I’m in the section for beard care products at Walgreens. Next to me are two twenty-somethings whispering to each other. Beard oil vs beard balm: that seems to be their dilemma. One of them picks up a bottle, looks it over and puts it back on the shelf. The other one stares intensely at the ingredients on a jar of beard balm.
I usually don’t give unsolicited advice but this time I felt compelled to do it.
“Go for the balm. The oil will make your beard greasy.”
This advice is not a universal truth. Beard balms are not always better than beard oils. Which one is the better choice depends on a few things. Read on to find out what they are.
Beard oils are usually blends of carrier oils and essential oils. If you are curious how to make your own, see Tame the Beast: How to Make Beard Oil.
As the name suggests, beard oils are runny, even though viscosity varies. The purpose of any beard oil is to nourish the beard and moisturize the skin under it. Beard oils can be an effective remedy for beard dandruff, dryness and brittleness. If your beard appears dry and dull, treating it with beard oil will add some shine and improve its natural luster.
The downside of beard oils is that they tend to be greasy and in some cases comedogenic (pore-clogging). They usually come in dropper bottles and you apply them by rubbing them vigorously into your beard and skin.
A beard oil would be a good choice if you have dry skin and hair. If you have medium or long beard, an oil is what you need to keep it nourished. Once you’ve applied the oil, you can follow up with a beard wax to give your beard some shape.
If your scruff is short (less than one inch), a beard oil may make your beard and face greasy. You can still use it by putting less of it.
Unlike beard oils, beard balms tend to be solid. Many modern beard balms have the consistency and colour of lotion. Others can be harder or have the texture of whipped butter (beard butters).
Many beard balms are made with vegan oils that remain in solid state at room temperature. Oils rich in saturated fats, such as coconut oil, cocoa butter, and shea butter are popular ingredients in many balms. To add extra firmness, some producers add beeswax. Those products resemble more beard waxes rather than balms.
Beard balms serve the same purpose as beard oils: to nourish and moisturize the beard and the skin. Contrary to the popular belief, beard balms are not good at shaping or taming your beard. You need a beard wax for that. Beard balms are too soft and with virtually no hold to keep your beard hair in place.
Because of their texture, beard oils tend to work better for short beards. They absorb quickly and don’t leave a greasy residue the way an oil would.
Can you use a beard balm on your long mane? You could but you’ll end up going through a tin every time you use it. A beard oil that spreads a lot easier would be a better choice.
Beard Oil vs Beard Balm: What to Use When
Now that you know how each one works, picking beard oil vs beard balm is easy. If you have a dry skin and medium-to-long beard, go for a beard oil. If you have a normal-to-oily skin and short beard, a beard balm is the better choice.
Use this general rule only as a guide. The best way to know what works best is to try both.
Many of the commercial beard oils and balms could be pricey. To save money while experimenting, try some in store or ask for samples. Virtually all skincare and men’s grooming stores (including the ones online) will either give you a sample or make one for you.
Beard Oil and Beard Balm: How to Use Both
Beard oils and balms are not mutually exclusive. Many beard aficionados use both: they work in oil in their beard for nourishment and lustre and then follow up with a balm to give it some texture.
My personal experience shows that using both at the same time is a bit of an overkill, especially if you don’t have a long beard.