Perhaps the two most iconic of all beard styling products are beard oils and beard waxes/balms (the words in this context are interchangeable). There's good reason for this: both can be extremely useful to budding beardsman – but in very different ways, as their differing properties suit different beards.
Which is best for your fuzz? Read on to find out.
1. Beard Oil
Beard Oils, like Scruffy Jack's Citrus Burst Beard Oil, are largely made from blends of various lipids, generally oils, like almond or marula oil. However, similar conditioning agents are also common, like jojoba oil, which is technically a liquid wax ester. But then, this isn't an article about chemistry – what these ingredients all have in common is an ability to smooth and fortify the hair shaft by either penetrating it, coating it, or both. Like conditioner does for your hair, a beard oil does for your beard: making it shiny, soft, and healthy looking.
Beard oils often contain fragrance as well. Both synthetic and natural fragrances can be found in beard oils – and despite what some hype-mongers may have you believe, there is no reason to fear synthetic fragrance, which is not inherently worse for you than natural. That said, ANY fragrance can potentially cause irritation for some people, so best practice is always to patch test a scented skin, hair, or beard-care product somewhere discreet (like behind your ear) 24-hours before applying it as intended.
That said, at Scruffy Jack's we do only scent our beard oil with natural essential oils, rather than synthetics. Why? Because unlike synthetic fragrances, some essential oils have scientifically vetted benefits aside from just their aromas – like anti-bacterial properties. This can be very useful, since one of the most common issues with owning a beard is, yes, the dreaded beard funk. Think about it: beards are a perfect net for catching dirt, crumbs, dead skin, and skin oils. All things which odor-causing bacteria love to eat; so, while nothing beats regular washing for keeping your beard hygienic, a nicely scented, well-formulated beard oil with antibacterial essential oils can help keep your beard both well-conditioned and fresh.
To use beard oil, simply rub a few drops in your hands, and smooth through your beard with your fingers, or the styling tool of your choice. How often you apply it will depend on your needs, but at least after every wash is a good rule of thumb. Pay attention to how your beard – and skin – react to the oil, and adjust as needed.
2. Beard Wax (or balm)
While beard oil is a conditioning product that can do a bit of styling by way of taming stray hairs and improving the overall manageability of your hair, beard wax excels in giving shape to beards. Its base, unlike an oil's, will often be based on waxes – either synthetic, like paraffin wax, or natural, like beeswax – although all sorts of solid components can be used.
If you're thinking this makes beard waxes sound a lot like hair pomades... you're absolutely right. Beard wax is essentially just hair pomade; the best beard waxes, however, are formulated specifically from face-friendly ingredients that allow for use on facial hair while minimizing the chances of breakouts or irritation. This is not usually true of hair pomades, which is why it's not recommended that you use them on your face (although there's nothing to stop you from using your beard wax in your hair).
Using a beard wax will also be familiar to anyone who's used a hair pomade. You apply a small amount to hands, warm it up a bit, and then work it little by little into the hair in question. Then, using a beard comb, comb the hairs into place. Alternately, if you're looking to play up your beard's wave or curl pattern, distribute through the hair and then scrunch. Fingers can be enlisted for anything fanciful – like twisting mustache ends to a point, etc. Pretty simple, overall.
3. Two Final Questions
So then, is it possible to use both beard oil and beard wax? And is using both necessary? The short answers, respectively, are yes, and no.
Yes, you can use both beard oil and beard wax. Use the oil first, to condition your beard, and then if desired follow with wax for extra control. Larger and drier beards may find this sort of layering necessary to stay soft and well-conditioned.
But no, using two products is not going to be necessary for everyone. Shorter beards can usually get away with only one or another – in which case, your decision will be made on the basis of which consistency you prefer. Waxes always give better control, but some guys hate the tacky feeling of waxes, preferring the lighter texture of oils. At the risk of seeming cliché: experimentation is the best way to find out what works for you. Just remember, when layering a wax over an oil, to apply both sparingly to avoid greasiness.