month starting from Nov 1 – Dec 31, $5 from each room booked will go back to the organization. 

Then, there’s No-Shave November, which started in the fall of 2009 by two Americans. Instead of prostate cancer or research, this one asks men to donate to the American Cancer Society, the Prevent Cancer Foundation and Fight Colorectal Cancer. The organization encourages men to stop shaving and instead, using that money they’d use for grooming supplies for cancer associations. The organization hopes to spark conversations around men’s health and overall well-being. 

Which is more popular? Well, if Instagram has any say, #movember has about 1.8 million photos where as #noshavenovember has around 1.03 million posts. Which is for you? Well, depends on which causes resonate with you the most. Either or, they’re two valiant causes that are indeed, important. At a time when men’s health is vastly overlooked, we see that men need more help than ever. After all, men are now dying by suicide at a rampant pace. Studies show that out of all suicides, 4 out of 5 are by men. And with mental health illnesses on the rise, namely anxiety, it’s a good time to reflect on men and their need to reach out for help when they need. It’s completely sobering, and these two initiatives are really great attempts at opening up conversations around men’s health.

That being said, November is not (repeat: NOT!) a month for you to become a lazy oaf. That means that yes, you need to shower. Yes, you need to trim your nose hairs, and YES, wash your f***ing face – every day. While we’re cool with you growing out your face fur this month (or whenever, really), make sure you still use all hygiene as well. Like any cause, take care of yourself first before attempting to do anything for anyone else.

To learn more about Movember head here and to learn about No-Shave November, here

Catching up with David Beckham’s hairstylist Ken Paves

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – AUGUST 20: Ken Paves hosts House 99 by David Beckham party at his salon in West Hollywood on August 20, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for House 99 by David Beckham )

Ken Paves is the OG when it comes to celebrity hairstylists.

Behind the famous manes of David and Victoria Beckham, Eva Longoria, Tom Brady, among several others has been Ken, the peppy blonde stylist who himself became a star thanks to his time on the Oprah Show. The Los Angeles-based entrepreneur became one of the first celebrity hairstylists who became a celebrity himself – way before Instagram came along.

But after years in the business, Ken’s been able to pivot his career in exciting new directions. From his time with Jessica Simpson’s “The Price of Beauty,” his own QVC segments, and books he’s written, he’s now the owner of his own salon. And he’s expanding his empire into men’s. Currently, Ken is the U.S. ambassador to David Beckham’s grooming brand, House 99. The brand ranges from skincare products to hair and shaving.

SEE ALSO: How Bryant Knight went from STAMPD to launching his own grooming brand

“House 99 is authentic to me,” he tells Very Good Light. “I would never talk about something that didn’t have value for me. It really is an authentic extension of what I’m doing.”

With a hectic schedule (we caught Ken after he’d just gone on a whirlwind world tour from London to Beijing back to LA), somehow he’s able to keep it together. Ken (who’s also the godfather to the Beckham’s youngest, Harper!) talks to us below about spirituality, his insecurities, David Beckham’s favorite haircut, and his thoughts on Instagram hairstylists*.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – AUGUST 20: Ken Paves hosts House 99 by David Beckham party at his salon in West Hollywood on August 20, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for House 99 by David Beckham )

First of all, you just got back from China with David. Casual. Tell me about that.

I’m a hair nomad I’m always going and I’m so lucky and blessed to see the world. I was with David in China for a commercial there with a deep meaning. They opened up an area on the Great Wall not opened to the public – not rebuilt or updated – and it was such a privilege.

The fact that my career is in the service industry and takes me to places like that, taking some time to go to this place of history and take it in is the reward. Whenever I’m traveling with David, we immerse ourselves in the culture and try to better understand the climate we’re in or get to know the people. We’ll visit art galleries or orphanages or restaurants. When you have the luxury you have the responsibility to honor the community you’re in.

You’re very close to the Beckhams. What’s the best part of working with him?

I’ve known [both David and Victoria] for 11 years. The greatest thing about working with David is his perspective and point of view. I’ve worked with him with super short to long hair, super short dapper scruffy to every aesthetic. Everything you can imagine. It stems from the person first and their energy. His authenticity to himself work-wise is the greatest thing I’ve learned from him. And personally, they’re a kind family. They all put kindness and inclusiveness as being very important.

Obviously David Beckham is a hair god. Out of all styles, what’s his favorite?

I think the look people most post on Instagram is his quiff pompadour. I still think it’s the style most people love. The cool thing about that style is that it’s still relevant. It has an edge to it and masculine with the tight sides. It can go with a cool leather jacket, jeans and a t-shirt or even a suit. I also saw people post his long hair, the man buns, which was iconic. When it comes to finding his next hair style there’s no real strategy. It’s how he’s feeling and what he’s feeling authentic to and liking at the moment. The long hair, for instance, came out after a summer here in LA, riding his bike around and it continued to grow.

You’re now the official U.S. ambassador for House 99, David’s first grooming line. What’s that like?

Traveling with David all the time I got to see House 99 from its inception and trying the products and working with it. For me, it was super exciting. I’ve never been in that space where my male clients were about to embark their own line. House 99 became about a man’s hair and skin regimen. The range itself is for all textures and types, which is important. I’ve worked with guys who had dreadlocks or short shaved hair. The formula of this line is really versatile. It’s very interesting to see people using it in their own ways. For me, personally, I was lucky to be with David to be in China and seeing how the men there are embracing the brand. 

You’re multi-racial and grew up in a diverse community. Tell me about your upbringing.

I’m the youngest of three boys. I’m Romanian Jewish on my dad’s side and Filipino Portuguese on my mother’s. My grandfather was a professor in the Philippines and was a janitor when he came [to the U.S.] He worked very hard but passed away when I was 12. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up in Detroit. But we were bonded in our very diverse community with our neighbors through our collective struggles. We all helped each other in the community. People brought what they could. So growing up and seeing that made me look at everyone as individual and beautiful. At an early age that individuality led me to this career.

You talk about your mother being one of your biggest inspirations. Tell me about why she’s so important to you.

I was and still am proud of my mom. People asked where she was from and I loved whenever they did. To me, she was the most beautiful woman on the planet. She was my model. Everything she touched I felt represented every woman. She didn’t look like the typical person you’d see behind a brand, cover of a book or what the industry identified as traditional beauty. Beauty is unique. Through her, I realized beauty is unique. My mom worked three jobs: one of them was cleaning houses. 

On the rare chance she got ready I would watch her and she became a superhero. She found pride in herself with her hair and makeup. She was so confident. That really helped me understand from a young age that everyone was beautiful in their own ways and it was important to be confident in yourself. For me, I always describe myself as less like Brad Pitt more like Ellen but I’m okay with it. I’m not the stereotypical masculinity and I’m super happy.

Today, hairstylists become celebrities themselves thanks to Instagram. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s interesting. Back in the day, we had portfolios and we were judged that way. Even years ago when David and Victoria moved to LA they were looking for someone to work with. I was doing stuff with Gaga, Jessica [Simpson] and Ashley [Simpson] and Oprah. My schedule didn’t work out. I had someone who was working as an assistant and they didn’t know who he was. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar. There wasn’t social media at that time. Through introductions and word of mouth is how we did it before. Normally, you’d work up doing tons of editorials and then commercials, then covers.

Today, social media allows many young artists to get into the industry who perhaps couldn’t in the past because they couldn’t afford to. When I started, I moved from Michigan to Miami to work with Oribe with a friend. The friend and I were sharing a Grand Am and not making much at all – $75 a week as an assistant. I was working at a strip club working at night to make ends meet. I’m glad I went through that. But not everyone has that drive to go to Florida, take a job and wait and wait and wait.

To me, social media is a breath of fresh air.I welcome and love it. Artist like Chris Appleton (who works with Kim Kardashian and Ariana Grande) is genius. There are other artists who I love to follow and see what they’re doing.

It’s interesting because you’re so self-assured and confident. But you once told me you get nervous in front of new people.

I think artists, especially in this industry we’re in, are all insecure. I’m very insecure. Eva Longoria wrote the forward to my book and she said: “Anyone knows ken he’s a shivering chihuahua. He’s in a corner shaking.” 

I was so nervous for that dinner together [at the Sunset Towers]…I’m so so socially awkward. It’s because I’m insecure. Unless I’m giving something or doing someone’s hair it’s hard for me. I internalize things negatively but I find a way to realign myself and breathe. 

You’ve had such a lustrous career in such a cutthroat industry. How do you stay sane?

I do a lot of yoga and spend time with my four dogs and family. Whenever I have a trip overseas, I come back and go out for lunch with someone who means the world to me. When I came back from London, I did hot yoga, took food and a bottle of wine to my mom. We ate outside together and at 1:40 a.m. I flew to China. That’s my recharge. That was more than enough for me. 

Other than that, I meditate a lot. There was one time years ago when we were at an event with David. I was in a room by myself and took off my shoes, closed my eyes and breathed. I was centering myself and then someone from our team took a photo of me. “I found him,” she texted everyone. We had a good laugh with that. But it’s really important to be grounded – even if it’s inside a closet.

*Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity