How can I keep my beard healthy, soft, manageable, and generally happy?
March 12, 2014 9:57 PM   Subscribe

I need some advice on products I can use on my beard, because using beard oil is going to drive me to the poor house.

So, my beard has hit terminal length (I think) after 18 months of growing out. I'm wanting to keep it healthy and happy. So far, the best product I've found to use on it after washing is beard oil, but it seems to run about $20/oz consistently across various brands, and the amount I need to use to truly nourish it properly will have me buying a new vial basically monthly, based on experimentation.

Full regimen: I use a color-depositing shampoo (to keep the grey from being totally dominant), and cheap-as-shit Suave conditioner, and do this every 3 days or so (because washing every day was too often). I use the beard oil after every actual washing, although not nearly in the quantity I should be using it because $pendy. I also use just the conditioner again on the not-the-next-day-after-washing because my beard feels like it needs some kind of nourishing at that point. By the 3rd day, it feels like it needs washing, so I wash it again.

So, I guess I'm asking... are there better conditioners I could use to help my beard feel nourished and healthy? Or after-washing products that aren't beard oil that might be worth considering? I've tried using the classic "hot oil treatment" on the beard -- the results were entirely unsatisfying and annoying. (You think having untamable, flyaway hair is bad? Try having that hang off your face!)

I'm not looking to change my shampoo just yet. 46 is a bit of a young age to have an entirely grey beard, and while I'm not interested in the dye-job look, I am okay with the somewhat natural salt-and-pepper look the color-depositing shampoo gives me.

But damn, I want my beard to feel soft and silky and smooth and to hang nicely, the way the beard oil makes it feel when I use it in appropriate quantities. I just... can't see spending $20/month on product for my face fur.

posted by hippybear to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies if this is not the advice you're looking for (I'm a woman with no beard-y experience), but Alterna conditioner has done wonders for my frizzy, wiry hair, making it much softer and more manageable than otherwise. It's the first conditioner that has done this for me. It's a bit pricy, but one bottle lasts me months, even on my ribcage-length hair-- I'd imagine a beard would require much less if you're conservative with it (nickel-sized dollop?).

Also, I don't know the usual beard procedures, but regular trims might help? Split ends will make any hair difficult to manage.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:07 PM on March 12, 2014

Have you considered making your own beard oil? Much of it seems to consist of jojoba oil which is about $12 for 4 oz. How much are you using? Because I can't imagine going through 4 oz in a month.

Jojoba Oil and Beards
Natural DIY Beard Oil Recipe - change the essential oils as desired
DIY Beard Conditioning Oil
DIY Gift: Beard Balm
Hand Made Beard Oil for your Lumberjack
posted by barnone at 10:11 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

This Men's Journal article shills for a few fancy name-brand oils, but also mentions that they tend to be based on some not-so-hard-to-find natural oils with scent added. They mention jojoba as well as coconut and grapeseed (which I know is available in a 1 gallon jug from Costco for about $20.) You could leave it unscented or experiment with blending your own, maybe using some fragrance oils from a place like Demeter Fragrance Library for single-note essential oils or Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab for professionally designed blends.
posted by contraption at 10:17 PM on March 12, 2014

Try a moisturizing conditioner (I just use herbal essences "hello hydration" on my frizzy, wiry hair; easy to find and cheap and I go through a lot of conditioner when my hair is long). Wash like normal, work the conditioner all through your beard, use a lot, and then leave it. Hang out in the shower, go read a book, whatever. Give it five minutes or even ten and then -- this part sucks -- wash it out with COLD water. That seals the cuticle back up (hot water opens the "pores" in the hair and contributes to coarseness and frizz and breakage).

Letting the conditioner sit for a couple minutes and doing a cold water rinse will probably provide some fairly immediate softening and smoothing. Probably you'll still need some kind of secondary treatment, but start there.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:29 PM on March 12, 2014

Coconut oil! $7 for 16oz of the organic stuff at Trader Joes. Just warm a tiny bit in your hands, apply, and enjoy. (16oz lasts 6 months for me, and I use it every other day on my waist-length, insanely thick hair.)
posted by dotgirl at 11:44 PM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

While I keep my beard at a shorter length than yours - about 6" currently - I've replaced much of the regular shampoo-washing with a cold rinse and regular brush to good effect. The result is a beard that has stopped insisting on making its own entertainment. Oh, and feel free to substitute 'luke warm' for 'cold' if you're not currently seeing out the end of a Sydney summer.

As you may well be aware, when you wash and oil your beard, you're effectively stripping out your natural oils and replacing them with oil from a bottle. A cold (or luke-warm) rinse without the shampoo is a practical way of keeping the beard free of the detritus and smaller particles a beard might normally pick up; and when give it a good brushing with a fine comb, your natural oils are distributed along the length of each hair, keeping it softer and silkier.

Even reducing your full-wash schedule to once a week should have a noticeable effect on improving the behaviour of your face fur.
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 11:45 PM on March 12, 2014

My fella swears by this cheapo argan oil for his beard. He didn't like oils that are solid at room temperature, like coconut oil, but the argan oil works great to keep his beard moisturized without getting greasy or waxy.
posted by dialetheia at 12:05 AM on March 13, 2014

Try conditioners meant for dry/damaged/frizzy hair.
posted by brujita at 12:20 AM on March 13, 2014

Come by a visit The Beard Community which I started 13 years ago. You can use search and find all kinds of advice and discussion on this top that has been provided. Or request an account and post your question. There are many terminal length folks among the members. Jojoba oil is one of the treatments frequently mentioned.
posted by rmmcclay at 12:23 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding mixing your own oil. This link is for body oil mixes but its all the same stuff.
posted by Ness at 1:34 AM on March 13, 2014

Nthing that too-frequent shampooing is probably the culprit.

If you're mainly using the shampoo for its color-depositing qualities, try switching to something other than a shampoo that deposits color, such a glaze.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 6:42 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could look at the ingredients list of your beard oil with drugstore hair products (probably women's) to see if there's something less expensive. If it's mostly oil (i.e., oil is the first ingredient), then mixing your own will be a lot cheaper. You can try mixing a drop of oil with a bit of conditioner and not rinsing it all out. You could also try putting oil on your beard for a few hours (or overnight) before washing. Here's a good article on hair oil from my favorite hair blog.
posted by bluefly at 11:15 AM on March 13, 2014

Pure coconut oil. Sometimes it will be in the cosmetic section of your hippie grocery store or it will be in the cooking oil section of that same store. As long as coconut oil is the only ingredient you're good to go. I love that stuff!
posted by Attackpanda at 11:30 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My beard oil lists grapeseed, almond, safflower, argan, jojoba, olive, and castor oils (in that order) as ingredients. Along with some essential oils for fragrance.

Two of the oils listed there are ones mentioned in this thread.

I guess I have an Oil Exploration Adventure ahead of me. (Back off, Exxon, this doesn't concern you!) I will report back results as they come in.
posted by hippybear at 8:58 PM on March 13, 2014

If you end up making your own blend and want to shop online, I've been really pleased with the quality of stuff I've gotten from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Another suggestion I've heard for beards is to not shampoo at all but instead wash with conditioner, using your fingers to massage and clean the skin underneath. I guess that doesn't really work with your coloring shampoo routine though.
posted by purple_bird at 9:42 AM on March 14, 2014

I don't have a cite at the moment, but I've read that most oils can't penetrate the hair shaft, and that coconut oil is the exception. My own experience with coconut oil is that it rocks, and I actually like that it's solid at room temp. You can try it as a pre-wash treatment or just rub a smaller amount in after washing. Or hell, go crazy and do both.

My cheapo go-to oil conditioner is Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition. It's got a powerful scent, but it doesn't seem to linger long after drying.
posted by moira at 8:58 PM on March 17, 2014

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