What Makes a Good Balm?

The Beard Balm

Beard products have certainly evolved in recent years. With so many types of products out there (balms, butters, oils, conditioners, etc.) it can be a bit overwhelming to decide what the right one for you is.

Balm VS Oil

A beard balm is a waxy product for conditioning and styling your beard. It will usually have a light or medium hold, keeping your beard in place. They typically have some type of wax in them, such as beeswax, to help emulsify the oils and lock in the moisture.

Beard oils act more as conditioner with no real hold. Oils are typically used in shorter beards or in conjunction with balms to hydrate the skin and beard hair.

Both will provide moisture to the hair and skin and will help guard against challenges such as an itchy beard or the dreaded “beard-druff”.

Good beard products also should not cause irritation to the skin and not clog the pores. Not all oils are bad for your skin. When the pores get clogged your body will not be able to secrete sebum, a natural oil that hydrates the hairs on your head and face. There is such thing as your hair absorbing too much sebum, however. This can cause your skin to become dehydrated which can leave it itchy and flaky. Balms and oils are both good products to use to help alleviate that.

What Makes a Good Balm?

It is usually recommended that beard balms have as many natural ingredients as possible. The amounts of each ingredient, of course, will vary from product to product which means you will be able to find a product that works well with your specific facial hair.

A few things that you can look for are:

  • Carrier oils
    • We could do an entire article on just carrier oils. Oils like jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, and argan oil are used to dilute essential oils and carry them to the hair or skin. They have more properties than just diluting essential oils though, they are also used to moisturize, hydrate, and condition the skin and hair. Some carrier oils can even hold anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Natural Butters
    • Shea butter and cocoa butter are two natural butters used in a wide variety of beard products. Shea butter especially is a lot of times used as a primary ingredient in beard butters and balms because it offers a high concentration of fatty acids and is naturally rich in Vitamin E. Cocoa butter, which also has a high amount of Vitamin E in it, coats and conditions the hair helping to make the hair stronger and prevent breakage while hydrating the skin under it.
  • Tocopherol or Vitamin E Oil
    • Tocopherol also known as Vitamin E oil can be found in a lot of beard products. It can be synthetic, partially synthetic with some natural components, or completely naturally derived. Massaging a balm with Vitamin E oil in it is known to help increase blood flow by widening the blood vessels. More blood flow to the face means more nutrients to help stimulate beard growth.
  • Lanolin and lanolin oil
    • Lanolin, also known as wool wax, has been used by people for generations for its hydrating properties. Doctors will recommend it a lot of times for people who have chronic chapped skin. It helps moisturize the skin and hair. It is a natural product found in wool, so it is not vegan, but it is highly effective at conditioning and moisturizing.
  • Beeswax
    • Beeswax is one of the main differences between “beard balm” and “beard butter”. Beard balms will usually have beeswax in it as one of its primary ingredients, whereas beard butter will usually not have any at all or if it does it is a very small amount. Beeswax is used for multiple reasons. Aside from providing hold in shaping or straightening your beard, it also emulsifies the oils and butters of the product allowing them to be more easily absorbed into the hair and skin. It also coats the hair locking in the much-needed moisture.
  • Essential Oils
    • Essential oils are basically naturally derived plant extracts created using a process of steaming or pressing various components of plants (usually scented parts) to capture their “essence”.  There are so many options for essential oils in products the possibilities are endless, each oil having its own properties. Essential oils can be used in aroma therapy, to help with inflammation of the skin, preventing types of acne, or even fighting infection. On the flip side, some are used for no other reason than to provide a pleasing aroma in place of or in conjunction with fragrance oils (which are different). There is just too much information and variables when it comes to essential oils to be contained in this article.

There are also some ingredients to look for to try to avoid as they can damage your beard and the skin under it. This by far not a complete list:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol
    • Alcohol is a common ingredient found in a lot of fragrances. Using a product that contains alcohol can dehydrate the skin and hair, stripping them of the much-needed oils.
  • Sulfates
    • Sulfates come under a number of names, and they tend to leave your hair dry and brittle which can end in split ends or even the hairs breaking.
  • Mineral Oils
    • Mineral oils can seal up the fibers of your hair making absorbing other helpful oils difficult.
  • Paraffins and petroleum jelly
    • Paraffins and petroleum jelly are used in health products for several reasons such as acting as a preservative to extend shelf lives. Petroleum jelly mixes well with other waxes, where paraffins also comes as a wax which can give hold to your beard. These two items do count as mineral oils as they are byproducts of petroleum production. They don’t actually absorb into the hair or skin, but rather sit on top creating a barrier keeping other necessary nutrients out. They clog the pores of the skin keeping sebum, the natural oils that your skin produces, from being able to be secreted. These two can also be dangerous to your skin and hair if they are not processed enough.


There is a lot that can go into making or breaking (sometimes literally) your perfect beard. Ultimately, each person’s beard and skin are going to be different, so play around with different products and see which ones work best for you. You can always check out The Man Shop here on our website and see what products we offer. Whether you are sporting a tightly trimmed mustache or have gone full mountaineer, we always welcome new and returning beard enthusiasts into the family.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *