- Men's Grooming
- Beard Balm or Oil?
Beard Balm or Oil? Here’s How to Decide
In case the sheer number of lifestyle gurus, recent divorcees and bands getting ‘serious’ hadn’t already confirmed the fact, growing out a beard marks a full-on lifestyle shift.
And a lot of this is positive. For one thing, no one at your yoga sessions will wonder about the clean-shaven square in the corner, while your days of showing ID in bars are long over. This brave new world does, however, necessitate some changes to your longstanding grooming routine.
Think of growing a beard as like switching out your office shoes for trainers. If you still slather on shoe polish, your box fresh Nikes are unlikely to remain looking like they’re straight out their packaging, and rather more like you’ve trekked a mile through excrement. Similarly, applying the same old skin and hair products is unlikely to do the job on a newly hirsute face, although the manure element of the equation happily doesn't carry across.
So you’re going to need a dedicated product. Whether it’s beard balm or oil, though, will depend on a few key points...
Although often referred to interchangeably, the two products are actually distinct, with beard balm being a pomade created by systematically mixing, heating and cooling a blend of moisturisers and sealants. The finished result? A styling and shaping formula that moonlights as a leave-in conditioner.
This means that balms are a natural fit for the man whose beard, although medium-to-long, is either thin or prone to patchiness, as they help disguise sparser patches while also supporting the all-round health and condition of your hair.
When browsing for balms, try to avoid those with synthetic sealants, and look for natural equivalents like shea butter, lanolin and beeswax. These help to protect your beard from brittleness and breakage by enveloping it in a nurturing layer of moisturisers and conditioners.
A beard oil, on the other hand, is made by blending carrier oils with essential oil blends, or occasionally fragrance oils. Much as the name suggests, it's more liquid in texture than a balm is, and designed as much with skin in mind as hair. That's because it provides essential moisture to the skin that lies beneath a budding beard, reducing feelings of discomfort even as it helps create the best conditions for full and healthy growth.
One factor that remains constant throughout both product types, however, is the importance of high-quality, natural ingredients. An oil that contains jojoba or argan is not only primed to deliver impeccable moisturisation but also likely to have a conveniently long shelf life.
Given the emphasis placed on skin, it follows that oils are an essential for the shorter or more fledgeling beard. Quite aside from improving the look and consistency of your hair's growth, it also helps guide you through what can be an intensely itchy period.
So it's simple enough, really. Opt for a balm if your beard is well-established but inconsistent, or pick up an oil to help it along in the first stages of growth.
Except – and this does complicate things a touch – the two don't have to be exclusive. If your beard is both short and thin, then a combination of the two products can have a transformative effect. There are no shortage of facial hair connoisseurs who will swear by a combination of both as a way of locking in maximum control and enhancing vitality.
And if you do happen to be at an early stage of your beard journey, or are yet to find the style that best suits you, then check out our blog on the best beard styles for different face shapes. Because a good plan is every bit as important as the right beard product.
Written by Alex Bryson
I write about everything and anything grooming or fragrance-related. If it smells expensive or has ‘for men’ tagged on the end, I’ve probably got an opinion on it.