Ah, beard products. Very new, yet very helpful things to men growing out their various styles of beards beyond the five 'o clock shadow. In this article we'll be going over three of the most popular oil-based products that we bearded men use on a daily basis.
No need to look any further. We've got you.
Beard oils, balms, and butters all have their place and can be helpful assets in your beard arsenal. Although, don't assume that because something has "beard" on the label, that it is actually any good for your beard beyond what I'll go over below. Many beard products contain anti-androgens, which can be detrimental to beard growth.
Commonalities Between Oils, Balms, and Butters
There are a few things that these three things have in common, so we'll go over that first to make things easier when you're reading each particular section.
There are a plethora of different products with different ingredients in them, so we can't necessarily point things out specifically, but we can say that all of these will contain carrier oils and usually essential oils. Read that linked article to find out a little more about those things.
Another couple of common ingredients in balms and butters (as well as beard waxes, which we'll add along with the balm section):
- Shea nut butter
- Cocoa butter
- Beeswax — usually more in beard waxes vs balms
Despite being labeled for beards, these products can be used on your head hair or skin as well.
All three help tremendously when you're initially growing your beard out past the stubble stages. Due to the irritation of the hair and possible dryness that comes along with growing a beard, using one of these three products can help you get past that itching stage, which generally lasts a good 2-3 weeks for many men.
A beard wax/balm should mostly be used on the facial hair itself, rather than the skin, as beeswax tends to be comedogenic (pore-clogging); an oil or butter are better options to add directly and intentionally to your skin due to the lack of that ingredient.
That said, this doesn't mean a balm is bad for your skin or that you should completely avoid it on your skin — it merely has more of a chance to clog your pores. Although keep in mind that there are also carrier oils that have higher comedogenic ratings than beeswax does, so essentially this tip could be thrown out the window depending on the ingredients in your oils or butters.
Beard Oil vs Balm vs Butter. Which Should You Choose?
If you don't use any of these products, going with any of them will level your beard game up by quite a bit. All of them will help to keep your facial hair healthy no matter which route you take.
If you're simply wondering what's best, that's a bit harder to answer. All of them have their merits. Let's lay out the pros and cons of each, below.
Pros and Cons of Oil
+ Usually small form factor in glass bottle
+ Measured drops via dropper or drop cap
+ Generally cheaper than balms, waxes and butters
- Not as much styling hold as balm, wax or butter
Pros and Cons of Balm/Wax
+ Great hold for styling
+ Fits most places easily for traveling
- Melts in hot temperatures (such as traveling, left in hot car)
- Easy to overuse for novice users
Pros and Cons of Butter
+ Good hold for styling, almost as much as balm, but not as much as wax
+ Softens coarse beards greatly
+ Easily eliminates dry skin
- Easy to overuse for novice users
- Normally comes in larger containers, less convenient for travel
What Is Beard Oil?
We'll start off with what's considered the most "basic" of the three. A beard oil is used to keep a beard soft, moisturized, and potentially smelling nice if there are any fragrances or essential oils included. This is, according to Google's search statistics, the most popular of the three and is usually the first product in a beard company's line up of products to hit their warehouses.
It's simple, yet effective, for everyday needs but it won't tame your flyaways and unruly beard quite as much as a balm, butter, or beard wax would. At the same time, it will still help more than not using an oil at all. Opt for something with castor oil in it for the best taming a beard oil can offer, or jojoba for something that most resembles the sebum our faces produce. Our Beard Oil is a fantastic choice that contains both of these.
A beard oil will normally come in an amber-colored glass bottle, but sometimes blue glass is used or even amber- or blue-colored plastic bottles.
How to Use Beard Oil
When using any sort of oil-based product, remember that "less is more."
- Rinse or wash your beard*
- Pat dry with cotton or microfiber cloth, which should leave beard somewhat damp
- Drop or place 3-4 drops of oil for medium-sized full beard into your palm and rub hands together
- Using your fingers, rub them from bottom to top, neck to cheeks to get oil down to skin
- With what's remaining in your hands, rub beard back down and hand-style
- Complete styling with comb or beard brush (they also help distribute oils)
*It's recommended that you only wash your beard 2-4 times per week, so if it's not a wash day, simply rinse with plain water with no soap. A shower is preferred over washing at a sink, but either works great.
If you apply oils to a dry beard, you'll find that spreading the oil is much harder, and it tends to sit on your hair and skin instead of absorbing into them. If you need to apply something to a dry beard, a beard butter is a better option for this.
Also, the larger your beard is, the more you'll want to use. Unless you have a very, very large beard, it's unlikely you'll need to use even close to 10 drops. Save product and money by using less. Both your wallet and your face will thank you for it.
What is Beard Balm/Wax?
Beard balms and beard waxes are very similar, but are different in the sense of how well they hold your facial hair in place. As opposed to an oil, they provide much more of a hold for styling and taming flyaways and unruliness. Many times, these two are referred to interchangeably.
A balm generally won't contain as much beeswax as a beard wax. Beeswax is a natural ingredient that has the most hold compared to shea butter and cocoa butter, which are more for spread than hold. Waxes will contain more beeswax and I'd go as far as to say that they will have this ingredient 100% of the time, even if there's an inclusion of carnauba wax, which can technically be used for the same purpose of hold.
When I say "generally won't" for a balm, that's because it comes down to the company and what they want to name their product. Balm is a more widely searched for term in search engines and sites like Amazon, so labeling a product as such tends to be the go-to, even if it may have the same amount of hold as a product labeled as wax. (Basically, there's no outlined standards).
Don't confuse a beard wax with a mustache wax, however. While they can contain some of the same ingredients, a mustache wax needs a stronger hold than a beard wax. As such, it will contain an even larger percentage of beeswax, or alternative and possibly non-natural ingredients altogether.
Beard balms and waxes usually come in tin containers with pop- or twist-off caps. Some opt to use amber glass containers with plastic screw-off caps, however. In general, glass items will be more expensive than tin.
The reason balm and wax tame facial hair so well is due to butters and oils hardening at certain temperatures, as well as adding additional weight to the hair. Once they are applied and cool off, it invisibly hardens around your hair in the style that you set your beard. They do not make your beard feel hard like a hair gel would, nor does it matter if you venture into hotter temperatures — they should do their thing despite the ambient temperature.
How to Use Beard Balm/Wax
- Rinse or wash your beard*
- Pat dry with a cotton or microfiber cloth, leaving beard slightly damp
- Use the back of your finger nail to scoop or scrape up small amount of product
- Place product in palm and rub hands together to emulsify it
- Apply from top to bottom of beard, paying attention more to the hair than the skin
- Complete styling with comb or beard brush
*It's recommended that you only wash your beard 2-4 times per week, so if it's not a wash day, simply rinse with plain water with no soap.
What is Beard Butter?
A beard butter could be said to be in between an oil and a balm: it's not liquid, but it's not a solid either, and thus doesn't need to be emulsified in your hands before application of it into your beard.
Think of it as being very close to lotion that you would use on your body or face. Although, at the same time, beard butters can also simply be like beard balms without the beeswax. Which means using shea and cocoa butters as the primary texture, which isn't quite the same as lotion. You could potentially say that beard butters are the most inconsistent in branding, and some of them may be called creams as well.
Beard butter is easy to spread and tackles dry skin very well. While soothing to the skin, it also provides moderate hold which can be similar to that of a beard balm that may not contain a large portion of beeswax — which is a big bonus for many men. As well, compared to beard oils and balms, it's the best at softening beards because of its easy penetration past the hair's cuticle.
With the weight of the butter in a beard, it's also a helpful styling aid at the same time.
A beard butter is likely to come stored in a plastic container similar to face lotions that don't use pumps to dispense the product. Some come in tins much like a balm or wax as well.
How to Use Beard Butter
- Rinse or wash your beard*
- Pat dry beard with a cotton or microfiber cloth
- Use your finger to scoop out roughly a thumbnail-sized amount of butter
- Spread product evenly across both hands
- Apply from neck to cheeks, working it in well into beard hair
- Complete styling with a comb or brush
*It's recommended that you only wash your beard 2-4 times per week, so if it's not a wash day, simply rinse with plain water with no soap. Unlike beard oils and balms, a beard butter has a better consistency if you need to apply to a bone-dry beard. It's still recommended that you apply after a rinse or wash, however.
Beard oils, balms, and butters all have their places in our beards and the routine can really help one to appreciate his beard more. From softening the beard to relieving itchy, dry skin, it's hard not to recommend using these products.