The quest for sleek, perfectly shaped, ‘gram-ready facial hair has become a serious business in recent years. If you have a beard nowadays, chances are you’ve got just as many (if not more) products to keep it on point than for any other part of your body. There’s the beard trimmer, beard comb and beard oil, not forgetting the scissors needed to keep rogue hairs in check. And quite right, too.
But there is another product you need, especially if your beard is anything longer than ‘advanced stubble’. Beard balms are cream-like conditioning products that won’t just make your facial hair look good, it’ll nourish the whiskers and the skin below, too.
“If you feel like your beard (and skin underneath) is very dry or hard to comb into a neat order, then a balm is a good option,” says Phil Reader, master barber at Drakes of London. “On a daily basis, I see how balms can improve the appearance of a beard by conditioning the skin and hair and adding a healthy shine. Not to mention banishing the dreaded beard dandruff.”
The Difference Between Beard Balm And Beard Oil?
Beard balms tend to be heavier and used by those with longer, bushier beards as they contain more potent ingredients than beard oils. Additionally, where oils are fast-acting, balms take a while to be absorbed into the hair. The upshot is that they’ll add shine and hold, helping to shape and tame unruly facial hair.
Much like oils, there’s a whole host of products promising to meet your bearded needs, but it’s up to you to find the best balm for your facial furniture. Reader, an advocate of beard balms, says that as well looking for those that offer hold and shine, you should pay attention to the texture of the balm.
“If you want more control over a bushy beard, then a thicker, waxier balm might work for you,” he says. “If you have a short beard and just want to soften and add shine, then a lighter, oilier balm would do the trick. I personally look for products that are organic and ethically sourced and tend to avoid silicone oils as they can leave a residue.”
How To Apply Beard Balm Correctly
Beard balm 101: always apply to clean and dry hair. Adding water only dilutes the product and changes its properties.
Rub a coin-sized amount between your hands and run this through your bristles. It’s better to add more balm if needed than to overdo it the first time around and end up with a greasy face. Use your fingers to lightly shape and style your beard, paying extra attention to your moustache. Don’t apply too much pressure, because this can flatten your beard.
Distribution is key, too. If your beard is longer than a centimetre or so, use a comb to spread the balm evenly. This will make sure the oils get all the way from the root to the tips of the hair and also aid with volume and styling if going for the full Brian Blessed.
The Best Beard Balms
Bulldog Original Beard Balm
Bulldog Skincare is renowned for shunning artificial and animal-sourced ingredients, so there’s more than one reason to feel good when you slather this on. The British brand’s balm is packed with aloe vera and camelina oil, which make your beard feel softer and look smoother. For anything longer than stubble, it’s a bathroom cabinet essential.
Honest Amish Beard Balm
Beards are at the heart of Amish culture, with growth signifying the point a boy becomes a man. As you’d expect from these fuss-free folk, all Honest Amish products are handmade, high-quality and contain all-natural ingredients only. Most even come in 100 per cent recycled packaging, including this one, which contains extracts of argan oil, which is proven to encourage healthy hair, and Kokum, which helps rid the skin of harmful bacteria.
Tigi Bed Head For Men Lion Tamer
When it comes to Tigi’s Lion Tamer, the name says it all with this one. A multi-purpose balm that works on your head hair as well as your beard, it’s designed to both hold and condition. Made by one of the UK’s most popular brands, it’s a good choice if your mane is out of control because it contains Omega-3 along with a bevvy of vitamins that make hair feel smoother and look slicker.
Stubble & ‘Stache Beard Balm
Stubble & ‘Stache was set-up by Nick Karnaze, a former marine who was inspired to grow a beard in honour of a fallen comrade. It was during this time that Karnaze experimented with his own brand of balms to cure his dry, itchy beard, and it quickly grew into a business. Now with every product sold, a portion is donated to charities supporting wounded troops – including this one, which is considerably lighter than most balms and leaves behind a clean finish for an au naturel look.
Cremo Styling Beard Balm
You know that a business has innovation at its core when its founder is a Stanford-educated engineer. Cremo packs a lot of science into its range of beard products, and this styling balm is a shining example. Like a pomade for beards, just a small dab is enough to shape and hold your beard in place for hours, without so much as a hair falling out of place.
Smooth Viking Beard Balm With Shea Butter And Argan Oil
For modern-day Vikings, the argan and avocado oils in this rich formula work to keep the most unruly beards manageable, no matter how long they grow. Both ingredients promote hydration and work to strengthen your triumphant beard, preventing hairs from breaking (and you from looking like a hipster-hobo).
Wild Willie’s Beard Balm Leave In Conditioner Beard Butter
One of the biggest bug bears of growing a beard is the constant itch of the whiskers brushing against the skin, leading to many developing that trademark beard scratch. The soothing organic ingredients in Wild Willie’s beard balm work to soften the hairs, preventing that god awful irritation that makes you look as though you’re an alley cat fighting off an army of fleas.
Beard Balm By Percy Nobleman
British brand Percy Nobleman traces its humble beginnings to a kitchen table in East London. Led by entrepreneur Freddy Furber, it’s now sold in over 2,000 stores across Europe and the US. This balm will protect your fuzz during the winter months, thanks to a mixture of jojoba oil and cedarwood, while locking in vital moisture to prevent your beard from drying out and looking like weed growth.
Virtu Beard Balm by Liberty
While most balms work solely to hydrate and replenish your beard, this option by US brand Liberty goes a step further. Comprising natural beeswax to help you style and shape your facial hair, simply rub a small amount between your fingers and let your inner Picasso loose (although, you may want to read our roundup of the biggest beard trends before you do).
Jao’s BeardScent is not a pomade but a ‘bomoade’ – a term the New York firm cheesley coined to describe its latest balm, which doubles up as a body moisturiser. Get it? It contains Jao’s signature oil blend of wood, citrus and patchouli, a minty herb known for its crisp scent, so it’ll smell damn good, whether it’s on your face or your hands.
Badass Beard Care Beard Balm for Men
Don’t let the hipster moniker fool you, Badass Beard Care is a brand that takes facial hair very seriously. In fact, it’s one of the only few that make balms with both men and women in mind, such as this one, which claims to contain natural aphrodisiacs to help you close the deal. It’s not called Badass for nothing.
Grave Before Shave Beard Bomb
The biker’s balm of choice, this concoction by the oddly named Grave Before Shave conditions and protects your beard from menacing bacteria and other pollutants that come with city life. It also promises a firm hold if you’re going for a Sons of Anarchy look, and a scent of citrus, eucalyptus and rosemary will stop you smelling of motor oil.
Mountaineer Magic Beard Balm
Has your beard experienced too much hardship in the urban jungle? Well, this balm will breathe life back into it. Formulated by West Virginia firm Mountaineer, it’s designed specifically for damaged hair, pulling on the powers of Vitis Vinifera, Cocos Nucifera (coconut) and Theobroma (cocoa).
Beardbrand Utility Balm – Spiced Citrus
Beardbrand boss Eric Bandholz has always been a fan of the fuzz, but it wasn’t until he entered the 2012 West Coast Beard & Mustache Championships that he set up his own YouTube channel and established a line of beard products. His latest Spiced Citrus balm comprises elements of mango butter, lanolin and jojoba oil to condition the hair and a shea butter base to hydrate the skin underneath.