Just a guess, but you probably didn't grow your face whiskers to start a collection of dead skin for everyone to see. If you have beard dandruff — skin flaking off and getting stuck in your beard — you should take control right away.
But first, why are you getting beard dandruff? The jury is still out on the exact cause of dandruff, but it is believed that a mix of cold weather, stress, and a yeast called Pityrosporum ovale, which lives on the skin of humans, causes the skin to flake off. "The beard area is a common location for seborrheic dermatitis [dandruff] because the hair shields the yeast from ultraviolet light, which normally would slow its growth," says Dr. Terrence Keaney, director of W for Men at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, the nation's first men-only dermatology clinic.
Yeast living on your face? In your beard? It makes for an unkempt look, to say the least. Of course, there is one drastic solution. "Shaving can improve the condition," Keaney tells Men's Journal. But just as most of us wouldn't shave the hair off our head to zap dandruff because we can treat it with a dandruff-fighting shampoo, we probably wouldn't shave our beard. "If shaving is not an option, the use of an over-the-counter or prescription anti-dandruff shampoo is effective," he says.
That means your run-of-the-mill Head & Shoulders and Selsun Blue Medicated shampoos should do the trick. "To treat beard dandruff, wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove excess oil before applying the medicated shampoo; leave it on the skin for at least five minutes to allow penetration, and then wash it off," Keaney says.
From there, you can go about your regular beard routine, which should include at least a beard oil to keep the follicles hydrated. And if you're really looking to pamper your bristles during the cold, moisture-sapping months, consider adding a deep conditioner into the mix.
Mister Beardwash has just released a deep conditioner made specifically for beards. It includes cotton, green tea, oat, and willow bark extracts, an amalgam designed specifically to calm the itchiness that stems from (and can exacerbate) the problem of beard dandruff. Or, really, you can just shave, but then your chin will get cold. [$27.50 for 4 ounces; ebay.com]