What is beard oil and why do you need it?

Blackbird Beard OilI recently interviewed Nicole Miller, the owner of the Seattle-based retailer Blackbird, and she mentioned that she couldn’t keep beard oil in stock. “They’re great. They moisturize the skin under the beard, which gets really dry when you wash your face. It also oils the hair so it looks more healthy and colorful,” she told me.

And she’s right. I’ve had a beard for years and I’ve always had trouble with the skin underneath getting dried out by soap and shampoo. The beard itself gets dried out, too. Beard oil not only keeps the skin under the beard from flaking, it gives the beard itself a soft feel and lustrous look. And it makes it less scraggly looking.

[UPDATE 9/25/13: As of July, Miller has refocused Blackbird from mostly menswear to mostly things like her own branded beard oil ($38 for a 2oz dropper bottle) and a range of Blackbird fragrances and incense.]

There are many options for beard conditioning. The simplest is to use an oil like sweet almond or grapeseed, which are inexpensive and absorb into the skin quickly without feeling slimy.

You could also try to make your own beard oil. I found a great recipe online from a blogger who even includes printable graphics to make your own label. Fresh Picked Beauty’s recipe uses a mix of two oils, jojoba and argan. The latter is a very trendy and celebrated Moroccan tree oil that typically costs about double what jojoba oil does. It’s often used in the sorts of women’s hair care products that cost obscene amounts of money. This recipe uses essential oils of sandalwood, cardamom, grapefruit and bergamot to scent it. I’d love to make this, but using the resource Fresh Picked Beauty links to, Eugene, Oregon-based Mountain Rose Herbs, my first batch would cost me $120. I’d have enough carrier oil to make four one-ounce bottles of it, but still. To get the seven drops of sandalwood oil, I’d need to drop $33 on a quarter-ounce bottle–the smallest size available. Sandalwood is expensive.

So it may be easier to seek out an affordable product that’s already been made. I ordered one from another Pacific Northwest herbalist, Wild Rose Herbs (not to be confused with the similarly named retailer above). Her Wild Man Beard Conditioner is $19.49 for 50ml (1.7oz) or $11.49 for 30ml (about 1oz).

Wild Man uses a base of sweet almond oil (which, incidentally, has virtually no scent on its own) with a simple combination of rosemary, lavender, cedar, and lime essential oils. Ash, the proprietor of Wild Rose, came up with the beard oil idea as an alternative for a bearded friend’s pure jojoba oil regimen. “This kind of drove me crazy because jojoba oil should only be used diluted, 10% at most,” Ash told me via e-mail. “It’s quite thick and can be kind of irritating; in short it doesn’t feel as nice.” She remembered him years later when she decided to expand her Wild Rose line of skincare products to include items for men. The beard oil is currently her best-selling product.

Of her choice of carrier oils, Ash says that she may be moving to grapeseed oil to open the product up for those with nut allergies. “Grapeseed oil feels identical to Sweet Almond, and it’s actually wonderful for hair. There are many other super fancy and expensive oils out there, but I like to save those for serious therapeutic needs, like lightening scars and smoothing wrinkles, as in the Wild Man Stud Tonic, for example.” She also adds vitamin E to the sweet almond oil.

The Wild Man scent, which also comes as a fragrance oil (basically the same thing as the beard tonic, only with a 20% concentration of essential oils for $23.95 for 15ml), is fresh-smelling. It’s very limey and woody, with hints of the underlying rosemary and lavender. It smells masculine and isn’t so light that it seems inappropriate for all seasons.

But Ash didn’t just pick these oils for their scents. “It just so happens that cedar oil, a popular man scent, can help tone the kidneys, an often overlooked component to men’s health,” she told me, her aromatherapy training revealing itself. “Lime prevents blemishes, rosemary strengthens hair and lavender helps everything, really. Lavender is not a manly smell at all, but I try to incorporate it into every formula for its wide range of topical and emotional benefits. Not to mention, it’s a long-celebrated female-specific aphrodisiac. When you smell this oil, you probably won’t be able to pick out the lavender scent in it, but it is still affecting your mood and anyone else who is close enough to get a whiff.”

I’ve been using the Wild Man Beard oil for a few days. I have a fuller beard, so I use about 8-10 drops of the oil, rubbing it into my beard and face. The scent is subtle—it should be, so close to the nose—and it’s noticeable for about around two or three hours.

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32 Responses to What is beard oil and why do you need it?

  1. Brechett says:

    Funny you should post this, a couple weeks ago I started using jojoba oil neat on my beard to soften it and make it easier to control; I even carry it around in an empty rum sample bottle. I considered using oil infusions of Cape Snowbush, Lavender and Gotu Kola, which I have growing in my garden, because they are reportedly good for hair and pleasantly fragrant. This post motivates me to try that, using coconut (traditionally used in India for hair conditioning) or grapeseed oil for infusions. I only lament that this will further widen the divide between country and city beards.

    • It’s amazing what a little care does, isn’t it? Try straight sweet almond oil, too — I’ll be curious to hear how you think it compares to jojoba.

      I was thinking of trying infusions too. Particularly lemon and/or lime zest in oil. I figured it’d be a place to start and would give a fresh and inoffensive scent.

      I’m not familiar with Cape Snowbush or Gotu Kola, nor their properties. What are they?

      • Ed says:

        Nordic Seas makes a Lime scented Beard Oil and it is very refreshing. It doesn’t linger too long either.

    • If you like a refreshing lime scent with a Grapeseed/Jojoba base try Nordic Seas Beard Oil. Running a product launch promo right now through 5 April. You can get the promo code on the facebook site http://www.facebook.com/nordicseas

      Cheers

  2. Great article!!! I agree that getting started making your own skincare can cost a lot for the initial investment and it is good to know that there are wonderful companies like Wild Man that offer wonderful and thoughtfully formulated products for folks!!! Thanks for mentioning Fresh-Picked Beauty in your article!! Cheers & Green Blessings!!

  3. Pingback: Beard Oil: MCMC’s Number One Dude | cocktails & cologne

  4. acephalist says:

    The Mod Cabin makes an excellent beard oil out of Argan, Jojoba and Coconut oil with fir needle and cedar essential oils.
    http://themodcabin.com/beard/#!/~/product/category=5025952&id=20916578

  5. SoftSkinHead says:

    Instead of having an arsenal of products that either dry out or rehydrate the skin, I recommend to do like me, and use Shower Oil (http://www.sebamedusa.com/403.html) for cleaning skin and head and every part of the body!
    I started using this product a little over a year ago, and since I’m very thrifty with how I use it, my 500ml bottle (here’s the one I have: http://www.vitusapotek.no/Products/NMD+default+Catalog/PID-914466.aspx) has actually lasted me more than a year! In the beginning I was using it the same way that traditional shower gel and soap is used when showering (direct application to skin), but I had this thought growing in my head about what effect it woud have if used for cleaning the hair. So, since I was unable to find any reports about this on the internet, I decided to give it a try myself. I thought, being how the shower oil seems so incredibly mild to the skin (the skin feels amazing when cleaned with this!), it seemed unlikely that it would damage my hair.
    So, what I did was I took a 15 litre bucket, which I filled a little over half-full with hot water, and squirted in two or three squirts of the shower oil. Then I dipped my head in, rubbed it, dipped again (repeat 2-5 times, as to what feels necessary), and then I could proceed to use the same washing water for cleaning the rest of my body. And it turned out that this method not only is amazingly gentle to the skin AND hair, but it allows me to utilize this amazing product to its fullest potential. Also, the washing water seems to be non-irritating to the eyes – though one might easily rinse the eyes after washing the head.
    Nowadays, I’ve even discovered that it’s sufficient for me to use this method as seldom as once a week, and the rest of the days, I’m able to keep myself sufficiently clean using only warm, lukewarm and cold water in my everyday showers. Awesome :-)

    • wofka says:

      Dear SoftSkinHead, yes, it is great idea to have one-for-all Shower Oil, but the problem is what is inside it. For example many people (like me) who are against harsh chemicals will reject this Sebamed “masterpiece” because of such ingredients like Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), MIPA-Laureth Sulfate, Laureth-4, Poloxamer 101, Cocamide DEA, Fragrance (Parfum), Sodium Lactate… To checking the toxicity of ingredients you can use skindeep database (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/).

      • SoftSkinHead says:

        Ooh, and I thought this shower oil was so “perfect” :)
        Well, thanks for crushing my illusion dude ;)
        And thanks for the tip about the skindeep database, thats a good tool that I will let my friends also know about! <3

  6. wofka says:

    Happy to crush ;) and more happy to help! :D
    Stay healthy! Cheers

  7. Gerald says:

    I have a bottle of grape seed oil for cooking, can I just work a bit of it into my beard? Or do I have to treat it first or get some other form of it?

    • I should have answered this months ago, but here goes. That’s a good question — I may have thought the same thing before I started writing about fragrances and skincare (and searching for the holy grail of this blog, a drinkable and good tasting cologne). We think of skincare/fragrances/cosmetics as a whole different class of products than food.

      The short answer is yes, absolutely use the same grape seed oil you buy for cooking for your beard. Why? If it’s good enough to ingest, why wouldn’t it be good enough for your skin?

      If you think about it, we should be asking this of all our skincare products: can we eat (or drink them)? If not, we ought to be asking if they’re good enough for our skin! Incidentally, all of the products by Intelligent Nutrients, the company started by Horst Rechelbacher after he sold Aveda, are made by this principle.

      And by the way, the main oil in Blackbird’s beard oil is grape seed oil.

  8. Tom says:

    All these products are really stupid.

    Who would pay so much money for a little oil?

    I make a liter of beard oil for less than $20.

    Works great and smells great too. No need for expensive ass specialty “beard oils” LOL…

    • That’s true — these are expensive. If you don’t to use expensive oils (like argan), you can make your own pretty easily. Scenting it doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you’ve not worked with essential oils before, there’s some trial and error with regard to good combinations of oils and amounts of each oil.

      Sweet almond oil, which makes a nice beard oil on its own (and doesn’t have a particularly strong scent — almond or otherwise), can be had on amazon.com for as cheap as $8 for a 16-ounce bottle. Grape seed oil is about the same price. With how little you need to moisturize your face and beard, that’s going to last you a really long time.

      If you can make a liter of nice-smelling beard oil for less than $20, it sounds like you’re ready to start selling it for a huge mark up! Welcome to the burgeoning men’s skincare business.

    • Ed says:

      Tom, I am sorry to hear that you think these products are “really stupid”. I agree that you can make your own beard oil for less. In fact, there are countless products people buy every day (shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, cleaners, toothpaste, bug repellents, etc.) that they could very easily make on their own and for less money. That said, not everybody is interested in making their own products, no matter how simple.
      Sure the vendors make a profit, that is, after all, the goal of running a business. That said, $20+ per bottle may seem excessive to you, but I am quite certain that the % markup on these products is not as high as you might think. The cost of the beard oil itself is only one of many factors that must be considered by a vendor when determining product pricing. Here are a few of the OTHER costs: business registration, trademark registration, graphic design, product packaging, product labels, domain name registration, web hosting services, marketing (web adds, flyers, etc.), product liability insurance, product listing/sales fees, sales tax, and shipping (yes, many vendors absorb part of this cost). I have not captured them all, but I hope you can see that there is a lot to consider when determining price.
      So again, yes you can make your own Beard Oil for less but not everybody wants to and they are just fine with paying someone else to do it for them.
      Cheers!

  9. B.Walls says:

    Great article. Wonderful detail. I’ve been reluctant to put beard oil on anything other than my beard for fear of looking oily all day. A buddy recommended http://www.stubbleandstache.com. I recently bought a bottle of their face moisturizer/beard conditioner…so far so good. Are you familiar with them?

    • I’m not familiar with that, but it sounds like a decent product and a good cause.

      To avoid looking oily, I’m not using more than say 6-10 drops of oil on my beard. When you work it into your beard and the skin under it, a little goes a long way and it doesn’t look weird. In fact, your beard (depending on the length) will lay down better and look less scraggly. Also, I find I don’t need the oil at all in the summer months.

      And for those concerned about the scraggly beard problem, you can always try a hair pomade. Imperial Barber and Baxter both make good ones.

  10. jerry melo says:

    woodsman beard oil by bearded basterd has a wonderful lumberjack scent to it, in other words you smell like a feshly cut tree..

  11. Pilot says:

    Lovely read and very insightful. Keep up the good work! Pity the Wildroseherbs collection isn’t locally available here in Australia and shipping from USA will be at a cost.

  12. Hey Harry, I founded Beardbrand and we have a good line of beard oils. I’d be happy to get you some samples if you are interested. Our Tea Tree Beard Oil has been pretty popular for us lately. http://www.beardbrand.com/products/tea-tree-beard-oil

  13. slade gray says:

    I grew my beard out for over 6 months now and I use beard wax and beard oil. I use fort Amsterdam beard oil and it works great. It’s only $12 for the 1 ounce oil or wax, which is 2 times as much oil as most companies try to sell you for $30. The fort Amsterdam products get rid of the two week itch you get during the awkward stage! Oh yah, they are organic too! http://www.beardgroomingoil.com Let us know if you would like to review our products. We are very popular on the East Coast since we are located in NY, NY. We can ship them out to you for you to do a review within the week. Thanks for the great report.

  14. JP says:

    I’ve just started using beard oil after having lots of uncomfortable ‘stages’ during my beard growth. Itching and the like all posed problems for me but after using an oil it’s much more comfortable. I’ve been using Carsons Apothecary Exotic Oud Facial Hair Conditioner, I can’t recommend it enough. I wash my beard with my shampoo and apply this when it’s dry. It’s awesome stuff.

  15. Corey Allen says:

    Lucky Scruff has a nice new unscented beard oil made up of Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil and Vitamin E. http://www.luckyscruff.com/freedom-beard-oil-1-oz

  16. Alfred says:

    Beard oils are a rip off! You can make your own for under 20 dollars and it would be enough for years! The whole beard trend is basically over. If you decide to keep your beard make your own oil. it’s really easy to make your own, try this link http://cedarandclove.com/natural-diy-beard-oil-recipe-revisted/

  17. If you’re looking to try out beard oil without committing to anything yet, we at Whiskey, Ink, & Lace have a sampler kit available:
    http://whiskeyinkandlace.com/shop/bath-beauty/beard-oil-sampler-pick-3/

    They’re all natural, with sweet almond oil, argan oil, and avocado oil.

  18. Gpgriz says:

    I’m living in northern Canada and winters are long and dry. I’ve started learning about beard oils.
    One major concern I have is that my wife is allergic to tree nuts. Can you recommend a beard oil without tree nuts? I wonder if jojoba oil would work well enough.

  19. blah blah says:

    Oil’s not just for beards. It’s great for shaving. Guys use soaps and shaving gels to shave, then have to use a moisturizer afterwards to clear up the dry skin. If you just put a few drops of mineral or olive oil in your hand, massage hands together, massage on face/stubble… you will have a very supple shave. It leaves the skin soft while letting you cut right through stubble and dead skin. Basically, skin loves oil. Beauty industry has folks thinking skin loves water … “moisture”. But, skin likes trapping water in. Water by itself damages skin (you get all pruny if you stay in water too long). Skin loves oil. It’s the true moisturizer. Your sebaceous glands produce oil, but sometimes it’s not enough if you’re in a climate your body is not used to. So, supplementing oil… to shave, to put in your hair as conditioner after washing, to put on your skin after showering … helps really moisturize. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Mineral oil, olive oil, heck, even crisco, have been used throughout the ages as natural moisturizers.

  20. Wayne says:

    http://www.gravebeforeshave.com Has high quality beard oil at competitive prices!
    Try the Grave Before Shave Bay Rum Scent!

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