What Is Beard Conditioner, and Should I Be Using It?

Man with a beard bathes his face in the sun

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Beard conditioner: Yep, you read that right. There’s a conditioner for your beard, and when you think about it, that totally makes sense. Your beard is hair, and if the hair on your head can benefit from a good conditioner, why shouldn’t your beard? Beard care is a category of its own, with washes, balms, oils, styling products, and—as you’re about to learn—conditioners, all tailored to make your beard look and feel healthy. 

In fact, the best-looking beards are healthy beards. That means that the hair is clean and conditioned, the skin underneath is tended to, and the result is a robust beard with a healthy luster, no matter what length or style. The beards you lust after in the pages of men’s magazines or ads have most likely seen their share of beard conditioner.

How do we know this? Because we spoke with two of the industry’s top experts on all things grooming, whose work you’ve most likely seen and admired in those very pages—Greg Cooper Spencer and Robert-Jan Rietveld—to get the full scoop on beard conditioner, from what it does to where to start. 

Meet the Expert

What Is Beard Conditioner?

Like hair conditioner, beard conditioner is a product designed to keep beard hair soft and moisturized. Over time it can help to prevent brittle hair and breakage and decrease skin irritation, explains Cooper Spencer. Rietveld adds that by giving beard hair a smoother texture, it also makes it easier to style—a definite plus for guys with longer beards. 

We know what you’re thinking: It’s the same thing as hair conditioner—but actually it’s not. “Beard conditioner is formulated to target shorter, more coarse facial hair, focusing on nourishing the skin and hair on your face, while hair conditioner is formulated to reduce the friction between hair strands,” Rietveld says. So, while slathering on the stuff you’ve already got in your shower won’t do any harm to your beard, it may not leave it feeling or looking any different than it is now. 

How Does It Differ From Other Beard Products?

Like we said, the beard care category nowadays is rife with products, many of which are already commonplace in guys’ routines, such as beard oil and beard balm. But both experts agreed that beard conditioner plays an entirely different role. 

Beard oil has many benefits, Rietveld explains, from adding shine to your beard and hydrating the hair and skin underneath to replacing cologne and making your beard smell great. However, when it comes to manageability and softness, that’s where beard conditioner reigns supreme. 

Plus, there’s your skin to think about. Cooper Spencer says that beard oils may not be for everybody, especially guys who are acne-prone. “The problem with beard oil is, if you have oily skin and an oily beard, then you’re probably going to run into problems like breakouts and clogged pores,” he says. 

The same goes for beard balm, which differs in that it has a harder consistency, thanks to the inclusion of beeswax, and offers extra hold while protecting the hair from drying out.

In that case, if either beard oil or beard balm proves to be problematic for you, a light beard conditioner may be all you need to give your beard that extra measure of care. 

How to Use Beard Conditioner

Beard conditioner comes in two basic types: rinse-out and leave-in. While rinse-out formulas can be used in the shower, Rietveld explains that leave-ins offer a light hold, which makes them doubly effective as a styling product as well. 

To apply, Cooper Spencer recommends starting by washing your face and beard. “You never want to apply it to an unclean surface,” he says. If you choose a rinse-out beard conditioner, Rietveld says to apply a nickel-sized amount, work it into your beard to nourish hair at the root, leave it in for a few minutes, then rinse out. If you opt for a leave-in version, Cooper Spencer suggests applying it when your beard is still damp, then follow it with beard oil or balm if you choose, and allow it to dry naturally. “This method locks in moisture, as well as helps to minimize overuse of products by giving you the ability to feel when enough is enough as you finger-comb your entire beard,” he says.

In the end, your beard should be shiny, soft, and manageable. 

When to Use Beard Conditioner

Obviously, if you’re only sporting stubble, beard conditioner won’t do much for your look. However, once the length reaches the half-inch mark, it’s time to think about proper beard care. “That’s when a beard starts to change the shape of someone's face significantly,” Cooper Spencer says. “It’s at this point when a beard can also be combed and styled, and this is when I suggest that anyone who plans on growing it out further consider conditioning it.”

The Best Beard Conditioners

Cooper Spencer recommends starting your beard conditioner search with brands you already like and trust, while Rietveld says go straight to the ingredients list. “The more pronounceable and recognizable the ingredients are, the better,” Rietveld says. “Look out for natural emollients like coconut oil, shea butter, and aloe vera.”

Here are some of the best beard conditioners in the business:

Reuzel Beard Foam
Reuzel Beard Foam $13.50
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A personal recommendation from founder Rietveld, this unique leave-in foam absorbs quickly to condition and deodorize your beard. “It helps to tame and control rogue hairs while adding fullness, and comes in two different scents: original and wooden spice,” he says,

Bevel Beard Conditioner
Bevel Beard Conditioner $9.95
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Bevel’s beard conditioner is a great all-in-one treatment that contains aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil to hydrate and soften your beard while protecting and nourishing the skin underneath. 

Murdock London Beard Conditioner
Murdock London Beard Conditioner $24
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From London’s bad boys of beards, this rinse-out beard conditioner is lightweight yet nourishing, helping to moisturize and detangle your beard while leaving a shiny finish. 

Uncle Jimmy Beard Softener
Uncle Jimmy Beard Softener $$10
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This three-in-one balm conditions beard hair, providing deep moisture and keeping hair in place for a more manageable, perfectly groomed beard. 

Scotch Porter Beard Conditioner
Scotch Porter Hydrate & Nourish Beard Conditioner $18.99
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A beard conditioner par excellence, this deliciously scented rinse-out contains biotin to help strengthen hair as it infuses it with deep moisture. Bonus: The exotic blend of musky sandalwood and floral notes is manly and mysterious and smells amazing. 

Every Man Jack Beard and Hair Conditioner
Every Man Jack Beard + Hair Conditioner $10
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Even though we said beard conditioner differs from the stuff you use on your head, this luscious formulation from Every Man Jack is great at both. Its clean formula helps to reduce breakage and leaves your beard smelling fresh. 

Frederick Benjamin Beard Cream
Frederick Benjamin Beard Cream $12
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This botanically infused leave-in beard conditioner is stacked with ingredients like bergamot, hemp seed oil, clove oil, and nettle oil to help stimulate circulation while softening and hydrating even the toughest, coarsest beard hair. It's a delight for skin and beard alike. 

The Final Takeaway

Every beard is as different as the guy who sports it, and the key to getting your beard looking its best is to pay attention to your own needs. This means adopting proper skin and beard care to keep your facial hair smooth, shiny, and healthy. At the same time, you don’t need to take on an overwhelming amount of steps or products. Just go with what feels right and makes your beard live up to its fullest potential. 

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