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Beard Oil vs Balm: What’s the Best Beard Product?

There are hundreds of different oils and balms — with various uses and specific ways to make the most out of each. To understand which one's the best beard product for your needs and how they play well together it’s best to first discuss them individually.

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man with a beard

You probably know about oil already, but it’s best to go through it exactly to help you better understand balm too.

  • A conditioning product that keeps your beard and skin fresh.
  • Considered a ‘necessity’ in your beard grooming routine.
  • Won’t offer you any styling benefits.
  • Leaves a shiny finish to your facial hair.
  • Can help you achieve your best beard while feeling light and soft.

"Both products are intended to hydrate and condition facial hair and the skin underneath. Beard oils don't provide any kind of styling help, but are great at nourishing facial hair to keep it conditioned and soft. Oils also help with irritation for guys who tend to have itchy or scratchy beards. Beard balms provide a little more control where styling is needed when facial hair gets a little longer."

Kyle LaFond | Founder | Natural grooming brand American Provenance

What Does Beard Oil Do?

Basically, oils are made up through carrier oils (to help with the actual conditioning aspect) and essential oils (to provide a scent) that have been specially blended together to help simulate what your face just naturally produces (i.e sebum).

By helping to supplement the natural oils with an oil you help give your facial hair (and skin, the foundation to your beard) the best possible conditions to thrive.

It’s basically helping to condition and hydrate your hairs providing them with the right nourishment it needs to stay strong and coats it to keep it protected (remember beard hair is a lot different to your head hair).

What Are the Benefits of Using Beard Oil?

Of course, it’s not just helping you achieve your best beard look — it’s helping to keep your skin moist — being an oil form it’s better at penetrating the skin to ensure it’s kept fresh (and ‘feeding’ the inner beard, the hair that has yet to sprout).

All of this helps fight off the typical issues guys run into when growing their facial hair without grooming products: itching, dandruff, split ends and so on. Plus, it will actually give you a darn fine looking beard too.

"Beard oil reduces dry skin, itchiness, and flakiness (or beard-druff) by moisturizing your skin. It also softens the beard and helps with styling. Beard oil can make a world of difference for someone who is trying to grow a beard and experiencing enough discomfort that they want to shave it off rather than continue growing it.

If you have dry, itchy beard problems, or want to follow a facial cleanser with a moisturizer, I always recommend beard oil."

Jaime Johnston | Owner | Goddamn Man Co
beard oil bottle

Which Beard Oil Should You Use?

Of course, every single beard oil from different manufacturers is unique, varying oils with an array of scents. Even if an oil matched another with the exact same ingredients, the ratio of the ingredients could be different as well as the way it was brewed (making it a completely different oil).

With all this, one oil will offer varying properties from the next (as well as just how well it conditions on your particular beard — not all are the same  — so one oil might work better on another guy’s beard than your own).

The wrong oils, and especially those without entirely natural ingredients, can hurt more than help. Over time, some oils can clog pores, prevent growth, encourage acne, and cause flaking.

Owen Shea | Beard Expert | Brothers Artisan Oil

When Should You Use Beard Oil?

Regularly applying a good quality oil (the right way) will keep your beard in better shape from a ‘health’ aspect. It won’t fix a scruffy one as such but it will help to tame unruly hairs and give the look of a ‘properly cared’ for beard.

However, it is only one half of the formula to an aesthetically good looking beard, the rest comes from regular brushing, trimming and neatening it up.

bearded young man

The Low Down on Beard Balm

What is Beard Balm?

When it comes to balm it’s not as easy to tie down an exact definition, as they vary depending on the vendor. The way one manufacturer makes a balm will differ a fair bit to how another one will (even more so than oil).

Although balms effectively do both, they operate on a sort of scale that goes from conditioning to styling.

  • Offers slight conditioning properties, won’t penetrate the skin as well however it holds in moisture.
  • Tends to leave a matte type natural finish.
  • Provides ‘hold’ so you can style your beard to rope in fly-aways and sculpt your best beard shape yet.
  • Adds some weight to your beard.

What Does Beard Balm Do?

You can basically get balms that are mostly for conditioning purposes acting like ‘leave in conditioners’ where they are made up with a heavy focus of carrier oils to ensure the moisturizing aspect is there and then the butters and waxes help to conceal that moisture throughout the day.

beard balm

Then you can also get balms that are meant for styling purposes, where there is heavier attention on the likes of beeswax — there is also uses of butters and oils, so they will have a moisturizing impact as well but aren’t the frontal purpose of the balm.

Again, like oils, they are made up of a range of different ingredients but the basic breakdown is an oil added with the likes of shea butter or cocoa butter as well as a wax (typically beeswax).

Tip: Making Beard Balm Easier to Use

If you are having difficulty scraping out the balm and it's generally just proving a bit tough to work with, just leave on top of a switched-on radiator for a few minutes on in your trouser pocket — it should make it a little better to use).

man with a big beard

Beard Oil vs Balm: What Are the Differences?

Now you should have a clearer idea of the actual aspects of each product — how do they translate when caring for your beard.

Should You Use Beard Oil or Balm?

Pros of Using Oil: An oil should pretty much be considered an essential product to make sure that your best beard is properly cared for — providing the deep penetration of moisture. So regardless of whether you get a balm or not, you should be always be using an oil somewhere in your grooming regime.

"I believe that beard oil is the hero here. Beard oil can be used at any stage of growth and provide benefits for both the beard from root to tip and the skin beneath it as well as relief from beardruff and itching to those in the initial growing stages. Also, believing in quality over quantity the selected oils (plant-based in our case) and their ratio play a crucial part in the overall appearance achieved. Also, it’s possible to get a nice shiny, healthy-looking beard with a few drops without having to use an excess that can lead to textural greasiness or tackiness."

Mystique Fussá | Skincare Formulator & Owner | Ouroboros Herbals LLC

Pros of Using Balm: A balm will help to add additional moisture to your facial hair (and using a balm is certainly better than not using anything at all) but can’t penetrate the skin as well as or directly as an oil can. Plus, how much it does provide depends on the way the manufacturer has intended the balm.

"My favorite is Beard Balm hands down!!! I find that beard balms, because of the thicker composition, and slightly more of a gel form sometimes, tend to add a very natural hold to the beard, and it helps keep stray hairs under control a lot better, while adding shine and conditioning the beard."

Jorge Buccio | Celebrity Groomer & Senior Colorist | Cleverman

The advantage that balm offers is that: due to the butters and wax it helps to ‘lock-in’ the moisture, so it can slowly release it and maintain it right throughout the day.

This is why the beard oil vs balm debate is misleading — they actually can play very well together.

When Should You Use Beard Oil vs Balm?

1. As soon as you have the plan to start growing your best beard yet, start using oil. 

Even if you are completely clean shaven because you will be ‘feeding’ the inner beard, injecting moisture into your skin. So the hairs, when they do sprout out from your cheeks, will be healthier than they would have otherwise.

2. With a balm give it at least a month or so worth of growth, so your beard scruff is at least an inch long. Where a noil will do both penetrate and coat your hairs to moisturize and protect them — a balm can only do the latter. It won’t do any harm applying it when it’s very short, but there’s no real advantage either.

man with a well-trimmed beard

How to Use Beard Oils and Balms

Despite one being a liquid and the other being a sort of solid (although balms break down quite quickly), they actually have very similar ‘usage’ guidelines

  1. Drop some oil into your palm/scrape some balm into your palm.
  2. Rub together with your other hand to spread and evenly distribute it.
  3. Work it right into your beard (using a massaging motion)
  4. Distribute it appropriately with the aid of a boar bristle brush.

The only real difference in this regard is that the balm will need some extra to work to smelt down into liquid form for easy application. They can both be applied dry, but to take real advantage of an oil it’s ideal use is just after a warm shower.

Can You Use Beard Balm and Oil Together?

Yes, you can. However start slow when you are new to the beard game — otherwise, you are likely going to get a high buildup of oil and balm smothering your face. 

If you do try out using them at the same time:

  • It’s best to start with the oil at the start, use about ⅔ rds of what you would normally use, then work that really well into your facial hair. Then take just a little bit of balm and then work that over the top.
  • The trick is not to over go overboard and have your face covered in oil. Be sure to have a play around though with your beard and see what works out for you.
Bearded man

How Oils and Balms Feel on Your Beard

If you work outdoors or are doing manual labor, you might find you  prefer a balm as it doesn’t get as sticky when working the heat where the oil can end up getting bogged down.

On the other hand, a balm can weigh down your facial hair. An oil will keep your best beard feeling light and fresh. 

That’s why it’s worth at least trying out both, just to get a feel for both and what is the best fit of your face, style and hair texture.

When to use beard oil?

Whatever the size and state of yours, you should use oil daily.  If you have dry skin and facial hair, twice a day wouldn’t be a bad idea: once as you get up and once at night. In either case, oil is a must have product for your best beard care routine.

When to use beard balm?

A balm can be used on an as-needed basis. Whether that be every day  or only on unruly days. Use it in the morning on workdays to help style and sculpt your beard. It will give you more control and help you look more presentable, giving you an extra edge that you can’t get with oil.

Bearded man

Should You Use Beard Oil and Balm Together?

For sure. However, make sure you’re getting the most out of each. This is how to they can work well together:

1. Just before bed, grab a warm shower and pat dry your beard.

2. Add oil as your skin pores are more exposed, meaning better penetration for the oil.

3. Give your face mane a quick comb through.

4. Leave the oil in overnight to do its magic and get all that deep conditioning and beard lovin’ so it will be on point — ready for the next morning.

5. If you wake up suffering from a serious case of a bad beard day, this where balm comes in. It will help to inject more moisture into your facial hair but also transform that scruffy beard into one that's at least half presentable.

6. Throw in a bit of mustache wax on the top lip rug for a bit of distinction and you're golden.


Note: Make sure the scent of the oil and balm (and any general products you are using) don’t conflict. For example, if you get a cedarwood oil, make sure you are getting a cedarwood balm too, using mixed scents just destroys the smell of both.

Do You Really Need Oil and/or Balm? 

Beard oil? Yes! You absolutely need oil to keep that precious best beard look. Although you could try just using balm, it’s not going to sort out the full array of problems that oil can.

Beard balm? Maybe. It’s good to have but it’s not a necessity.  If you are struggling with a  rough beard or have a longer one, then a balm could definitely help you look more polished.

Do You Use Oil and/or Balm for Short or Long Beards? 

Both short and long versions need oil. If you are just rocking a short version, then you can certainly get away without using a balm, but it would be beneficial to make sure of it for sure. As your beard grows out though, arguably the need for a balm does increase at least from styling and ‘holding it together’ aspect.

So in all, make sure you do pick up an oil and if you are after some additional control with that facial hair as well as extra conditioning aspects then for sure consider picking up a balm to help your best beard emerge.

bearded man

Summary: What Do You Want for Your Beard?

If you have a one, you definitely want to use oil. If you are committing properly to growing and keeping the best beard you've ever had, here’s what to do — regardless of where you are in the growth stage:

What do you need to start growing a beard? 

If you have just started growing it out, literally from ‘beardless’ (or clean shaven), then just getting the oil to start with is good preparation.

Then as it starts to develop the flyaways, it would be then appropriate to invest in the related balm to work as a leave-in conditioner throughout the day as well as to tame back the frizz and unruly facial hairs. In all, giving you a super soft — well-maintained beard.

Want to care for your existing beard better?

1. Do a bit of research into oils — see what’s out there, considering your skin type, hair texture and beard goals.

2. See if there is an accompanying balm that goes alongside it, that’s produced by the same company and also has the same scent.

3. Use the product's strengths (and weaknesses) to make the most of them for your particular situation.

For instance, if you know you want a shiny aesthetic to your beard, then applying oil in the morning is the best way to go about it.

If you want a more matte-natural (yet healthy looking finish) — you can apply oil the night before, so you are still getting the ‘deep conditioning’, that will give you a slight glisten for the following morning (a more diluted version anyway) and then use balm for a finish.

If you're new to owning one (or just want to take care of it better), consider investing in a beard kit which will have all the basics.

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David Schwartz

Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.