Beards come in and out of style, and whether or not they're in style today depends a lot on what subculture you belong to. More and more people today are looking to grow one of those big, bushy Viking beards, but even if you just want a smaller and tamer beard, you might want to stimulate the growth of facial hair.
Many people give up on their beard dreams when they give it a try, finding their beard hair to be slow-growing, patchy, or unkempt enough that it becomes too much of a maintenance job just to keep it going.
If you've investigated tips on growing a beard, you may have seen beard oils trending. Dozens of beard-focused blogs recommend using beard oils to stimulate hair follicles and encourage hair growth.
Do they work? Do beard oils have benefits beyond that, if they do?
Beard Oil Vs. Beard Growth Oil
One thing you might notice when you're researching beard oils is that some people talk about beard oil and some talk about beard growth oil. Some even specifically claim that they're different things. But are they?
The answer: not really. Beard growth oil is just a blend of oils meant to stimulate beard growth. Beard oils are… oils meant to grow and maintain a beard. The difference is more in marketing than in practice.
If there's any real difference, it's in ingredients. Beard oils are as often as not just a recommendation for a single oil you can use in your beard. Beard growth oils are specific products that are a blend of beard oils and marketing.
There's no difference between a bottle of coconut oil and a bottle of coconut oil with a beard logo and some marketing attached to it. It doesn't have some special refining process or some storage method or some additive that makes it better for beards.
For the purposes of this post, you can consider the two terms interchangeable.
How Does Beard Hair Grow?
We've talked a lot about hair in some of our other beauty posts on this blog. We've talked about keratin treatments, collagen supplements, whether or not you should use shampoo or conditioner regularly, and so on. One of the most relevant posts to this one, though, is whether or not there are any natural products that can help with hair loss.
Hair loss primarily applies to the scalp, but it can apply to facial hair as well, just to a lesser extent. Facial hair works differently than scalp hair, though, which is why you can find people with male pattern baldness and full, bushy beards.
One of the primary driving factors of the difference between the two is testosterone. Beards are a male sexual characteristic, and male characteristics are primarily driven by testosterone in the body.
The hair growth cycle for beard hair is the same as it is in scalp hair. It has a growth phase called the anagen phase, where hair grows about 1 cm per month on the face. This phase of the cycle can last anywhere from two to seven years and is primarily determined by genetics, stress levels, diet, and testosterone levels.
The second phase, or catagen phase, lasts 2-3 weeks and is the transitional phase between growth and rest. The third phase, telogen, is the rest phase where the hair follicle goes dormant. Around 7% of your hair follicles are in the telogen phase at any given time.
How Beard Oil Can Help
So where does beard oil come into play? Well, we can say one thing: applying oil to your skin is not going to affect your testosterone. If you find that your beard is thin, patchy, or barely able to grow at all, you might have issues with testosterone production. It may be worth seeing a doctor and investigating supplements that could help you. Just remember that this is only an option of last resort; taking hormone supplements is a big deal and can affect a lot of different bodily systems, including your mood, so don't do it lightly.
Beard oil helps in a few ways, though.
- Oils can stimulate the hair follicles into growing better, though it might not be all that noticeable.
- Oils help alleviate the skin irritation of a fresh, new beard, and can help keep a beard clean so it looks better.
- Oils can protect the hair from damage, so it grows longer and thicker and stays healthier for longer.
- Oils may have some antimicrobial properties that can help minimize cleanliness issues when coupled with adequate hygiene of course.
You'll also read a lot about the vitamins and minerals present in beard oils and how those help hair. The trick is, they kind of don't. Yes, your hair needs vitamin D and magnesium and all of that to grow, but that needs to be in your diet. You don't build muscle by rubbing protein on your arms, you eat the protein so your body can use it. The nutrients in beard oil are the same way; they're not really doing a lot for your hair health below the surface. You need to get those vitamins and minerals in your diet as well as in your oils to get the best out of them.
What Oils Might Help Beard Growth?
There are a thousand different beard oil products on the market, but here's their secret: they're all just blends of the same set of oils. Some will be one or two oils, while others will be five or six, but they're all using organic oils pressed from plants. Very few of them use something synthetic like mineral oil because they're meant to be organic compounds that interface with your hair follicles, which synthetic oils don't do.
So what oils can help? We're just going to list the individual oils and their benefits. You can determine what your goals are with your beard, which oils can help, and which products use a blend of those oils. You can also mix up your own blend if you want.
- Coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of the most common oils in all of the beauty industry because it's stable, it's great at moisturizing, and it's an excellent carrier for other products.
- Olive oil. Olive is a traditional oil with a huge array of benefits, though a lot of those benefits are nutritional rather than topical. It's antimicrobial and has the ability to soothe itchy skin, though, which is essential for beard care.
- Sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is one of the best natural oils in terms of omega 3s, vitamins, and moisturizing properties, so you'll see it a lot in various beard oil mixtures.
- Jojoba oil. Jojoba is a shrub native to the southwestern United States, primarily used for its oil. As a beard oil, it's antimicrobial and helps minimize itchiness.
- Argan oil. Argan is a Moroccan oil packed with vitamins and antioxidants that help tame a wild beard and reduce patchiness when you're first growing a fresh beard.
- Almond oil. Almonds are great in just about every form, from healthy snacks to pressed oil. The mineral content helps bolster hair follicles and keep them in anagen longer.
- Avocado oil. Avocados are one of the best healthy fats you can eat, and as an oil, it's proven to help protect and nourish hair follicles.
- Peppermint oil. Peppermint helps soothe the skin and can stimulate the growth of fresh hair, pushing new hair follicles into anagen sooner.
- Tea Tree oil. Another excellent carrier oil, this is a neutral oil with plenty of antimicrobial properties to help keep your beard clean and healthy.
- Pumpkin Seed oil. This oil is great for blocking the hormones that tell hair follicles to enter catagen, to keep hair growing a bit longer.
How to Stimulate Beard Growth Beyond Oils
If you want a thick, bushy beard with full volume, you need to properly take care of it. Using beard oil is only part of that, and in fact, using that oil alone isn't going to do a lot if you're not otherwise taking care of your beard. So what goes into a beard care process?
Wash your beard. Much like the hair on your head, you need to wash your beard to make sure it's clean and healthy. If your beard is left unwashed, it will get thick and matted, which can put stress on the hair follicles and convert more of them to the telogen phase through damage. More importantly, though, it ends up looking bad, smelling bad, and itching a lot more than normal.
How often should you wash your beard? General recommendations are twice a week. Wash it more often if you're doing a lot of heavy physical activity or doing something that gets it dirty.
To properly wash your beard, use warm water and light soap, beard wash, or beard soap. These detergents are lighter on the hair and hair follicles than normal shampoos. Work the soap into your beard into a lather, then rinse and dry.
Condition your beard. Conditioner is the secret to a lot of the most powerful beads you see out and about. Conditioner, just like hair conditioner, softens beard hair, soothes the skin of your face beneath it, and adds conditioning to the beard hair. Condition about twice a week as well, usually after you shampoo.
We recommend an unscented beard conditioner because other treatments in this process will add scents instead. However, if you want to go with a beard-specific conditioner, you can.
Hydrate your beard. Hydration is the beard oil step. Using one or a blend of oils above on a daily basis is what keeps your beard healthy, nicely scented, clean, and strong. Using it more than once a day can help alleviate the itch of growing a new beard, but once your beard is fuller and longer, you can dial back to once a day.
To apply beard oil, pump some oil into your hands and rub it into the beard. Coat the hair and massage it into the skin beneath. That's it! You don't need to rinse out the oil afterward, though if you've applied too much, you may want to dab it dry so you don't leave oily spots on your shirt.
Style your beard. Once you have enough growth that the appearance of your beard becomes a concern, you need to start styling it. Whether you're going for a simple, clean look or something more exotic, styling your beard is best done with a beard balm, beard butter, and/or beard wax combination.
Beard balm is similar to an oil or conditioner, but thicker. It adds volume and makes your beard look fuller. Beard butter is somewhere in the middle of those and is meant to nourish and give your beard a matte finish. Wax, meanwhile, is how beards can be styled into specific shapes and not fray about. Which you use, how often, and when, all depends on your goals with your beard.
Comb your beard. Using a brush or comb on the regular is extremely important for maintaining a well-kept beard. Combing it removes hair that has fallen out, as well as debris and crumbs. It helps smooth out clumps of hair and ensures an even saturation of beard oil. It also styles and trains your beard to stay in shape. Comb regularly, daily or more often.
So there you have it; an array of oils that can help soothe, stimulate, and bolster your beard from start to finish.
What's your favorite blend?