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.
Burroughs Beard Oil
Iconic naturalist John Burroughs maintained an exemplary face-full of bristles, whether wearing a suit in civilization or off wandering in the wild. This beard oil named in his honor aims to make achieving his example possible, by blending argan oil – used to treat dried-out hair and skin – with naturally astringent grapeseed oil, which keeps your skin acne-free. Both are "dry" oils so they go on light, absorb quickly, and can be used on your whole face, which makes them especially good for beards that are less than an inch. [$31; amazon.com]