As beards and facial hair become more and more the signature way for a man to define his own style and sense or fashion, the personal grooming marketplace for all things facial hair has exploded. Brands and products are a dime a dozen, and without proper guidance, it can be really difficult for even the most savvy of consumers to find those diamonds in the rough that are really going to help your beard look its best and maintain long-term health.
At the forefront of the beard revolution is beard balm, not to be confused with beard oil. Today, we’ll be tackling the best beard balms on the market based on your particular needs and style.
What is Beard Balm?
Personally, when I think the word ‘balm’, two ideas come to mind: 1) An apothecary somewhere in the Middle Ages selling weird potions to cure your ails and also offering to leech you or 2) That classic episode of Seinfeld where Kramer is going to successfully sue Big Coffee for damages when it spills on him at the movie theater, only to use balm from a friend that clears it up before he can cash in. Kramer’s erstwhile attorney Jackie Childs furiously questions “Who told you to put the balm on?” while lamenting his loss millions.
Beard balm combines the best aspects of beard oil with moisturizers and sealants to give your beard the fullest, healthiest look possible.
It starts with a base of beard oil, the best of which are:
- Jojoba: A hot wax ester found in desert shrubs that doesn’t clog pores.
- Argan: The “liquid gold” of the facial hair industry; it has great elasticity and provides lots of Vitamin E.
Another choice for the base oil is grapeseed, but it is generally held as a worse option given its tendency to spoil. The oil is mixed with several other components, the most important of which is a sealant – this locks in the moisture of your beard and allows you to style it anyway you want.
Much like the base oil itself, there are two top-notch sealants to look for in your balm of choice, and one that gets the job done to a degree, but has negatives that outweigh its positives. The best two are:
- Shea – the product of African sheanut trees, it’s also very popular as Shea butter – a skin moisturizer. It washes out easily and does not clog your pores.
- Beeswax – As natural a product as you can find, it’s made by common honeybees and stored in their hives. It gets top-notch marks for holding your beard in the style you want, and is a strong sealant as well.
The third most-popular choice for balm sealant is petroleum jelly which has a universally bad rap, at least partly because it water-resistant, meaning your pores will dry out and your beard will get dry and rough.
How Do You Apply Beard Balm?
We might resent the comparison we get to cavemen, but that’s how easy these instructions are when it comes to applying beard balm. The stuff can get a bit pricey, but as long as you stay away from grapeseed it’ll last a long, long time.
Here are the quick steps to take to apply beard balm.
1) Carefully remove beard balm approximately the size of a dime from the jar.
2) Rub balm between your palms for an even spread.
3) Start at the bottom of your beard and run your fingers through your beard, making sure you connect your palms to the roots of the beard where it enters your skin.
4) When you reach the top, reverse direction and go top to bottom.
5) Next use your fingertips to work the area around your mouth moustache.
6) Use a brush to straight and shape your beard.
Best Beard Balms
Just like snowflakes, no two beards are alike. It starts with your DNA – what region of the world your ancestors were from, what ethnicity you are, what kind of skin tone and skin composition you have. And that’s all before we even get to the actual beard! Your facial hair might be brittle, smooth, strong, elastic, springy, curly, and any other word I can think of to type into thesaurus.com. The point being, different balms for different beards, but how do you pick the best one?
With our help of course! We’ve put together a breakdown of the best balms for every type of beard under the sun and we’ve shared them with you below. Can’t find your specific type beard? Drop us a line and we’ll make sure to expand it in our next guide.
For Short Beards and Goatees – Honest Amish Beard Balm Leave-in ConditionerYou might be under the misinformation that “only” sporting a goatee or a shorter beard precludes you from needing to use facial hair products like beard balm. But think about it – you’re not growing a goatee because of its magical powers or because you’re joining a cult (and if you are, I really do apologize, please don’t hunt me down and sacrifice me to your gods). You’re growing a goatee because you like the way it looks and others have said likewise. If you’re going to grow it, take care of it!
For the short stuff, I’m a big fan of Honest Amish Beard Balm Leave-in Conditioner, which is one heck of a product name; I’m guessing that they aren’t putting that on the side of a truck. Now I’m a sucker for crazy-looking logos, so I’d almost buy this stuff solely based on the pipe-smoking Amish character on the jar, flanked by a pair horse-drawn buggies. But the stuff is even better on the inside, where an impressive list of ingredients blend together to make a unique feeling, delicious smelling concoction. Ingredients include:
- Apricot kernel oils
- Argan oil
- Avocado oil
- Cocoa butter
- Essential oils
- Grapeseed oil
- Kokum nut
- Shea butter
- Virgin pumpkin seed oil
That’s a heavyweight list of components designed to augment the smell and feel of the balm – to be honest I got hungry just reading it, between the cocoa and the avocado oil. There is one thing to look out for – people with nut allergies might want to avoid it or test an extremely small sample because of the presence of the kokum, a nut from Africa and India that isn’t often seen in food products. Goatees take a beating because we often shave them under non-ideal conditions, so a balm like this is ideal for repairing dry, split hairs and more.
Best Beard Balm For Growth – Smooth Viking Beard BalmI’m not sure Erik the Red was every referred to as smooth, particularly by the thousands of settlers he tricked into migrating to Greenland, telling them how lush and climate it was, but if you’ve got a new beard or a young beard, Smooth Viking is a great choice. It has safflower, jojoba, and argan oil as its main components, with avocado oil and pumpkin seed oil, which are both tied to having powers of growing hair at a more accelerated rate – both are common ingredients in women’s hair care products to enhance their hair’s fullness and luster. Although it claims to be all natural, Smooth Viking does not disclose which specific essential oils make up its ingredients. Trade secrets, we guess, but we’d still like a closer look.
Best Beard Balm For Mustaches – Beard Bolt XL Facial Hair Growth Stimulating Beard BalmWhat’s the only thing worse than a thin beard? A thin mustache. Whether you’re trying to complete the facial hair forest or merely send out a scout between your upper lip and your nose to see if you have what it takes, a mustache that comes in patchy and awkward is a miserable sight. From far off, people won’t even realize you’ve got one, and up close, every grandma in the room will try to wet her hankerchief and try to get that stain off your face. You’ll pay an extra penny or two with Beard Bolt XL, but that’s largely because it’s the only balm on the market guaranteeing that your hair will grow if you use it. Beard Bolt is a very light touch so your hair won’t way down and you won’t wind up with balm in your mouth. If you have any allergies, you’ll want to be way on this one – Beard Bolt doesn’t reveal its list of ingredients.
For Taming Curly Beards – Rocky Mountain Beard BalmI’m not sure how much more manly you can get than slapping balm on your beard direct from the Rocky Mountains. Denim jeans, flannel shirt, pickup truck, the whole thing could be a song by the Oak Ridge Boys. At the opposite end of the embarrassment spectrum from thin-hair mustache guy is out-of-control curly beard dude. The stuff even smells like Colorado – a mix of eucalyptus and cedarwood. If your beard is a mess, the addition of coconut oil makes it a treat to put on because your hands won’t come away feeling greasy at the end of it, and its eight, count’em, eight essential oils are all sourced from North America. And considering your average mountain man isn’t taking an early lunch so he can go by the house and work remotely, it has the power to last all day long, meaning you can slap it on in the morning and not have to worry about its potent powers wearing off before you get back home at night.
For the Best Hold – Professor Fuzzworthy’s Beard Care Balm and Gloss ConditionerYou know what I love about this brand? It’s not just that they rolled the dice and invented a fictional character named Professor Fuzzworthy to hock their wares; it’s that they gave him an entire name and a back story. It’s actually Professor Edward J. Fuzzworthy once you’ve got the label in hand. That’s not just inventing a kooky character to drum up a few extra unit sales, that’s the commitment to making this guy as real as possible. I guarantee if you ever meet the creators of Professor Fuzzworthy, they can tell you where he went to school, what his degree is in, and what sort of woman he finds to be truly Fuzz-worthy. More to our purposes, the good professor hails from Australia, and that gives him access to leatherwood beeswax, which is only found in Tasmania, thus making it readily available to one brand and not so much to everyone else. A kilogram of the stuff goes for AU$30, and the honey made by the same bees is a delicacy.
For Sensitive Skin – Scotch Porter All Natural Men’s Beard BalmScotch Porter sounds like name of a middle infielder for a turn-of-the-century baseball team, back when you could have a name like ‘Scotch’ or ‘Hack’ or ‘Three-finger’ without ever going politically correct on you.
“The 1-2 pitch to Honus Wagner is on the way, grounded up the middle, no cut off by Scotch Porter! Gets to his feet, throw on to first, got him by half a step! What a play by Scotch!”
Actually, I just checked their website. Scotch Porter is not a real person. Bummer. But, what Scotch Porter is doing in the world of facial hair care is nothing short of revolutionary. The combination of conditioner and moisturizer guarantees that sensitive skin is well-protected regardless of the environmental conditions at play. It also repels dandruff which can foul up your day in too many ways to mention. But perhaps the coolest thing about Scotch Porter is its experimentation into some really fascinating scent combinations, the most notable of which is a combination of vanilla and marshmallow fragrances that will definitely be turning heads next time you balm up and head out for the evening. It’s quite a brilliant idea, once you think about. With vanilla and marshmallow already locked in, you’re 50% of the way to an ice-cream sundae. Don’t complain when the girl you’ve been checking out all night tries to lick your face.
For Dry Skin – Beard Balm Easy-to-Use Leave-In ConditionerWhat do you get when you combine the best of Detroit with a touch of Sri Lanka? Sounds like a Chris Tucker movie, but it’s actually Beard Balm’s Easy-to-Use Leave-In Conditioner, about the most literally named product you’ll ever hear. Manufactured in the Motor City, its organic coconut oil comes from a local farm just a hop, step, and 8,815 miles away in Sri Lanka. Remarkably, the beeswax in the mix is from right up the road in Michigan in fields that are certified pesticide free. The combination of ingredients is perfect for men with itchy, dry skin while softening beard hair and keeping split ends to a minimum. And the lemony-fresh smell should cover up all that motor oil in the air in Detroit.
For Long Beards – Seven Potions Beard Balm Woodland HarmonyOn the surface, Seven Potions sounds like a bar and grill in Harry Potter’s universe and Woodland Harmony a bit like a place they send you when you’ve gone insane. But names can be deceiving as I found out when I got a hold of a sample of it. This balm is 100% natural and organic and melts very easily into your beard. It’s really well designed for longer bears because it doesn’t feel greasy and doesn’t give your beard the feeling of being weighed down all the time. It’s the kind of substance Tom Hanks would have killed for in Cast Away, and even The Dude might have appreciated in The Big Lebowski – but please, don’t make him listen to The Eagles. With essential oils including sandalwood and cedar wood, not to mention avocado and cocoa butter, your long beard is about to have the best day of its life.
For Oily Skin – Grave Before Shave Beard BalmAll the quirky characters and silly caricatures, there’s a new beard balm in town, one that would fit in better at a Grateful Dead show. “Grave Before Shave” might be my favorite saying since I saw “Death Before Disco” on Judge Reinhold’s shirt in Stripes. We’re all men here so we can be honest and say that some of us have skin that’s not quite so wonderfully perfect. Oily skin can lead to a messy beard and not the best overall aroma, either. Grave Before Shave does a great job of peeling open your pores so that oil doesn’t get trapped inside. In addition to the usual suspects on the ingredients list, it contains aloe vera and sweet almond oil to help get those pores breathing again.
Best Beard Balm For Coarse Hair – Mountaineer Magic Beard BalmMountaineer Magic? Sounds like something a play-by-play announcer came up with while calling a West Virginia football game.
“Fourth and 10, down six points, five seconds ago, the quarterback has a made open downfield, he’s at the 30, the 20, the 10, touchdown West Virginia; Oh Doctor, it’s a little Mountaineer Magic tonight!”
All kidding aside, coarse hair can make beard growing brutal at times. When your hair is already rough, the wrong balm can make it that much worse. But Mountaineer Magic is able to combat that with its potent mix of beeswax, natural oils, cocoa butter, and coconut oil. It will soften coarse hair and get those wayward strands back in line. And if you think all those ingredients together might produce an obnoxious or unpleasant aroma, think again. According to users, it has one of the most intoxicating smells going, a combination of lime, fir, and grapefruit.
For African-American Complexion – Prophet Beard Balm
In general, African-American men need a lot more moisture from their beard balm then Caucasians. Prophet pays special attention to those needs, starting with its moisturizing abilities and continuing with its dedication to not causing dandruff, irritation, or flaking, something a lot balms can’t control. And while the balm is white in the jar, it turns clear once it’s applied, leaving it invisible. The smell is light and citrusy, and it works great on lowering the degree of itchiness.
For Patchy Beards – Art Naturals Beard and Mustache BalmNothing dismisses the cool factor of a beard like big empty patches in the middle of it. It’s a bit like inviting that cute girl from the apartment upstairs over to watch TV only to realize there’s a gaping hole in your couch and the TV only picks up the Home Shopping Network. The overall place might be nice, but she’s going to notice what’s missing eventually. Art Naturals bills itself as a “follicle friendly fomade”. The biggest differences are the inclusion of sweet citrus orange oil and mango seed butter, which I’d totally go for on a bagel right now. In addition to soothing the feeling of itching skin, which can really be exacerbated by a patchy beard, it strengthens and softens your hair at the same time.
For Fast-Beard Growth – Miner’s MintNow if the Miner’s Mint has been stored in the Miner’s pocket while he’s working all day, I think I’m going to have to pass. Gettting your beard to grow at a more rapid rate is one of the most sought-after attributes in the whole industry. There’s no surefire, slam dunk “this works every time method”, but there are some ingredients – like avocado oil and pumpkin oil – that seem to react well with many different types of hair. It has one of the more unique aromas on the market as well, with touches of spearmint and bourbon, which is probably not the best thing to be drinking when you’re working down in the mine.
So there’s the long and short of our beard balm guide. Did we miss a kind of hair or skin that matters most to you? Let us know! Until next time, Full Beard Ahead.