With additions by Alex Bracetti.
Let’s face it: Your beard is a natural trap for all kinds of dirt and bacteria. Not only that, it differs drastically from the fur found on your head, with beards being much more coarser. So if you’re going to grow one, you owe it to yourself (and anyone you hope to get close to) to keep it well groomed.
That's where beard oils come in. You’ve probably heard about them, but many guys I’ve spoken with don’t really know why or how they’re used, or where to begin when it comes to choosing one. Will they make your face break out? Why would you slather oil on your face? Read on, and we’ll clear it all up.
Putting Beard Oils To The Test
It seems like a whole new crop of beard oils gets released every month now that the beard trend has truly gone mainstream. With so many options now available, what’s really good? Which beard oils are actually worth investing in, and which ones will just leave you itchy and/or greasy? I enlisted the help of some bearded colleagues and friends to try out a few different beard oils and report back to me on their experience. Here’s how it all went down.
Port Products Conditioning Beard Absolute
Best for: Moisturization
Port Products' Conditioning Beard Absolute is the beard oil of choice for my colleague Guillaume. He likes it because “it actually sinks into the facial hair quickly, which is a great if you want to avoid the shiny beard look.” Guillaume highlights the moisturizing properties of this oil, pointing out that it “can also be applied directly to the skin, as it acts as a great moisturizer.” Though a little water will get any excess oil off your hands, Guillaume says he’ll “use the excess oil on my hands and apply it to my hair, as it gives it a light shine and natural look.”
Ultimately, he says, “it makes my beard easier to style and helps fight that feeling of dry skin. The smell is quite subtle and will likely fade around midday. It’s a very light woodsy smell that isn't overpowering."
$16.00 at Portproducts.com
Brooklyn Grooming Beard Oil
Best for: Follicular fortitude
Described as a “hipster-approved follicular necessity”, Brooklyn Grooming beard oil boasts a sharp looking, vintage-inspired bottle and an American-made formula. Featuring scents of cedar and ho wood, this oil leaves the skin “feeling refreshed, not greasy or weighed down” thanks to the added organic sesame and hempseed oil.
Reviewer Alex remarked that it “felt a bit viscous at first, but once rubbed into the skin and beard, it smoothed out.” He commented that this was one oil he would definitely use again: “The scent is best part. It’s light and not too overpowering.”
According to Brooklyn Grooming Co., the oil is organic and byproduct free, based on a vintage recipe and made by hand in Brooklyn, NYC.
$29.00 at BespokePost.com
Four Vices Beard Oil By Beardbrand
Best for: Wolly urbanites
This oil, from “beard lifestyle”-oriented Beardbrand, seeks to capture the essence of the urban lumberjack with its smooth blend of four vices: tobacco, hops, hemp, and coffee. Mike, who tested this product, noted that the argan oil and jojoba oil blend was light, and not too greasy. “It just absorbs right into my beard, and it doesn’t feel heavy or weighed-down at all. It doesn’t feel irritating, either.”
Very masculine, yet light and subtle rather than pungent and overpowering, it has a bit of a bitter edge, and while all my testers smelled the bottle, only one opted to actually try it. “The scent really opened up after I put it on my beard,” Mike noted, “but it mellowed out pretty quickly.” A scent like this is not for everyone, but its fans have a cult-like obsession with Beardbrand, so if you like your scents decidedly masculine, but not overwhelming, this beard oil is worth a try.
$30.00 at Nordstrom.com
Beard Supply Beard Oil
Best for: Outdoor adventurists
Hailing from Texas, Beard Supply beard oil is 100% American made by bearded men, for bearded men. Boasting scents like IPA and smoky woods, this organic oil “leaves you smelling like a campfire — but not necessarily in a bad way.”
A welcomed change from big name oil brands, Beard Supply guarantees their small batches are made up of only natural ingredients, ensuring that aftershave-inspired sting is officially a thing of the past.
$25.00 at BespokePost.com
Burrough's Beard Oil By Prospector Co.
Best for: Fragrance sillage
The scent of Burroughs Beard Oil was a huge plus for Marc. “It was a welcome relief to find that the odor wasn’t too cloying or overwhelming,” he reported. “Hints of eucalyptus and wood chips, as far as I can tell.” The aromatic trail it leaves behind compliments most woodsy colognes.
The oil didn’t irritate Marc’s sensitive skin, but he did find it left his beard feeling more wiry and less manageable directly after application. This mild inconvenience lasted about an hour. He noted that the oil left a bit of residue on his hands, but that it transferred well to his “chin mane.”
$29.95 at Amazon.com
Blackbird Beard Oil
Best for: Seamless application
The first thing our testers noted about this beard oil was its intense scent. “The smell is strong and not my personal favorite,” said Marc.
“The oil was far too pungent,” Guillaume added. “In fact, my eyes watered for a time following application.” He felt the “manly, lumberjack” scent would appeal to some guys, but it was a bit much for his own taste.
The testers also found it made their skin feel a bit irritated immediately upon application, “as if I had applied cologne or aftershave,” described Guillaume — so if you have sensitive skin, this may not be the best option for you.
On the plus side, Marc says, “It was easy enough to work into my beard and didn't come off as too glossy or shiny.”
$42.00 at Amazon.com
Beardilizer Beard Oil Collection
Best for: Indecisive types
While most other brands have a single beard oil scent, Beardilizer currently has six, with names like Gentleman Sandalwood, Cherry Pipe Tobacco, Island Coconut Rum, Dirty South Bacon, Ol’ Cowboy Leather and Lumberjack Cedar Leaf. Mike opted for the Lumberjack Cedar Leaf scent. “It smells like I’m building a fence,” he told me as he rubbed the oil into his beard. “I’m smelling a cedar tree. I just de-barked a cedar tree and rubbed it on my face.”
I asked if his hands were oily, and he said no, his hands were already so dry, the oil had just soaked right in. “I might even just put this stuff straight on my hands.” He could definitely feel it on his skin: “There is an actual tingle. It’s not killing me, though.” A somewhat reluctant groomer overall, in the end Mike told me he’d actually enjoyed the experience, and was going to start using beard oils more regularly now.
$23.99 at Amazon.com
Jack Black Beard Oil
Best for: All-natural balance
Jack Black’s beard oil contains a list of certified organic ingredients designed to bring top-quality beard and skin care directly to your face, including Kalahari melon oil, vitamin E, plum oil, marula oil, brown algae, and carrot extract. The oil is vegan and cruelty free. One reviewer, Alex, appreciated the subtlety of this beard oil: “I like the soft nature of the scent and its light notes. It’s not too overpowering and masculine like many other beard oils or hair style products.” What does that really mean? “It doesn't overstay its welcome,” he explains.
The balanced and hydrating blend appealed to Mike, who also reviewed this oil. “My skin feels soft and moisturized, I like the way it smells, and it gives my beard a bit of shine, but not in a crazy slick way.” The only downside? Alex noted that he found the oil a bit greasy in his hands, and hard to wash off.
$24.00 at Nordstrom.com
Kiehl's Nourishing Beard Grooming Oil
Best for: All skin types
This lightweight beard oil is designed to care for your beard and the skin beneath it without being too “in your face” (see what I did there?). The scent, a blend of cedarwood, sandalwood and eucalyptus, was described by tester Dan as “minimal, masculine yet sweet,” while Alex found it “a little woody.” The real draw for this oil was that its smooth consistency “permeated the skin quickly” (in Alex’s words), and that it was “soft and moisturizing — not as greasy as others I’ve tried” (according to Dan). Dan picked this as a “definite favorite, highly recommended.” He commented that “ the smell is not intense and after application my beard feels instantly soft and dry (rather than wet and oily).” The only drawback was noted by Alex, whose girlfriend was not a fan of the scent.
$27.00 at Nordstrom.com
Billy Jealousy Gnarly Sheen Refining Beard Oil
Best for: Refined shine
With a full line of “beard control” products that includes a beard wash, beard control conditioner, beard oil and a boar bristle beard brush, Billy Jealousy is not messing around. But does the beard oil stand up to the test? A blend of sunflower, avocado, almond and jojoba oils, Billy Jealousy’s Gnarly Sheen Refining Beard Oil has what our reviewer Dan describes as “a great smell, it’s sweet and masculine.” A big part of finding the beard oil that works for you is figuring out how best to use it. Dan commented that his skin felt itchy the first time he used this oil, but he kept trying it, and after the third time applying it (using less than he initially did), “it felt soft and smooth and less shiny.” He selected this oil as his favorite, “due to the smell.”
$24.00 at Nordstrom.com
Best for: Skin protection
Wow, that's intense,” Mike commented as he worked the Brickell oil into his beard. “It smells like cedar wood.” (It’s actually scented with peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils). The organic, natural oil features ingredients like algae extract and vitamin E to condition the beard, argan oil for its softening, shiny effect, and aloe vera to soothe and treat the skin beneath. Mike noted that it felt smooth, and didn’t irritate his skin at all: “it’s not tingling or anything.” He found it a bit oily for his taste. This is the first beard oil from men’s grooming brand Brickell, which touts its quickly expanding line as being an effective, non-toxic, and scientifically backed.
$25.00 at Amazon.com
Best Damn Beard Oil By Duke Cannon
Best for: Practical use
The best feature of Duke Cannon’s Best Damn Beard Oil, according to our reviewer, Mike, is the “unexpectedly citrusy” scent. He found the fragrance refreshing, “a zesty orange with an interesting depth to it” (this could be due to the inclusion of ingredients such as apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, cedarwood amber fragrance, rosemary extract, clove essential oil, in addition to orange essential oil). He also noted that he found it “way less greasy or oily than others I’ve tried.” Mike says he likes the organic ingredients, and he plans to keep using this beard oil even though his sensitive skin can sometimes feel a bit itchy after application. “It still gets my stamp of approval,” he says.
Duke Cannon is not messing around: a military unit guides their product R&D, they give back to veterans, and they market their products to no-nonsense, hardworking men looking for practical, effective, “tactical” grooming products. The company makes massive bars of soap, and the beard oil comes in a nice big 3-oz. bottle (“3x the size of the competition,” the website notes).
$30.00 at DukeCannon.com
A.J. Murray's Kentucky Bourbon Beard Oil
Best for: Veganists
This is clearly an oil for men who are serious about their beards. Joel commented that he wouldn’t really say it smells like bourbon, but he was very taken with the scent: “It’s delicious! Smells like something I want to eat,” adding that it’s “not too feminine, either.” Although it is a serious, thick oil (to the point that it can be hard to get it out of the bottle), the feel of the oil is very light and not too greasy, and it didn’t leave an excessive shine on Joel’s beard.
$25.00 at AJMurrays.com
Why Use Beard Oil?
Beard oils may claim to make your beard grow faster, stronger and thicker, and that may well be an added benefit, but it’s not the whole story. David Pirrotta of David Pirrotta Brand Management (a distributor for grooming brands including Grown Alchemist and Sachajuan) put it this way: “Think of beard oil as cologne, but one that doubles as a hair and skin moisturizer on top of adding shine and body to your beard. Quality beard oils will soften your facial hair, as well as moisturize the skin, reduce itching and create the conditions for healthy growth and smoother beard trimming.”
Why not just use a moisturizer, then? According to Pirotta, “Most lotions are actually watered-down oils, which allows the growth of bacteria and causes the oils to go rancid without some type of added preservatives. Oils lock in moisture and help protect the skin against environmental effects, while delivering a potent dose of nutrients.”
You might be concerned that putting oil on your face will lead to breakouts. Andy Bosselman, founder of Arithmetic, the company behind the highly acclaimed Acne Control Complex, says it’s actually quite the opposite: “Beard oils are not likely to cause pimples, in fact, they may even help your complexion.”
According to Bosselman, “Quality oils like this can help to rebalance your skin’s own oil production. It’s a sort of fight-fire-with-fire situation — oils can make your skin less oily. If you’re concerned about an ingredient, Google it with the word ‘comedogenic.’ If it contains a pore-clogging ingredient, don’t buy it.”
What Do Beard Oils Contain?
Be it acne scar treatments or shaving creams – all top-of-the-line facial grooming potions are formulated from a potent mixture of skincare ingredients. Beard oils are no different. When it comes to the product category, it’s broken down into two common oil categories: carrier and essential.
Best way to describe them are vegetable oils derived from the kernels, nuts, or seeds of plants. Three of the signature benefits they bring to beards are moisture, nutrients, and softness. The primary function of a carrier oil is to transport an essential oil to skin. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Almond oil: An anti-inflammatory with softening and shine attributes.
- Argan oil: Functions as a hair styler and razor bump treatment.
- Castor oil: Decreases acne symptoms, as well as treats facial infections.
- Coconut oil: Acts as a moisturizer, conditioner, and dandruff remedy.
- Grape seed: Cosmetic ingredient made to control moisture and heavy on antioxidants.
- Jojoba oil: Botanical extract loaded in minerals and vitamins that runs the beard nourishment gamut.
- Vitamin E: A nutrient and antioxidant capable of sparking hair growth and repairing damaged follicles.
These herbal lubricants are distilled from bark, flowers, leaves, roots, and other elements of botanical plants – creating the aroma found in beard oils. Once those aromatic chemicals are extracted, they are combined with a carrier oil to finalize the solution. Examine these usual suspects:
- Cedarwood: A base note in several beard oils that tames acne and itchiness, as well as treats certain skin conditions.
- Eucalyptus: Contains antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Fir needle: Both an astringent and immuno-stimulant with the ability to eliminate body odor, prevent infections, and reduce pain.
- Pinewood: This middle note works to stimulate blood flow to improve complexion.
- Sandalwood: An astringent with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Tea tree: Considered an immuno-stimulant that aids in holistic herbal skincare therapy.
Occasionally, you’ll stumble upon beard oils advertising other beneficial skincare additives such as glycerin, safflower, Shea butter, and even wheat germ just to name a few. Familiarizing yourself with the formula will help kickstart your beard grooming routine.
Start With A Clean Beard
Do you exfoliate? If you have a beard (and even if you don’t), your skin will thank you for it. Using grade-A facial scrubs will help you ensure that you’re really getting all the gunk out from underneath your facial hair before you apply beard oil.
After you wash — while your beard is still a bit damp — is the best time to use a beard oil. Normally a few drops will do; use your hands to work the oil into your hair and into the skin beneath. Not only will the beard oil hydrate your beard right down to the follicle, it will also leave your beard smelling good (do make sure you like the smell of the oil you pick — it’ll be right under your nose).
Beard Care Essentials
Donning an unkempt beard simply defeats the purpose of growing one out. A premium beard oil can only do so much to save face, literally. Which is why you'll need to invest in an ecosystem of beard care products to fully preserve your burly appearance. These are just some of the necessities to consider stocking in the grooming cabinet next to those beard elixirs.
Philips Norelco Beard Trimmer 7200
Best for: Beard maintenance
Pulling off certain beard styles requires a top-tier beard trimmer. The Philips Norelco 7200 makes facial hair a permanent, polished fixture with 20 built-in length settings to tackle the longest of strands or the roughest of stubble. Philips' lift and trim technology works by raising and guiding hair through the self-sharpening steel blades, shearing through for a more dynamic cut. Tidying up is just as ideal with the trimmer toting an integrated vacuum system designed for sucking up to 90% of cut hairs.
$54.95 at Amazon.com
Billy Jealousy Beard Envy Kit
Best for: Cleansing and conditioning
The same love one shows their mane should be reciprocated towards their beard. Billy Jealousy sells a three-step kit equipped with beard wash and beard-control serum to purge the bird’s nest of contaminants, plus a boar bristle brush to keep hair properly trained. The Beard Wash hosts a rich blend ingredients that dole out ample moisturization, whereas the Beard Control promotes “extra-gentle performance” with a hydrated light-hold and firm shine. Save cash purchasing the kit or buy the Beard Wash or Beard Control separately. Just know the extra $5 warrants you the brush.
$25.00 at Amazon.com
Baxter of California Beard Comb
Best for: Hair detangling
Every lumbersexual must equip themselves with a sterling beard comb. Besides styling service usage, it can help remove debris and untangle your chin tresses for smoother beard oiling. Baxter’s coveted Swiss-made comb has evenly tapered teeth and rounded tips that add comfort to the grooming chore, sorting every stray hair without scrapping the face.
$16.00 at Amazon.com
Rocky Mountain Barber Cedarwood Beard Balm
Best for: Extra hydration
Beard oils do serve as light moisturizers, but beard balms are known for delivering long-lasting ointment to thicker threads. This one right here contains more than eight essential oils, leaving skin damp and safeguarded from environmental pollutants. It even doubles as a low-hold styling agent with reliable fuzz control and a savoring fragrance that gives off the intoxicating aroma of eucalyptus and cedarwood.
$12.93 at Amazon.com.com
Beardbrand Tea Tree Moustache Wax
Best for: ‘Stache styling
Never neglect the ‘stache. That strip of hair grown above the upper lip is what gives most beard styles consistency. And one way of upholding it is with mustache wax. Beardbrand offers a collection loaded with natural ingredients from beeswax to jojoba oil to keep skin feeling and smelling good. The Tea Tree variant remains a favorite for its medium hold and crisp scent that arouses facial whiskers.
$8.20 at Amazon.com
Chucks Essentials – The Bearded Man’s Multivitamin
Best for: All-natural growth
Most men need a crash course in growing out their beard. Following a healthy diet and eating foods with high protein can help the cause. So can these specialty multivitamins – stimulating active, fuller, and faster hair growth. It basically combines all the key minerals and vitamins beneficial for healthier skin and hair into one supplement for efficient body absorption. Your sheath will benefit from reduced dryness and irritation too.
$18.99 at Amazon.com
Recommended: Got a mean beard that needs maintenance? Try these:
– Best Beard Trimmers
– Best Electric Shavers
– Best Straight Razors