Waxes, oils and balms – choosing the right beard product
Posted on January 04 2018
Choosing the right beard product can seem overwhelming. With the huge increase in popularity of beards, the beard product market has exploded with a vast array of products.
To make it easier to work out what you need, think of products as falling into three broad camps - beard oils, beard balms and beard waxes. While they are all related in terms of general ingredients, they have very different purposes.
Consider these three questions as you read through the options:
- How broad you need the conditioning effect to be?
- Are you trying to arrest a case of flaking?
- Are you are looking for shaping qualities as well as conditioning?
Beard oils are designed specifically to perform two main duties - to moisturise and soften beard hair, and to nurture and support the underlying skin. In this respect, they differ from balms and waxes.
Moisturising your beard daily over a 12-week period can change the texture of your beard as it grows; making it less wiry and generally more comfortable to wear - and more comfortable for those who engage directly with it. It is important to note that while an oil's impact on the texture of your beard can vary depending on your age, skin and hair type, moisturising your beard will always have a positive effect. Soft beards are great – but beard oils are designed to do more.
The oils blended together are typically selected because of the conditioning effect that they have on both the beard hair and on the underlying skin, level of skin absorption and non-greasiness.
The nutritional qualities of each oil and the fact that the oil is a fluid ensure that it is readily absorbed into the hair shaft and sink easily into the thirsty skin beneath. This can reduce or prevent “beardruff” (dandruff in beards), keep the skin smooth and lubricated, and reduce odour. Different fragrance blends also help with this and give you - and those close to you - a daily lift.
This dual effect is a stand out difference between oils and their beard-focused cousins. However, balms and waxes have their own distinct benefits.
While balms often contain many ingredients found in beard oils, the proportions are different and there are different ingredients added to give the balm a different feel. Beard balms focus more on the beard itself. They have a different consistency, are less viscous and feel slightly waxy to the touch.
The reason for this is that the main function of a balm is to feed the beard itself. The intent of a balm is to coat the beard strands themselves rather than to sink through to the underlying skin. For this reason, balms often contain beeswax to give the balm a thicker consistency and allow the balm to coat the hair strand. Your balm will have a soft, pasty consistency much like a lip balm and come in a tin or jar instead of a bottle.
This consistency also allows you to give the beard some shape between barber visits but it is a very mild hold and doesn’t work so well if you have a wiry beard, or if you are looking to get hard lines and shapes such as waxing a moustache or pointing a beard. That’s where a beard wax comes in.
Beard and hair waxes are the belligerent big brother of the balm. They have a thicker consistency again due to a higher level of beeswax in the blend. This higher wax content means that while they will carry oils specifically selected to moisturise the hair, they often don’t carry the same payload of nourishing oils.
Waxes come in jars and tins and are a heavy paste that, like a hair wax, you push out with a thumbnail and warm in your hands to soften enough to spread. The application process is very similar to that of a hair wax. It's worth having a quick read of the guide to using a hair wax. Still good for beards, but a styling product first and a conditioning product second.
It’s all about where you want the benefit, and how much styling you need. So, how do you decide?
If you want to soften and intensively condition your beard and your skin – or if you have a problem with flaking, a beard oil is a great solution. Just bear in mind that unless you have very fine hair an oil won’t give you hold or shape.
If skin conditioning isn’t such a concern but you want to give your beard a regular drink, a balm can help, and will also give some shape as a side benefit.
By contrast, a beard wax is about shaping first and conditioning second. Waxes still provide great conditioning and will generally give you a medium-to-firm hold. They don’t have the same richness of oils but, if shape is your thing then waxes allow you to impose shapes and style to your beard and moustache that balms and oils can only dream of.
Whatever beard product you choose, you will be providing your beard (and maybe your skin) with a frequent act of kindness by providing it with the moisture and protection that it truly deserves.
Looking for an Australian-made, all-natural beard products? Explore our natural, argan oil-enriched beard oils