Whether you're new to the beard life or a longtime beardsman, you will no doubt have noticed just how many beard products now stock the shelves in drugstores, big box retailers, and even specialty shops across the country. Like mushrooms, an entire industry seemed to expand exponentially overnight, colonizing grooming aisles across the globe. Gone are the days of the tiny, cramped men's section tacked to the end of the “beauty” aisle, pushed up against the deodorants.
But what are all these products for? And do you really need to own all of them?
In our Beards 101 series, we'll look at some of the most common, foundational beard products on the market, what they're for, and how to work them into your own beard-care routine. And what better place to start than styling tools?
1. Beard Comb
Beard combs are essential to anyone looking to grow their beard out long and proud. Fingers, after all, for all their utility, can only do so well at unknotting a beard. And beard brushes, although they definitely have their benefits – as we'll soon see – simply cannot compete with a comb when it comes to safely detangling hair.
Beard combs come in both wide-toothed and close-toothed varieties. The wide-toothed ones can be used by anyone, and are the only kind that should be used on breakage-prone wet hair. Close-toothed combs can more finely separate strands and define beard shape – but only after the larger tangles have been removed with a wider-toothed comb. Overall, close-toothed combs tend to be best suited to those with straighter beard hair. If yours is curly or kinky, be sure to oil your beard before using a close-toothed comb, to avoid snagging and breakage.
Most beard experts agree that wood is the best material for combs. It is more durable than plastic, doesn't build up static, and is unlikely to snag or snap hair as easily as metal. If you're feeling fancy, you can even find beard combs crafted from scented woods like sandalwood or cedar, which can impart a delightful smell to your face fuzz. Alternately, if you're the DIY type, you can try and scent your own beard comb.
With all there is to rave about beard combs, you might be wondering why any other styling tool would even be needed. That's a fair suspicion – and the truth is, a beard comb is perhaps the most versatile of beard-styling tools.
That said, there is a strong case for including a beard brush in your repertoire as well. Besides being able to remove dirt, dead skin, and other small particulate matter even more thoroughly than a comb, beard brushes have an additional unique ability.
Boar bristle brushes in particular have the ability to redistribute the oil produced naturally by your hair follicles. Their structure allows them to move oil from where it tends to collect at the root of the hairs, to where it is most needed, at the drier tips. Any excess, they will simply absorb.
This, for obvious reasons, makes boar bristle brushes a godsend for men with oilier beards. But all beards can benefit from the boar bristle brush's detritus-removing and oil-balancing qualities. This is in fact one of the easiest ways to keep a beard clean and healthy between washings.
If you can't get your hands on a boar bristle brush, or object to them on vegan grounds, brushes made of other materials, like plastic, can perform many of the same functions. But bear in mind that synthetic materials don't have the same affinity for your body's natural oils that organic materials (like boar bristles) do.
3. In Conclusion
In the end, both beard combs and beard brushes bring something unique to your beard game; but if you're just starting out, a nice wooden beard comb is the best place to start. As your beard gets longer, and keeping it well moisturized becomes more central to your beard care routine, consider adding a brush.
And speaking of moisturizing... do you know the difference between a beard oil and a beard balm? Find out, in our next Beards 101!