We don’t pretend to be the highest authority on beard oil. Like nearly every personal care and grooming product, there is no one way to go about it. Over the years we have learned a whole lot about some best things to look for, and some red flags on what to avoid. Whether you buy from us, make it yourself, or even buy from another maker; here are some of the things that you should consider when shopping for beard oil.
Little Blue Bottles of Beard Oil. Photo taken at a Chicago festival Pop-up in 2018.
First Impressions, the Label
A label should be concise, easy to read and have all pertinent information available. Logos and other unique branding elements should be restrained. Why? Flash over substance. We learned over time that consumers want the basics and not a lot of posturing and splash. More important that the face of the label, are the ingredients listed? Is there a website and basic location of the business’s operations provided? If any of those details are omitted, that’s a red flag for sure! Website is less critical, but there must be a means to locate the business if you have any issues, questions or even compliments. If they don’t tell you how to get in touch with them, how can you buy more?
Most likely the oil is in a bottle. The bottle, or other container, needs to be made of a non-reactive material; preferably glass. Why is that? Oils will react with plastics and metals. Many essential oils can quickly weaken a plastic container. Heat and UV rays can increase this activity. Metals have the potential to taint the oils or act as a catalyst for the oils to change their structure. Our suppliers warn of this when shipping oils to us, we are passing this little nugget off to you. Also, UV light can degrade oils, break them down and cause them to become rancid. Rancidity is a stronger nut-like odor that is very off-putting. Have you ever ordered french fries that just taste way off from over used fryer oil? That is rancidity. To prevent this, it is best to keep oils in colored glass bottles and away from sunlight. Colors like amber, green and cobalt filter the UV light to protect the contents and give it a longer shelf life. If the beard oil is in a clear or frosted glass bottle, you best use it quickly and hope it did not sit on the shelf too long. Best to just say no. From our experience, gents like to have a few scents to choose from with bottles lasting them up to 6 months or so, making a longer shelf life necessary. From date of purchase, any quality beard oil should last up to one year in your home if packaged properly and kept in a cooler dark place. Although, rancidity can happen at any time – almost randomly and cannot be detected before purchase. With most of our products scented to order and the rest being produced in tiny batches, a beard oil never sits with us for more than 6 months.
Caps, eye droppers, pumps… 2 of these are OK, one is just a bad idea. Pumps are mechanical with moving parts made of plastic and metal. Even if you are good about keeping a cap on over the pump, there is still a good chance the oil remaining in the pump will become gummy, eventually causing the pump to no longer function. Air can get into the oil, as the pump never seals 100%. Air can aid in the degradation of the oil… yup, rancidity. Dispensing caps are good but not great. Only because they can be a little messier. If the cap is ever left open, air gets in to the bottle. The cap’s spout can also clog, making it even messier. Caps over a reducer plug (shaker top) or a dropper are most ideal. When used, we tend to be more mindful to ensure they are sealed firmly when done using. We lean towards the shaker top with cap as it is simple and a familiar method to dispense – especially with those who like hot sauce! Dropper caps have one weakness, the bulb. Usually made of real or synthetic rubber and oils can turn that rubber into goo. This does take some time, but can happen. The dropper allows a more measured dose, with 2 drops from it equaling 1 shake. There is an air of style when using a dropper, but realistically your hands are going to get just as oily as using the shaker top. If you are applying your beard oil effectively. We offer droppers as an add-on to a beard oil for those that do prefer the method. Droppers also cost 3x as much as the cap with reducer, which means we are able to keep a lower price with an effective closure dispenser for our bottles.
What to look for within the ingredients:
Natural plant sourced oils, whether certified organic or not. Not all commonly used oils have an organic source at this time, so don’t expect to find 100% Organic Ingredients. Those who do produce 100% Organic beard oils are likely pulling from a smaller list of oils. That’s not really a bad thing, if the oils are still awesome oils for hair and skin. Argan, Jojoba, Avocado, Almond, Safflower are top tier oils that are great for hair. Coconut oil is good, but should not be the majority oil, because of its thickness and often overly refined. Olive Oil has the capability of going rancid more quickly. Castor oil is great for many things, but is a cheap filler oil often used when there are better oils to use that are not that much more expensive. Neem, Meadowfoam, Broccoli Seed, Hemp Seed, Macadamia Nut, Grape Seed oils are all very nice oils to add into the mix. Some of these are better in small amounts to boost attributes of the beard oil. Broccoli and Hemp Seed oils do carry a stronger natural odor that can be hard to overcome if used in too high of a quantity. All these oils are packed with varying ratios of Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 Fatty Acids that your hair will drink right up. These Omega Fatty Acids are what is most important for conditioning and softening your beard.
Other than oils, you may find Vitamin E, or Tocopherol. This is a fine thing to add to a beard oil, but not required. Why is that? Every one of those oils mentioned above are naturally high in all forms Vitamin E. There are 8 forms of Vitamin E, “Tocopherol” (when listed alone) is only one of them. You may not see a significant benefit of using a beard oil that contains Vitamin E versus one that does not. Your hair and skin can easily absorb what it needs from the oils.
Aloe Vera. Aloe vera is not an oil, but a water soluble substance extracted from the plant. It is full of nutrients that your skin will benefit from as well as your hair. If you find it in a beard oil, that means there is another ingredient that likely carries a chemical name that is used to blend it in with the oils. It’s benefits are great, but lets keep it to lotions and conditioners where it can do its job better.
As I have covered before, glycerin should never be in your beard oil. The core purpose of beard oil is to moisturize the hair. When used in wash-in shampoos and conditioners, glycerin works to migrate water from outside the hair to inside the hair. Once it has done the job, it gets rinsed away. When left in your beard, it lays on your hair and sucks the water right out, leading to dryness. Glycerin is a humectant, that is what a humectant does – it’s like a hydration middleman that moves water from where there is more of it to where there is less of it. Alcohol is another thing that should never be in a beard oil, or any conditioning item. Specifically we are talking about ethyl, methyl and isopropyl alcohols. These will aggressive dry your skin and hair, even in small amounts. Cetyl alcohol and other “fatty alcohols” are not the same, but still should not be in your beard oil as their purpose is to emulsify oil and water. If you beard oil has water in it, it is not a beard oil!
When it comes to the scent, often essential oils are the source. Some essential oils have additional hair benefits, like cleaning follicles, repairing the cuticle or tackling those things that can cause some types of dandruff. These oils are rarely used in a quantity to be very beneficial, but that’s OK. These are also the components that are more likely to activate allergies or sensitivities. Read through them! Get to know their botanical names for future reference, the label should list it with the common name in parenthesis. Other scents are made from blend of essential oils and plant oil extracts to achieve a desired fragrance. These are still 100% natural, just not 100% essential oils. Overall, the scent component should not exceed 1% of the mix. Too much scent can be overpowering to you and those around you. Higher levels can increase the likelihood of irritation from an unknown sensitivity. The scent level should be such that you enjoy the fragrance when you apply it, and others enjoy it when they get close to you. You beard does not need to announce itself through fragrance, let the softness and shine do that.
What makes something “All Natural”?
If it is specifically a plant component or extract, the ingredients are to clearly identify it. Argan Oil is the common name, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil is what you should see on the label. Butters, oils, extracts that are all sourced directly from a plant component should be listed like this for clarity. Ingredients like Glycerin, Zinc ricinoleate, Cetyl Alcohol are all sourced from plant oils but have been processed or distilled down to a specific compound with very distinct properties. Everything is a chemical, don’t let the names scare you. If your beard oil says it is 100% Natural, it may still have such chemical compounds listed within the ingredients.
Be mindful of what you are buying. The more care the maker puts in to the product the more assured you can be of the quality. Over the years there have been many a hobbyist that jumps into making beard oil that didn’t do their homework to make sure their customers were getting a great product that will last. Tired tropes, gimmicky packaging, overly trendy ingredients and loosely applied labeling of “premium” and “luxury” has overwhelmed the beard care industry. Don’t be pulled in on the “cool” factor. Instead, apply some of the information we provided here to help determine if that beard oil is worth even a dime of your money. A low quality beard oil will not give you the desired results which is more likely going to turn you off from trying others. An educated shopper saves time and money.
We hope to dig into some of the myths and trends of application of beard oil as we offer some varying methodologies on when, how, how much and more on using a beard oil. Look for that post to come soon.