The art of keeping your beard looking its best is often a challenge but one that’s certainly made easier by the plethora of grooming products available today.
A common question among many men focuses on the necessity of using a variety of products vs. using just one or two. For instance, why not just use your regular hair shampoo on your beard? What’s the big deal with the beard wash vs. hair shampoo debate?
Or, why can’t I use scalp conditioner on my beard instead of buying a bottle of beard softener?
The reasons are many, as it turns out, and we’re here to examine them while taking a closer look at cleansers and conditioners meant for your beard and those meant for your scalp. In the end, we hope you’ll take a closer look at your beard grooming routine, while understanding why using products designed for a specific job pays off in a healthier, more attractive beard.
Beard Wash vs. Hair Shampoo And Why They’re Different
There are many reasons why a man would think it’s OK to use regular shampoo on his beard. For one, it’s convenient: there’s that bottle of shampoo already sitting in the shower, why not use it and kill two birds with one stone?
Well, for one, you might also kill your beard but that’s a point will get into in a second.
Another reason follows the “it's all hair after all” line of thinking which is, again, faulty. Facial hair and head hair aren’t the same, as various studies prove.
Of course, some men will always point to the cost – not that there’s anything wrong with that – and argue that spending money on two kinds of shampoo takes its toll on ye olde budget. But, hey, if you’re truly committed to having the best-looking, healthiest beard possible, then you have to invest in it financially, as well. Besides, if push comes to shove, you can probably think of a few ways in which you waste money every day.
Let’s dig deeper, however, and point out the differences between Beard Wash and hair shampoo, and why you can’t rely on your handy bottle of scalp cleanser in the quest to make your beard look its best.
Beard Wash 101: What It Is, Why You Should Use It
If we had to choose one major difference between Beard Wash and regular shampoo it’s this – Beard Wash doesn’t include chemicals that strip your skin of its natural oils. True, you can find natural shampoos that don’t disrupt your skin’s chemistry like most mass-manufactured ones do, but shampoo meant for your scalp is supposed to keep oiliness to a minimum so your hair doesn’t look like it has a perpetual sheen of grease.
But what’s this business with natural oils? It comes down to the sebaceous glands present at the root of each hair follicle which produce an oil called sebum. Sebum keeps the skin and hair, whether it’s on your scalp or your beard, moisturized and well-nourished, which is essential for its overall health. A lack of sebum, as you can imagine, can easily produce dry, brittle hair – which then looks like a dull, lifeless mass of broken hair and split ends.
Sebum, in short, regulates how much water enters and exits your skin while protecting it from fungal and bacterial infections. Too much sebum, however, can clog skin pores, so it’s OK to remove some of it – which is what Beard Wash accomplishes, i.e., it gets rid of the excess while retaining the appropriate amount to keep the beard moisturized properly. Head hair generally doesn’t need the same amount of natural oils to stay moisturized without looking greasy, so hair shampoo is formulated to get rid of more of those oils.
The bottom line is that you need those oils if you want a great-looking beard, which we assume is your preference. A beard that has the right amount of natural oils has a natural luster and sheen to it, not one that looks contrived in some way.
There are other ways in which Beard Wash benefits your whiskers in a way that hair shampoo doesn’t:
- High-quality beard washes contain ingredients that are anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-bacterial to promote a healthy, great-looking beard that’s also comfortable.
- Comfort is sometimes a life-or-death (OK, not literally) issue for men who suffer from beard itch. Beard itch is a common problem among beardsmen and, in some cases, it’s severe enough for some men to consider the drastic measure of shaving off their beard. A lack of sufficient hydration is the cause of many beard “annoyances,” not the least of which is beard itch. Another cause of beard itch are infections of the hair follicles caused by bacteria, as well as the itchiness caused by irritated, inflamed, and scaly skin.
- Another beard annoyance is beard dandruff, aka beardruff - those pesky flakes of dry skin that occur when a beard becomes too dry. And it’s not necessarily your fault because the longer your beard gets, the more natural oils it takes to meet the demand of your hair follicles. In most cases, there’s not enough oil to keep up with the growth, which is why moisturizing products such as Beard Softener, Beard Oil, and Utility Balm are must-haves for your beard grooming kit.
- Beard washes and shampoos – which are the same thing, btw – are formulated to manage your beard’s oil content at the most suitable levels. Any product that’s too oily and greasy leads to too oily and greasy skin. The same is true of products, such as many regular shampoos, which wash away too much oil and leave your beard and the skin underneath it too dry.
- Products not intended for use on the beard, such as shampoo used on the scalp and head hair, can weaken the roots of your facial hair follicles which, in turn, increases the chances of them falling out, breaking, or developing weakened roots that impact their long-term health.
How much is too much when it comes to using beard wash/shampoo?
Most men shampoo their hair every day, which isn’t recommended, to be honest, and many also think that they should shampoo their beard every day. But, if anything, you should shampoo your beard less than you shampoo the hair on your head - even just once or twice a week.
Our video discusses this, but addresses the caveat of how often you shampoo your beard depends on a couple of things, 1) your Beard Wash or shampoo, and 2) your occupation. Our Beard Wash, which comes in Gold and Silver Line scents, is formulated so you can use it every day. But, we recommend that you wash your beard only as needed.
However, if you work in an occupation that exposes you to dirt and grime on a regular basis, then using a Beard Wash every day (importantly one formulated for safe daily use) is OK, and probably necessary.
It’s also a good idea to follow up with a Beard Softener after you wash your beard to keep your whiskers soft and pliable. A Beard Softener is similar to a hair conditioner, but different – which we’ll talk about later.
Another thing to look for when scanning a Beard Wash’s ingredients list is silicone. You want to avoid silicone products; not because they’re all bad or evil, but because they aren’t water soluble. That means, for one, that they’re harder to wash out of your hair than water-soluble shampoos. Why include silicones in beard products? Well, they help make your beard look shiny, which many men desire. Silicone fills in the porosity found in hair, artificially plumping the hair to make it look healthier and shinier. On the other hand, premium products without silicone will help make your beard look shinier by actually making the hairs healthier, not just plumping them.
A final note on Beard Wash: make sure what you buy is what it claims to be. There are a lot of products out there that claim to be Beard Wash but are simply regular shampoos that are re-bottled.
Here’s a closer look at how often you should wash your beard
The main rule of thumb when discussing how often you should shampoo/wash your beard is “less is more.” In fact, it’s an adage that applies to many things about beard care - including the amount of product you use for each application. A little truly does go a long way.
But let’s break down the beard washing frequency question a bit more:By skin type
If you have oily skin – because it produces more sebum – you can wash your beard more frequently. While you want the skin and beard to retain natural oils, too much oil can clog your pores and lead to beardruff and acne. If you have dry skin, however, too much washing will dry it out even more, so you should wait three or four days between washes. Men with combination skin, meanwhile, can safely wash their beard every few days and, in fact, can even just rinse their beard with water if it becomes a bit oily before their next wash.By beard type
Coarse, thick beards tend to be drier than thinner beards. Curly hair also is typically on the dry side. If your beard is coarse and/or curly, less frequent washing is better. If your beard is thin you can wash it more often because it helps to make your beard appear fuller. The same can be said if you have a patchy beard.By climate
If you live in a dry climate, such as a desert region or some place like the upper Midwest where winters are harsh, your skin and beard will tend to lack moisture. That’s why it’s important to leave enough time to allow your sebum to build up before your next washing. And always follow up with a conditioning product, like Beard Softener and Beard Oil, to replace the lost moisture.
If you live in a wet climate, particularly one with high humidity, your skin and beard probably have more moisture than if you lived somewhere else. But too much moisture can make your skin stickier and attract excess dirt and micro-organisms that can clog pores.
We’ve also discussed how your occupation can affect how often you wash your beard. The dirtier the job, the more often you should wash it. Men who spend a lot of time outdoors usually need to wash their beard more. Or, if you work out consistently, meaning you sweat a lot, you may need to wash your beard more regularly, as well.
No matter what type of beard and skin you have (or where you live), you could benefit from using a conditioning product on a regular basis. But, more on that later.
Why is a beard dry and rough in the first place?
That’s a good question and we’ve already talked about it a little, like how the skin beneath the beard produces less natural oil. As your beard grows, it’s harder for the skin’s sebum to keep up with the growth. The result is a beard that’s in need of additional hydration. Washing it, especially with shampoo not formulated for a beard, can further deplete the supply of oil.
Lack of proper care is another reason why a beard becomes dry. Products such as Beard Softener, Beard Oil, and Utility Balm – all of which we’ll talk about later – are essential for keeping your wonderful whiskers from becoming dry and lifeless. Daily combing and brushing also help.
A beard’s roughness often stems from having too many split ends among your facial hair. These split ends will continue to split the hairs up the shaft all the way to the root if left untreated. The result is dry, frizzy, and unhealthy hair. Frequent trimming of your beard can help curb this phenomenon.
Hair Shampoo and Why You Shouldn’t Use it On Your Beard
Regular shampoo, the kind you use on your head hair, that is, basically has two primary purposes – to clean your hair (yes, a Captain Obvious moment) and to rid your hair of oil that makes it look greasy. The longer you wait to wash your hair, the greasier it looks.
One of the reasons why your hair tends to look greasy is the skin beneath it. The skin on your head is thicker than the skin under your beard, and it has more glands, pores, etc., which means it produces more oil. Meanwhile, the skin under your beard needs a gentler wash because it’s thinner and produces less oil than the skin on your scalp.
Shampoo contains surfactants that affect how it performs as a whole. Surfactants provide the lather and detergent-like (cleansing) qualities of shampoo, particularly anionic surfactants. Common anionic surfactants found in hair care shampoo are sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and other sulfates that can damage hair when used consistently over a long period.
Another chemical you’ll find in many generic shampoos is polyethylene glycol, which is used in everything from skin creams, personal lubricants, and even in paintball fills. While the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t banned it, some people report adverse physical reactions, such as allergies, when exposed to it.
But it all circles back to natural oil produced by the skin when comparing Beard Wash to regular shampoo. Because you want to preserve the oil found under your hair follicles, at least enough to keep your beard hydrated and with a nice sheen, you’ll want to avoid the relative harshness of hair shampoo.
Another thing about generic, hair shampoo is that it strips away any artificial coloring you put in your beard (or scalp hair, for that matter) more quickly than Beard Wash would.
So, how is my facial hair different from my scalp hair?
Hair is hair, right? Until it isn’t, that is. What’s on your head isn’t the same as those hairs that comprise your fabulous face ‘fro. Here’s why:
- For starters, facial hair is of a type called androgenic hair, which sprouts – beginning at puberty – thanks to levels of the hormone androgen in your body. While it goes through the same growth phases as scalp hair (anagen, telogen, catagen), those phases happen at slightly different times which, in turn, influences how long or short your beard hair gets.
- Androgenic hair growth and testosterone work hand-in-hand. The more testosterone a man has, the more facial hair he’ll grow. On the flipside, men with an over-abundance of testosterone are more likely to experience male pattern baldness than men who have less – which is one reason why a man with a full beard and a bald head isn’t an uncommon sight.
- The skin beneath your scalp is different than the skin underneath your hair follicles. Scalp skin typically is oilier than facial skin, which is why regular shampoo has ingredients to get rid of the oil.
- Beard hair is thicker than scalp hair and, in that regard, closely resembles (drum roll) pubic hair. Now don’t panic at the idea of growing a man-bush on your face – it turns out that thicker hair releases higher levels of pheromones. And pheromones give off a distinct scent that’s, evolutionarily speaking, a way to attract potential mates.
- Then again, any hair that grows where it didn’t grow before puberty is, technically, considered “pubic” hair. But that’s no excuse for asking someone to run their hands through your pubic hair, even if you mean your beard.
- Scalp hair can be straight or curly or bristly, or whatever, but facial hair grows thicker and curlier. Again, it comes down to how facial hair reacts to testosterone and androgens, which make hair follicles twist and begin to curl.
- Does your beard hair have patches of color that you won’t find anywhere else on your body? Don’t be surprised. Also, don’t be surprised if your beard shows signs of graying before your scalp.
So, all that said, there are definite differences between facial hair and scalp hair that cause each to require different kinds of care. That means differences in the products you use, how often you use them, and the types of tools used (for example, a beard brush isn’t necessarily suitable for brushing the hair on your scalp).
Here’s How to Wash Your Beard With Beard Wash
To be clear, washing your beard with Beard Wash isn’t as complicated as say, brain surgery (or any surgery, for that matter). However, there are a few rules of the road to follow to ensure that you’re giving your beard the best scrub possible without overdoing it.
- You should use the same mindset for shampooing your beard as you do for shampooing your scalp hair. That is, you want to massage your shampoo down to the skin because, technically, you’re washing the skin even more than you’re washing the hair.
- Apply a small amount of the wash in your palms and rub them together. Then apply it all over your beard while making sure you massage the skin. You don’t need to use a ton of the stuff, but just enough to work up a decent lather. By “small amount” of wash, we mean about a nickel to quarter size of wash, or about 2 centimeters for those of you who live outside the U.S.
- Use the tips of your fingers to massage the wash down to your beard hair roots and beyond. Make sure to move the hair in different directions as you apply it to ensure that you cover all of it. Don’t be afraid to massage it in more aggressively if you have a new beard; many beard care experts say doing so will stimulate hair follicles and encourage better growth.
- Pay close attention to the temperature of the water as you wash your beard and rinse it afterward. Hot water will dry your skin and affect the overall health of your beard, as well as its growth. Your best choice is to use warm water, which will open the pores.
- Rinse carefully while making sure that you leave no traces of wash behind.
- Dry your beard thoroughly after you’ve rinsed it. Use a clean towel and don’t rub your beard vigorously to get the moisture out because you can damage hair follicles. Instead, pat it gently until the moisture is gone.
- Follow up with a Beard Softener or another type of moisturizing conditioner that will help keep your beard soft and manageable. Apply the Softener to your beard hairs and not to the skin as you would with a beard shampoo.
- We strongly recommend applying Beard Oil or a beard balm, such as Utility Balm, after you wash and condition your beard. Your beard will feel amazingly soft after you use a shampoo or wash designed for it and a beard conditioner or softener. Don’t be surprised if those beard hairs feel almost as soft as your head hair once you’ve finished washing and conditioning your beard.
- You can even use your Beard Wash to wash your face while you’re in the process of washing your beard. The best Beard Washes are gentle enough for use on the thinner skin that’s on your face.
- If you have a long beard, you can brush your beard to remove hairs that have fallen out while also loosening up dead skin cells, dirt, and pollution that you can wash out in the shower. Note: it’s your choice where to apply your Beard Wash. Many men choose the shower because it’s handier but, again, make sure the water isn’t so hot that it will dry out your beard and skin.
As far as brushing your beard, please use a brush designed for beards. Premium beard brushes have bristles made of boar’s hair and their frame and handle made of wood. Don’t use a plastic-bristle hairbrush. Yes, they cost less, but they are rougher on your hair than those with boar bristles.
So, what’s this business about co-washing?
Co-washing is short for washing your hair with conditioner only. True, conditioner seemingly has nothing to do with “cleaning” your beard and it would seem that eliminating beard wash from your routine is a little, well, absurd.
But, as it turns out, co-washing may be the solution for you and your beard.
The reason is this: most conditioners contain small amounts of detergents that help rid your hair of dirt, grime, and any leftover hair products. Hair shampoos typically contain a crapload of these chemicals – known as surfactants – that make sure no dirt or grime is left behind.
As we mentioned previously, an overabundance of those chemicals can strip hair follicles of their natural oils. Co-washing became popular, or least not unheard of, thanks to people with long, wavy, and curly hair that dries out more easily than most other types.
So, the bottom line is that using conditioner instead of regular shampoo means that you can still remove excess residue and grime without disrupting the delicate balance of natural oils. You can also co-wash your beard and it’s not a bad strategy considering that beard hair tends to dry out more easily than head hair. Beard hair, as we’ve mentioned, also tends to be coarser than head hair, which necessitates the use of a conditioning products such as Beard Softener, Beard Oil, and Utility Balm.
There’s nothing complicated about co-washing, either – all you need to do is apply the conditioner or Beard Softener at the beginning of your shower, or anytime your beard is wet, and let it soak in for a bit. Then rinse it out as you would a Beard Wash and finish by applying Beard Oil or Utility Balm. The latter types of “conditioners” are considered leave-in conditioners that you don’t rinse from your beard after application.
Give the co-wash method a try for a couple of weeks if you think it can help alleviate a dry beard that may also itch and has a fair amount of beardruff. You may notice a big difference in how your beard feels and looks.
A quick look at Beard Wash and Utility Bar
We’re proud of all of our products here at Beardbrand, including our line of Beard Washes and our Utility Bar. While you can cleanse your beard with both products, as our video discusses, there are subtle differences between Beard Wash and Utility Bar.