When I worked at a grocery store many years ago stocking products in the health section, I remember thinking how silly scalp conditioners for bald guys and beard shampoos seemed.
But of course, at that time my experience with beards was limited to an early 2000s goatee.
The first time I started growing a full beard I saw how unruly a beard could be.
Those mornings where you shower and then try to comb your beard, but the hair on the sides refuses to lay flat, and instead stand out like wings off your face. Or when the portion from your chin starts growing into a defiant curl that seems to undo the manliness of the beard.
Many men probably take their hair for granted; wash it every day and maybe throw some mousse in it for style, and good to go. But beard hair can be coarser than head hair, and stray hairs going wild can turn a well-groomed appearance into a scruffy “I’ve been on the couch for weeks” motif in no time.
Enter the beard conditioner.
Softer Hair Is Tamer Hair
When hair gets dried out or damaged it gets wily. That can also make the hair weak, which is more prone to breaking off or becoming split.
Beard recovery creams do a nice job of softening and conditioning beard hair, but many of them state they should only be used once per week.
If you’re like me, you probably feel like your beard needs something closer to daily.
Cremo makes a pretty good series of facial hair products in general for this purpose. I first tried their products with the Cremo shaving cream — some of the best I’ve used.
(I shave my head, so a slick formula is particularly important.)
I’ve also used Cremo’s Beard and Scruff Softener and, while more expensive by volume than regular hair conditioner (as most beard conditioners are) it seems to do a good job. It doesn’t take a whole lot of it and you only need to leave it in for 30 seconds.
After you rinse it out it’s not greasy.
There are also beard conditioners designed to leave-in instead of rinsing out. Those work more like beard oil.
Beard conditioner helps you avoid that scratchy feeling in the earlier stages of growing the beard. As your beard gets longer it will naturally get softer, but shorter hairs tend to feel abrasive. This can be uncomfortable around the neck particularly as you tilt your head down.
Softening the beard in these early stages makes it easier to stick with it, and you’ll be less tempted to trim areas that are bothering you. Trimming can lead to relief, but also prevents you from really reaching the length you’re looking for — length that may no longer be uncomfortable.
What to look for in a beard conditioner:
Cheaper conditioners for beards and hair will use silicone to make hair appear more voluminous. The trouble is, that coats the hairs in a way that prevents them from absorbing the moisture they need to stay healthy.
Ironically, those conditioners can actually make the hair less healthy.
Where possible, look for organic conditioners that soften hair with things like tea tree oil. Avoid difficult to pronounce chemicals, as well as parabens, which are no good for your skin.
All natural ingredients found in beard conditioners tend to be things like:
- Aloe vera
- Castor oil
- Shea butter
- Essential oils
Other brands recommended from beard websites:
- Polished Gentleman (Shampoo and beard conditioner)
- Bluebeards Original (Shampoo with extra conditioning)
- Smooth Viking Beard Conditioner
They condition the skin underneath, too.
Beard itchiness can come from the skin underneath being dry or irritated. A lot of the focus of conditioners stays on the beard itself, but a side benefit is how they soften and nourish the skin.
This is more important than it might seem, especially because you may avoid using the soap you wash the rest of your face with on your beard. As a result the skin underneath isn’t cleansed enough.
Not to mention that itching and scratching your beard can mess up a good grooming, and you may not notice if you’re out and about. You worked hard to grow that beard; it ought to look its best all the time.
Leave-In Beard Conditioners
These are similar to beard oils because you apply them to your beard and leave them be. Like a beard oil, you gently massage the conditioner into your beard (sometimes when it’s slightly damp), and then comb your beard into the neat position you’d like it.
Your beard will absorb the conditioner slowly throughout the day, keeping it soft and more manageable.
Some men may prefer leave-in conditioner to oils because it’s easier to wash off the hands. Applying beard oil involves rubbing the oil between your hands, then massaging it into the beard. It feels good and gives your beard a nice shine, but leaves your hands well… oily.
A good soap is then needed to get your hands clean.
Some conditioners are also touted as thickening conditioners, which may provide an aesthetic benefit over a beard oil if that’s what you’re going for.
Things to bear in mind regarding beard conditioner scents:
- Some may smell nice for a minute or two, but wouldn’t be something you’d want to continuously smell all day. When it’s in your beard and mustache, you will indeed smell it all day.
- Your scent will say something about you as an individual, and others will smell it, too. Try not to pick something too powerful if you’re in a lot of meetings with others, especially if they are sensitive to perfumes and other scents.
- If you stroke your beard (don’t we all?) a little of the oil or conditioner will come off on your fingers. Make sure your scent is something you don’t mind sharing with your hands.