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For the first-time beard grower, beard oil can be a confounding product. Indeed, it confuses many of the long-time growers, too, if they have never sought its help. Do you really need to lubricate your whiskers like you would a bike chain? And what can it possibly do, besides make your mane all greasy and shiny? (Good news on that last part: It won’t make it greasy, and that shine is a healthy one, not a slimy one.)
Oftentimes, a simple explanation of beard oil’s benefits is all it takes to convert a bearded person for life. Anyone whose partner has complained of scruff burns knows its benefits. Anyone who has experienced beard itch, beard dandruff, dry skin, or split ends knows the benefits. And anyone whose beard is simply too stubborn to tame into place probably understands the benefits of beard oil, too.
So that begs the question: With so many benefits provided by the product, how do you pick the best one? And how do you apply beard oil in order to properly obtain all these perks? Not to mention, when do you apply it, and how much should you use?
We’ll get into all of those questions below, with a heap of insight and help from barber Alex Torrecillas.
Meet the Expert
- Alex Torrecillas is a senior barber at The Spot Barbershop in Miami.
What Is Beard Oil?
It’s best to equate beard oil with moisturizer for your face, lotion for your hands, or conditioner for your hair. Beard oil is loaded with nutrients to promote both softness and strength in each whisker, no matter how short or long. But its benefits are skin-deep, too, in that beard oil also exists as a moisturizer for the skin beneath your beard—since it can be hard to hydrate this area with a standard-fare moisturizing cream.
“Every time you wash your beard, you're stripping away natural oils,” says Torrecillas. “Beard oil replenishes those natural oils. It hydrates, helps tame and smooth the hairs, and gives the beard a soft finish.” Assurance of that soft finish is essential for most beard-oil novices, too: Beard oil really does absorb into the face and hair and doesn’t make your feel greasy or look slick. It’s a natural, healthy shine, and nothing more—assuming you don’t apply more than needed.
When to Use Beard Oil
Torrecillas advises using beard oil primarily in the evening or whenever you won’t be tempted to touch the hairs, especially if you’re using beard oil as a treatment for dryness, flaking, split ends, and so forth. “I do not like to comb beard oil through my hairs, but rather let the skin and hair absorb it from the warmth of my finger,” he says. “If you’re short on time or don’t like it this way, just run a comb through your beard to evenly distribute the oil.” Combing the oils through is a much more effective way to use beard oil as a mild styler and tamer, too—especially if you’re applying it in the morning and need to get out the door and enjoy the oil’s immediate benefits (like that soft finish and light tamability).
Always apply beard oil to a freshly cleansed face, or else you’ll be mixing it in with an excess of grease and grime that you’ve accumulated throughout the day. “Use lukewarm water in the shower, so you can still remove impurities but not to the point that it will over-dry the skin,” Torrecillas says. Use a gentle cleanser, too, and then give it a cold splash of water to close the pores. “This helps avoid potential bacteria and fungus from nesting and even provides shine,” Torrecillas says of the pre-oil process. (It’s not entirely unlike a shaving regimen, either, which begins with warm water and ends with a cold splash.)
There is one other step that should be incorporated into beard oil application: exfoliation. Torrecillas notes that this process helps lift away dead skin and allows the beard oil to properly penetrate the skin, deliver nourishment, and in turn eliminate dryness and flakes. He says not to do this more than three times a week—though you may need to start once a week, graduate to twice a week, and then stop at every other day since over-exfoliation can damage the skin. For this process, he suggests using a boar’s hair beard brush to gently buff away at the skin and to help get between each of the scraggly beard hairs.
Who Should Use Beard Oil
The short answer here is anyone with a beard, of course. Beard oil will never be bad to use since it’s as nourishing for your cheeks and chin as it is for your scruff itself. But it becomes more and more imperative in the few weeks after initial fresh-shave growth, as the hairs begin to fully cover the face and start to take shape and/or curl. This is the point at which applying a moisturizing cream starts to get tedious, and when the whiskers need an easily absorbed hydrating agent (the oil) to keep themselves soft, relaxed, strong, and tamable.
If you’re planning on growing your whiskers out into a longer beard style, it’s never too early to start nourishing the hairs, even when they’re short. Doing this prevents split ends all along the way, and it makes the growth process way less stressful, too, as the hairs will cooperate each morning when it comes time to comb them into place. (Not to mention, any partner will be grateful for you keeping those whiskers as soft and supple as possible, as early as possible.)
Those with oily skin might require less beard oil at the start since their natural sebum will snake its way down the whiskers to condition each strand. Still, once that beard gets long enough, the sebum can only maneuver so far, and split ends/itching/dryness still become a problem. On top of that, many beard oils have anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, whereas your natural sebum can promote fungal proliferation as well as flaking. So, a neutralizing, toning beard oil can often be a fitting replacement for your skin’s oil. Furthermore, a steady introduction of oil (as outlined in the next section) can help “train” your skin’s own natural oil production, and teach it to gradually decrease output since you are supplementing it with your own regular applications.
How Much Beard Oil Should You Use?
In terms of frequency, less is more, says Torrecillas. “Considering oil is often applied directly onto your skin, you need to track any reactions.” Be patient, he says, and introduce beard oil into your regimen once or twice a week—in the evenings, to start, so that it can soften the hairs while you sleep. You can incrementally add applications each week as your skin adjusts to the new product, especially if you already have oily skin and need to “train” your skin to produce less oil with the addition of this new, nourishing product.
In terms of how much oil to use for each application, it of course increases with the volume and density of the beard itself. “For shorter beards, I would suggest two to three drops, carefully warmed in between your fingertips,” says Torrecillas. Yes, that really is all that’s needed with a single application.
You can add an additional drop as the beard grows out, as you feel it’s necessary to cover the entire real estate. You probably rarely need to exceed four or five drops for long, full beards, though, especially if you’re combing it through and then tamping down any strays with your oiled fingertips.
“For longer beards, it’s important to recognize that some oils might be thicker in consistency than others,” Torrecillas notes. Thus, your application might need to be tailored to the oil’s consistency or viscosity. “Personally, I like the lighter oils for the more manicured neck area, because most times it will penetrate all three layers of the skin as opposed to resting on the hair and top layer of skin,” he says. “And for the rest of the beard, thicker oil will lubricate, condition, and nourish.”
How to Apply Beard Oil
“Apply in sections, slightly upwards and in slow-patting motions, to make sure you are penetrating the skin,” Torrecillas says. “Gently press on the desired area, so the warmth of your fingertips and product make an effective penetration.”
For longer styles and split-end prevention, he likes to do what he calls a “milking motion." Achieve this by gently hugging the hair strands between your fingers as you create a friction motion. “Go super slow and steady, and pull down the oil to the ends of the strands.” And as a quick aside on split ends—they could be one reason that your beard has stopped growing, Torrecillas says. So it’s important to prevent them in the first place (or trim them away altogether, once they do occur, and let the beard keep growing from below the split). “The ends of the hair tend to be more porous, which means the proteins in it will get lost easier than the ones on the roots,” he explains. “Once the beard starts to grow, the hairs create friction as they make contact. If dehydrated these can lead to fractures and/or breakage, and that’s when you see those crazy hairs all over the face.”
Short or long, your beard always appreciates a good combing-through in order to distribute the oils. “Comb with and against the growth of your hair, but gently,” Torrecillas advises. “Apply more oil if you don’t feel like you’ve used enough. After distributing the oil, comb your beard back into place and groom it as you like.”
Our Product Picks
Not all beard oils are going to be good for you. A quick scroll through Amazon will prove just how many of these brands are springing up and are likely scarcely tested or hastily stirred together. That being said, some formulas excel in their simplicity, while others soar for their complexity.
Different types of oils will achieve different things, too. For instance, a splash of tea tree oil can tone sebum production and nix bacteria and fungus, while jojoba or argan oils can deeply nourish hair and skin alike, to promote softness and prevent flaking.
Torrecillas always errs on the side of silicone-free and naturally derived oils. “The cleaner, the better,” he says. “Harsh chemicals such as silicone can dehydrate hair and skin, causing irritation, itchiness, and dandruff.”
Below are three of our favorite oils that pass this test.
The plum oil in this formula softens scruff and delivers a hearty shine, while fatty acids from marula and Kalahari melon oils penetrate the whiskers and skin to nourish and smooth.
Unscented for those who prefer it, this oil utilizes a vitamin- and antioxidant-rich blend that includes apricot and grape seed oils, both of which absorb quickly.
This blend of 15 oils delivers every possible benefit to your whiskers and face, ranging from nourishing jojoba to growth-stimulating and itch-reducing cinnamon leaf oil.
Beard oil might seem excessive, especially if you have oily skin or a short beard. But the truth is, beard oil is one of the easiest ways to ensure healthy, fortified beard growth. It helps nourish and tone the skin underneath your whiskers and can condition hair for the long haul if you’ve got longevity in mind. (Split ends are no match for it, too.) There is no wrong time to start using beard oil, and a few drops a day could be all the difference between itching, flaking, drying, or splitting, as opposed to a harmonious, tamed, and lustrous mane.