by Mr. Spruce
As you’ll no doubt be aware, there is a veritable cornucopia of beard-related potions, unguents, oils, and elixirs on the market these days all aimed at the, somewhat vague, notion of beard care.
Being in the men’s grooming business as we are, we get asked almost daily about which products are the best for different types of beards, what you should be using, what to steer clear of, etc. So, in the spirit of sharing, we thought we’d put together a little mythbusting FAQ to get help you get to the bottom of it all.
We get asked this a lot, like, A LOT. It’s a bit of a sensitive subject for a lot of guys; big bushy beards have for a long time been associated with masculinity and ‘alpha’ characteristics. This is especially true now when beards are, like it or not, pretty fashionable.
The sad truth though, and we’re not here to sugar-coat it for you, is that a beard’s bushiness is almost entirely contingent on the density of the underlying follicles and that’s just genetic pot-luck. There’s no way you can increase the number of follicles on your skin, it just differs from guy to guy. Can you grow hair on your forehead or on the palms of your hands? Nope? That’s because there’s no follicles, and no amount of rubbing-potions or black magic will affect that.
Now, having said all that, there are options for guys with patchy beards, and taking good care of the underlying skin can certainly improve the conditions for growth and promote a healthy environment for your follicles. Styling can work wonders too and, although it seems counterproductive, a judicious trim in the right areas can actually help to accentuate what hair you do have.
So don’t despair if you’re a bit patchy, and don’t be sold on snake-oil which promises to turn you into Ned Kelly overnight!
Beard oil is not, as some would have you believe, bottled lightning. It generally consists of two or more base oils that do most of the grunt work of moisturisation, and a few top-notes which provide a pleasing scent. It’s not rocket science, however, it is important to remember that not all beard oils are created equally. A good beard oil will have gone through some pretty rigorous testing (on beards, not animals) to ensure that only quality ingredients are used, the ingredients play nicely together, and that you get the desired effect.
So what are the desired effects?
You might also want to add;
Beard oils do not provide much styling hold which is fine for short-medium beards but if you’ve got more substantial growth or more adventurous styling plans, then you’ll probably want to check out a beard balm instead of / as well as your oil. More on that below.
For best results, your beard oil should go on after your morning shower when the face i nice and clean and the pores are open. If necessary, use a beard shampoo in the shower to strip away any nasties and particulates from your beard first.
You might also want to apply your moisturiser first. This becomes more and more important with age but especially so for those of us in non-temperate climates.
Generally speaking, a few drops of oil is all you need. A little goes a long way, you’ll soon find a happy-spot though where you’ve got good coverage and shine without the beard itself actually feeling oils and greasy. If you can wring out your beard and fry and egg in it, you’ve probably gone too far.
Lastly, pro tip; use a wide tooth comb, or decent boar hair beard brush to distribute the oil evenly throughout the beard and add a bit of shape and definition while you’re at it.
Generally speaking, the short answer is; no. As a quick rule of thumb; short-medium beards – beard oil should be sufficient; the primary function of the oil being to moisturise and shine. A decent beard balm will do that too but it will also provide a bit of styling hold for longer beards.
You can of course, double up. I personally use my beard oil first and then apply a bit of balm to keep everything in place, but it’s more a matter of preference and pampering.
There’s a common misconception that beard shampoos and conditioners are just marketing spin and they’re really just regular shampoos and conditioners with the word ‘beard’ added.
This is definitely not the case (at least with decent beard shampoos), and we’ll tell you why.
Beard hair and head hair are not the same. Run your hand through any given beard and any given head and this will become patently obvious (probably wise to ask permission first though). Beard hair is generally thicker, coarser, has a shorter natural length, may well be a different natural colour (shout out to all the latent ginger beards out there, myself included), and will likely have a different follicle density.
Your beard also generally takes a bit more of a battering throughout the day, consider; running your hands through it, giving it a good itch, mealtimes, etc. There’s a lot of opportunity for dirt and particulate build up to accrue and the act of scrubbing your beard clean every day can in itself be harmful.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the skin underlying your beard is often more sensitive than the scalp. Think about it, you wouldn’t use shampoo to wash your face, would you? It’s too harsh and it will end up stripping all the natural oils which are so crucial to maintaining a healthy beard.
A good beard-specific shampoo should have a gentle, natural cleanser that won’t aggravate your skin, and won’t wash away those natural oils. It should leave your beard nicely moisturised and hydrated. Try regular shampoo for a week and then switch to beard shampoo. I guarantee your beard will feel much less coarse and brittle.
Depends on your style and tolerance for top-lip topiary really.
Personally I use a little mo’ wax just to part the hair and keep it out of my lunch so a light-medium hold is sufficient. If you’re going for a full-on handlebar with twisty-ends then you might need something a little stronger.
Moustache wax is generally considered a styling product rather than a conditioning product like beard oil so for best results apply your beard oil first and then move on to the wax for styling and hold.
Don’t believe a word of it. It’s probably safe to say that any part of the body if left unwashed, unloved, or uncared for would end up pretty unhygienic but have you seen the amount of beard care products and chatter out there on the interwebs!?
Do you think the people that are using those products and spending so much time loving and talking about their beards would let them get grubby and unkempt? In my experience, a man’s beard can be one of his most prized and cared-for physical attributes.
So there you have it, I hope that has dispelled some of the myths and cleared up some of the confusion for you. We’re always on hand to answer any questions though and we can talk about this stuff all day so please feel free to leave a comment below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Mr. Spruce aka Andy. One half of Worthy & Spruce. Blogging about all things gentlemanly, and many things not. Tired but tireless dad, business dude, consumer of coffee, and deliverer of timely quips.
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