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A former Marine operator-turned-entrepreneur has set out to honor a fallen comrade and raise money for wounded warriors with a new line of beard care products.
Stubble & 'stache is the invention of Nick Karnaze, a former Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command captain, who started the company in 2012 after one of his closest battle buddies, Sgt. Justin Hansen, was killed in action in Afghanistan.
"Justin was a beast of a human being," Karnaze said. "He was one of those people you meet once in a lifetime. His personality, his proficiency, he was always there to help you out."
As an homage to Hansen's own sizable war beard, Karnaze and several other Marines from 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., grew out their beards for his funeral.
As the clean-shaven Karnaze began to cultivate his mane, however, he began suffering a vexing, but common problem — beard itch.
Karnaze searched the market for something that would provide relief by softening abrasive facial hair and moisturizing his skin. But he could only find two options: beard oil and skin moisturizer. Moisturizer wouldn't help his beard, and the beard oil would clog his pores.
"I don't want to have to use one in my beard and another to put on my face," he said. "I'm lazy. I don't want two products to use."
So he began trying to make a hybrid in his kitchen.
After experimenting, he reached out to a Texas-based cosmetics manufacturer that helped him refine his recipe and begin producing Stubble & 'stache, which hit the market in August. The beard lotion contains Moroccan argan oil; jojoba wax; aloe; and a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that work in concert to soften hair, moisturize skin and even reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
He now denotes a percentage of his profits to such organizations as the MARSOC Foundation, which supports families of injured and killed operators, and The Pathway Home, a California organization that offers residential recovery programs for veterans grappling with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. He said he also gives free beard products to a Navy SEAL unit downrange.
His next goal is to introduce a face and beard wash. The market for his products appears to be growing as more men grow beards, partly because they have been popularized by operators during more than a decade of war, but it goes beyond that.
"Guys with beards, they take care of one another," Karnaze said.