With regard to facial hair, I’ve done it all. When I was younger and my growing power was weak, I sported a goatee (hey, it was the nü metal era); a few years later, I had a scrappy, patchy beard. In college, I tried a mustache, a perpetual 5 o’clock shadow, and even Lemmy-style mutton chops (though admittedly I looked more like Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight). Later, my friends and family—and a number of unsuccessful Tinder dates—were forced to endure a years-long horseshoe mustache period. I eventually settled on a full beard that, depending on the week, ranges from trimmed, to long, to what I call “pandemic-style” (i.e. totally out of control).
One thing I’ve learned along the way—and something my dudeliest dudes may not want to hear—is that the products you use on your facial hair actually do matter. If I totally neglect my beard, it becomes tangled, coarse, and scruffy. My hair is naturally curly (I’d grow a full-on ‘fro if I stopped shaving my head), so I’ve come to accept the fact that if I want my beard to look good, I need to put a little work into it. I don’t mean sitting-around-with-curlers work, or even using a ton of products; no, I just mean taking care of yourself with some very basic daily habits. You can read articles or watch YouTube ‘til you die searching for the perfect beard care routine (spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist), but the truth is that you’ll only find what works for you through trial and error.
Every beard is different, but for mine, that means using some sort of shower product that softens my beard, brushing it with a boar-bristle brush, and keeping it trimmed and even so it doesn’t constantly look like I’ve been electrocuted. Beyond that, I’ve found that beard oils and balms come with pros and cons—they can smell incredible and really soften you up, but they can also leave an oily residue that can quickly jump to your phone, pillow, or partner’s cheek if you indulge in too much of it. Whatever you use, it’s about balance.
Even with the best beard products, you may never have the perfect beard, and that’s totally fine. Few do—I certainly don’t. (Yes, I take care of my beard. Yes, there is always hummus and/or guacamole in my beard. We do exist.) That said, adding a couple new tricks to your beard care regimen can’t hurt. Here are some of the best places to start.
The Best Beard Balms and Oils
The 2-Bits Man “The Woods” Beard Oil
This beard oil used to underscore my “getting ready” routine, especially if I was going on a date or out with friends and I wanted to really ~feel myself~. It literally smells like you just came out of the forest, and it definitely softens your hair, prevents itching, and gives your beard a nice sheen. You’ll feel fly if you wear this.
Tom Ford Conditioning Beard Oil
A bougier option, this beard oil from Tom Ford is beloved by many, with a 4.5-star average rating on Sephora. It contains almond, jojoba, and grapeseed oil—meaning it’ll have a super fresh smell and will keep you moisturized all day long.
Proraso Beard Oil
I mean, just look at the reviews on this baby. Imported from Italy, where men are empirically sexier, Proraso’s classic beard oil comes in four scents and has a 4.5-star average rating from over 5,000 reviews. Warning: the cypress and vetiver iteration might make you feel like Marcello Mastroianni (if he had a beard).
Scotch Porter Beard Balm
Scotch Porter is a particularly well-respected brand, and its beard balm is a personal favorite. In addition to smelling like how I imagine a men’s spa would smell (sandalwood, vanilla, subtly smoky), it’s smoothing and hydrating without being oily, sticky, or gooey. It’s specifically for coarser beards, which is great for me, but I predict just about anybody would enjoy this. Just slap a little on after you shower and your beard will feel soft and smell delightful for the rest of the day.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
People will try to sell you all kinds of beard shampoos, conditioners, gels, and ointments for your showering routine. With all due respect, fuck that shit. Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap (which you can use on your body and hair) will energize your skin, wake your beard up, and leave you smelling great. You’ll step out of the shower with your hair feeling light, fluffy, de-tangled, and fresh. Plus, one bottle will last you for like a year, because you need so little of it.
The Best Beard Trimmers and Clippers
Bevel Beard Trimmer
This is one of the Cadillacs of beard trimming. A beautiful clipper that looks like it’s from the future, the Bevel stays clean and comes with a few different blades, so you can get that barbershop-level trim you desire.
Wahl Clipper Pro
I’m not going to lie—I’ve been using the Wahl Clipper Color Pro to buzz my hair and trim my beard for over a decade. The current version is $35, and I’ve only had to replace it once (I think the first one was under $20). If you want a no-frills, easy-to-use clipper that will 100% get the job done, this is the one.
Or, if you want something that’s a little more sleek—and wireless—level up and get this Wahl Clipper Stainless Steel Lithium Ion+ Beard Trimmer. (It’ll also do your nose, so there’s that.)
The Best Beard Brush
Zilberhaar Boar Bristle Brush
This brush is powerful, and if your beard is long enough to be brushed, you need it. It’ll straighten you out and give you some volume without changing the natural shape of your beard. Its bristles are also strong, angled, and multiple lengths, meaning you’re getting a very thorough refresh when you use it. You can get an expensive beard brush, but honestly this one is under $20 and it’ll last for years.
At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can tell what makes your beard feel and look good. Don’t seek out what’s trendy or expensive, and don’t go H.A.M. with a super complicated regimen—an effective routine with a few excellent products can definitely change your beard for the better. Once you find the right combination, all that’s left to do is figure out how to eat that damn hummus wrap without getting it all over your face.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.