When it comes to grooming au naturel, guys' choices are woefully scarce compared to the smattering of organic and vegan beauty products in the women's market. But Brooklyn-based duo Mckenzie Santiago and Alfredo Ortiz are changing that with Brooklyn Grooming, a line of small-batch grooming products made from quality natural ingredients like avocado oil, kuikui-nut oil, and pumpkin.
Santiago and Ortiz are not only upgrading basics like pomade, mustache wax, and shaving cream (their version: a soothing shaving oil); they're also offering up new grooming solutions like Beard Oil and a particularly ingenious Tattoo Balm—a healing blend of sesame oil, shea butter, and vitamin E. Better still, each is available in a range of neighborhood-specific scents: the woodsy Williamsburg, a bay-rum Red Hook, and the herbal Fort Greene. If nothing else, the clean, old-timey packaging on the amber apothecary bottles will give your medicine cabinet an aesthetic boost. We spoke to the duo about the market for men's products.
DETAILS: What did you feel was missing or could be improved in the grooming industry that prompted you to launch your own line?
BROOKLYN GROOMING: There seems to be a void with naturally made products for men. A lot of stuff we were finding didn't smell good either. We really appreciate and dig natural smells like wood, bay leaf, and lavender. A lot of people seem to want products that are straightforward and simple. There are a lot marketed toward women, but men who want a pomade that is organic and sustainable find it more challenging.
DETAILS: What was the first product you ever made?
BROOKLYN GROOMING: We made mustache waxes. Basically the same formula [we use now], with one scent, a blend of blood orange, lavender, and cedar wood.
DETAILS: How long does it take to get each formula exactly right?
BROOKLYN GROOMING: We start by imagining the product. For instance, if we decide to create a beard oil, we do a ton of research about what oils react well with coarser hair and sensitive skin, since the skin underneath a beard can be a bit sensitive. We look into oils that will soften hair and are lightweight, and then we play around with recipes. Everything is created and formulated, then tested on willing humans, and we give out a ton of product to get feedback. It can take months to years to get a working formula.
DETAILS: Your website touts all-natural ingredients. What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
BROOKLYN GROOMING: We love kuikui-nut oil. It's a semi-clear to light-yellow oil that is cold-pressed from seeds of the Aleurites moluccana tree, usually referred to as the candlenut tree. Kukui-nut oil is really beneficial to the skin, soothing and softening it without leaving a greasy film. It can be used to treat wounds and burns, and some find it beneficial for the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. I also love pumpkin-seed oil. It has a great nutty aroma and is loaded with mineral-rich regenerating oils. It's really magical stuff.
DETAILS: Which product do you find yourself using the most?
BROOKLYN GROOMING: Mckenzie is a facial-serum kind of lady. She uses it everyday, along with the pomade as a body balm, since it has argan and avocado oil. It really keeps skin moisturized. Alfredo loves the Red Hook pomade and beard oil.
DETAILS: We've never seen a high-end tattoo balm before. Why does Brooklyn Grooming balm trump good ol' A&D ointment?
BROOKLYN GROOMING: Our tattoo balm is an organic alternative to petroleum-jelly-based tattoo-care products, which can irritate skin and clog pores. We believe that when your skin is in a fragile state, you need a product that will help you heal naturally. Our formula contains highly nutritive regenerating antifungal oils and butters that help ease swelling and aid in the healing process. [We recommend using] this tattoo balm on fresh or pre-existing tattoos.
DETAILS: What's next from Brooklyn Grooming?
BROOKLYN GROOMING: Making a million dollars. More than a million.Watch a short video of Mckenzie and Alfredo brewing up some homemade Brooklyn Grooming products: