Growing a beard is quite possibly the easiest task ever, but being the long-term owner of a consistently groomed and healthy beard is a far trickier proposition. A lesser-known secret for taming your face fuzz exists though: beard oils.
Phil Olsen, founder and captain of Beard Team USA (which competes in the annual World Beard and Mustache Competition), recently took the time to explain their appeal. "A good oil keeps the beard soft, shiny, and smooth," he says, "and, of course, the beardsman as an object of admiring attention." But beyond superficial appeal, beard oils are important for maintaining the health of your whiskers.
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"If you're a guy who lives in a cold or dry climate, or if you have hard water, you should without a doubt be using a beard oil," says Eric Bandholz, owner and founder of online beard shop beardbrand.com. Those conditions wick the moisture right out of your facial hair and can make your bristles, well, brittle. The result is that they tend to break, making your beard feel sharp and coarse – and also grow in misbegotten shapes.
So what makes a beard oil good? To be sure, a lot has to do with the scent. The oil will live just beneath your nose, so it should be something you (and, just as important, the person you're intimate with) actually enjoy. Beard oils are generally based on one of a few ingredients, such as grapeseed, jojoba, argan, or coconut oil, all of which are rich in nutrients and readily absorbed by both hair and skin. In addition, look for more specialized ingredients such as rosemary, hempseed, or safflower oil to address specific problems like beard itch, below-the-beard acne, and sensitive skin, without feeling greasy.
We tested out dozens of beard oils and chose the following eight, each one optimal for different kinds of facial hair and beards.
Coconut oil has long been used on the Indian subcontinent as an all-around elixir for dry and damaged hair. More recently, though, the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that it actually penetrates hair fibers and can treat something called "hygral fatigue," which is a more scientific way of saying your hair is so thirsty, it feels like steel wool. The makers added vitamin E for all-around health and grapeseed oil, a natural astringent that will help clear up beneath-the-beard acne. We found the blend to be extremely concentrated, making it appropriate for thick hair, but be warned: A little goes an extremely long way. [$36; amazon.com]