Growing a beard might be an easy enough task, but looking after one is another matter altogether. Like kids, beards can be unruly, unpredictable and misbehaved. That’s the bad news. The good news is that just like kids, beards also thrive when showered with love and affection.
Key to their maintenance is a decent beard oil. “Beard oils are useful because they nourish and hydrate the hair and also the skin underneath,” says Nicholas Taylor, director of TaylorTaylor barbershops in Sheffield.
Not only will using one help facial hair look, feel and smell good (handy given that beards can be crumb catchers) it’ll also minimise the risk of annoying beard itch, too – which is especially handy if you’re growing one for the first time or have a beard the texture of a Brillo pad. Softening the hairs with beard oil makes things a little more comfortable for your partner too.
Most beard oils are blended with an array of oils that not only soften and condition hair but help moisturise the skin beneath. That’s important because facial hair wicks moisture away from the surface of the skin – leaving it dry and flaky – and your beard prone to “beardruff” (yes, it is a thing).
To get the most out of your oil, Taylor suggests applying three to five drops to freshly-washed, slightly damp facial hair (that way it’ll lock in moisture), massaging it in with your fingertips to ensure it not only coats the beard but also reaches the skin beneath. “Work the oil into the beard with a downward motion or use a beard comb to help distribute it evenly if your beard is long and thick,” he says. For extra conditioning, apply a little more at night, an hour or so before bed.
The best beard oils for 2021 are:
Best overall – Bulldog original beard oil: £3.65, Amazon.co.uk
Best luxury beard oil – Tom Ford neroli portofino conditioning beard oil: £39.60, Lookfantastic.com
Best 2-in-1 oil – Elemis smooth result shave and beard oil: £24, Amazon.co.uk
Best classic beard oil – Mr Natty beard elixir: £5, Mrnatty.com
Best value-for-money oil – Percy nobleman beard conditioning oil: £13.39, Boots.com
Best hands-free oil – Jos original beard serum roll-on: £16, Josgrooming.men
Best for tangles – American crew beard serum: £7.15, Amazon.co.uk
Best for growth – Sweyn forkbeard beard growth oil: £21.95, Sweynforkbeard.co.uk
Best for oily skin – Adam grooming atelier daily beard oil: £20, Harrods.com
Best for city dwellers – Jack Black beard oil: £22.29, Amazon.co.uk
Best for thick and coarse beards – Aesop shine hair and beard oil: £23, Spacenk.com
Best for beginners – King C Gillette beard oil: £6.99, Gordonsdirect.com
Best for gifting – Wahl beard oil gift set: £11.99, Boots.com
Bulldog original beard oil
Proof that money doesn’t always buy you a better product, Bulldog’s original beard oil offers the best bang for your buck (or beard) of all the oils we tried. Fantastic value for money, given the generously sized 30ml bottle, it also performed excellently and the subtle fragrance is good too. The addition of aloe vera (to soothe skin and condition hair) and antioxidant green tea extract, which has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties makes it a brilliant buy.
Buy now £3.65, Amazon.co.uk
Tom Ford neroli portofino conditioning beard oil
Best: Luxury beard oil
Infused with the immaculately-groomed Texan’s iconic “neroli portofino” fragrance, this high-shine, luxury beard oil will have your beard smelling as fresh as a Mediterranean citrus grove in no time.
What you pay for in this particular beard conditioner isn’t the oils (it contains the grape seed, almond and jojoba oil trio found in many other beard oils) but the designer fragrance. Ford fans will be pleased to know that the oil is also available in “tobacco vanille”, “oud wood” and “f***ing fabuous” fragrance variants.
Buy now £39.60, Lookfantastic.com
Elemis smooth result shave and beard oil
Best: 2-in-1 oil
The perfect multifunctional grooming oil, this lightweight 2-in-1 shave and beard oil from Elemis features a blend of nourishing oils (hazelnut, jojoba, grapeseed) along with antioxidant-rich rosehip, making it perfect for conditioning the beard but also for shaving around the beard line, where its transparency allows you to see where you’re shaving. It has a subtle minty fragrance, making it one of the more refreshing oils we tried.
Buy now £24.00, Amazon.co.uk
Mr Natty beard elixir
Best: Classic beard oil
If anyone knows about how to fuss over face furniture it’s master barber Matthew Raine, whose Mr Natty oils have been keeping men’s beards looking their best since 2009. This beard elixir is the brand’s signature product and you can see why: it’s rich and conditioning, and a little goes a long way. It’s also infused with three of the most popular ingredients in men’s fragrances – vetiver, patchouli and bergamot – along with a hint of pine for freshness which help make it the no-brainer of beard oils.
Buy now £5.00, Mrnatty.com
Percy Nobleman beard conditioning oil
Best: Value for money
Size isn’t everything, we know, but when it comes to value for money this whopping 100ml bottle of oil from Percy Nobleman can’t be beaten – it’s twice as big as the most generously sized oil we tested. Easy to apply (a pump dispenser helps) it’s lightly scented, gives good gloss and is ideal if you’ve a big old hipster number and go through bucketfuls of oil to keep it looking tip top.
Buy now £13.39, Boots.com
Jos original beard serum roll-on
Best: Hands-free oil
If you’d rather your beard conditioner ended up on your beard than your hands (and let’s face it why wouldn’t you?) then this clever beard oil from Jos Grooming is your man. Delivered by a rollerball rather than by pump or dropper, it allows you to slick the serum over your beard without having to get your fingers involved. Woody, earthy and spicy it was one of the best smelling oils we tried and was certainly the most fun to use.
Buy now £16.00, Josgrooming.men
American Crew beard serum
Best: For tangles
The minute you apply this beard serum from American Crew you notice if feels different on the fingers – it glides. That’s because as well as containing conditioning oils it’s formulated with cyclopentasiloxan – a silicone lubricant used in hair products to help them spread evenly and to make hair feel silky and smooth. This helps prevent tangles and a give the beard a natural sheen. Given that the bottle is a 50ml, it it great value for money – while the pump dispenser makes measuring out the right amount easy.
Buy now £7.15, Amazon.co.uk
Sweyn forkbeard beard growth oil
Best: For growth
A slightly different kind of beard oil from the others, we road-tested this fragrance-free oil from North London Barbers, which is designed more as a treatment than a straight forward beard conditioner. It features oils (all 100 per cent organic) designed to feed the hair follicles and improve blood circulation to the beard – the idea being that this helps stimulate growth and – over time – increase beard thickness. It also has the best brand name of all the oils here. (Sweyn was the first Viking King of England and Canute’s dad, in case you were wondering.)
Buy now £21.95, Sweynforkbeard.co.uk
Adam grooming atelier daily beard oil
Best: For oily skin
If how a beard oil looks on your bathroom shelf is as important as to how it makes your beard look this luxury oil, housed in a cool frosted green glass bottle is for you. Like the other oils tested it’s designed to keep facial hair soft and silky but it also contains cedarwood oil to help regulate production of sebum (the skin’s natural oil) so is especially good if you suffer from greasy skin. Smell is old school masculine – think tobacco, leather and woods.
Buy now £20.00, Harrods.com
Jack Black beard oil
Best: For city dwellers
Featuring a blend of certified organic, skin-friendly oils and a raft of potent antioxidants (including vitamin E, brown algae and carrot extract) to guard against the damaging effects of stress and pollution, Jack Black’s lightweight beard oil is as good for the skin beneath your beard as it is for the beard itself. A barely-there scent ensures discreet rather than overpowering freshness. We discovered it’s great for hydrating and soothing dry patches of skin too.
This beard oil is due back in stock on July 24.
Buy now £22.29, Amazon.co.uk
Aesop shine hair and beard oil
Best: For thick, course beards
With more hair-supporting ingredients than just about any other oil we tried, this luxurious, silicone-free essential contains a plethora of nourishing oils including borage oil, which is packed full of hair-friendly fatty acids. It softens, nourishes and smooths, without being oily, and thanks to the addition of bergamot, jasmine and bitter orange oils has one of the best – and longest-lasting – fragrances of all the oils we tried. Can be used to give shine to the hair on your head too.
Buy now £23.00, Spacenk.com
King C Gillette beard oil
Best: For beginners
Formulated with no less than ten individual oils – each performing a slightly different function but all leading to a glossy, healthy beard – Gillette’s king C gillette beard oil is a beard basic anyone can buy with confidence. Key to its performance is argan oil – famed for its ability to nourish and soften hair which makes it especially good for first timers hoping to minimise the itch. It’s infused with a long-lasting retro scent featuring woods and spices too.
Buy now £6.99, Gordonsdirect.com
Wahl beard oil gift set
Best: For gifting
Size: 4 x 10ml
With fragrance such an individual preference and one that often depends on mood this set of four beard oils form hair care experts Wahl is perfect. As well as ticking all the beard care boxes (softens, nourishes, conditions, shines) each beard oil offers a different olfactory experience – refresh, revive, relax, repair – although in truth the differences are subtle. At 10ml the bottles are perfect for pockets, travel and gym bags, though, and the set itself makes a great gift for beardies too.
Buy now £11.99, Boots.com
Beard oils FAQs
What is beard oil?
A beard oil is intended to moisturise and hydrate the facial hair and skin underneath your beard. Often they’re made up of two core ingredients – a carrier oil that makes up the bulk of the product and essential oils that generate the scent. Using a beard oil is particularly useful because in order for the hair to grow, it often draws on the moisture from your skin, leaving it dry. But as the beard grows, this gets harder to do and the hair can become brittle.
What are the benefits of a beard oil?
There are a number of benefits of a beard oil. Firstly, it nourishes and hydrates the hair and skin underneath the beard, soothing irritation. It can also prevent irritation and dandruff, help your beard grow, and can tame flyaway hairs.
How to apply beard oil
Applying a beard oil is easy – simply pump the product into the palm of your hands and rub together before massaging onto the beard and face, working into the root. If you have a longer beard, you may want to use a beard brush or comb to ensure even application.
Can you use beard oil on stubble?
Yes, you can use beard oil on stubble – a little bit goes a long way, so we’d suggest using one or two drops for stubble, increasing as your beard grows.
How often should you apply beard oil?
It’s recommended that you use a beard oil directly after you shower. If you have a healthy beard, we’d suggest doing this three or four times a week, but if yours is on the dry side, try applying four to six times a week.
The verdict: Beard oils
The great thing about beard oils is that their affordability means you can experiment with several before hitting on one you love as much as your beard does. Bulldog’s original beard oil is certainly a great place to start, though Tom Ford’s conditioning beard oil is the biz for beards if you’ve a little more money to spend. We highly rated Jos original beard serum roll-on too – not only for its novel approach to application and excellent conditioning properties but for its superb scent.
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