Have you ever used a head shampoo or body wash in your beard and found that it really irritated and/or dried out your skin? You are not alone, and there is a perfectly simple explanation for it. It’s because your beard is sensitive!
Your beard and your face is physiologically different to your head hair, scalp, and the rest of your body. Facial skin is soft, supple, and thinner than the rest of your body, making it is much more prone to wear and tear.
Secondly, beard hair can be less dense compared to the hair on your head. This means there is less hair protecting the sensitive skin on your face compared to your scalp. When you are using a cleansing product on your head, the hair is able to consume some of the shampoo before it reaches your scalp. In addition to this, the scalp is much oily and durable and therefore is able to tolerate a strong shampoo. Studies show that purely because of the amount of hair on the head, there are naturally more sebaceous glands which produce a lot more sebum, which is able to protect the head and also prevent water loss through the scalp (O’goshi et al, 2000).
On the other hand, a shampoo in your beard will react differently. The shampoo will easily penetrate through your beard and reach your facial skin and a higher rate. Your face will not be able to tolerate the harshness of a shampoo. It will dry out and be irritated because there are less protective substances on the face, such as less sebum and a thinner epidermis. These factors will contribute to a lot more water loss.
The harshness of a head shampoo can be attributed to its purpose. Head shampoos are formulated to bind to dirt, grease, all that hair product you use, and the copious amounts of sebum in your hair and scalp. These formulas will contain a high concentration of surfactant. Surfactant is basically the cleansing ingredient and acts like a detergent – by binding to all that dirt and oil that don’t dissolve in water and washes it away. Many shampoos contain an ingredient called sodium lauryl sulfate, amongst other surfactants, and when used in high concentrations, can be harsh to the skin. This is because they will also wash away the protective sebum layer your skin produces, leaving the skin exposed. Your scalp may be able to bear this, but your face will not. The effect on your face from a head shampoo is two-fold due to what little dirt, oil and sebum there is. That is why there are specific cleansers for your face – they contain only a small concentration of surfactants and active ingredients so not to irritate your facial skin.
Some cleansers, particularly bar soaps, are also alkaline, meaning they have a high pH. Your skin has a relatively low pH (around 5.5). Sebaceous glands produce a thin acid film on the surface of the skin, giving it its low pH. The acid film is very important to your health as it acts as barrier to bacteria, viruses and other potential contaminants that might penetrate the skin. Alkaline surfactants can strip away this acid mantle and damage the skin epidermis. When this happens on your face, you will definitely feel it happening through that dreaded irritation and dryness.
So what should you use to wash your beard? You need to find a product that is specifically designed to be used on the face, such as Milkman’s 2 in 1 beard shampoo & conditioner. These products should have labels that state they are safe to use on the face, and should contain low concentrations of mild surfactants like sodium lauroyl sarcosinate or cocamidopropyl betaine, which are naturally derived from plants. Products designed on the face should also include active ingredients that hydrate the skin for added sootheness like aloe vera and glycerine.
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Author: John Porreca
Editor: Ben De Campo
O'goshi K, Iguchi M, Tagami H. 2000. Functional analysis of the stratum corneum of scalp skin: studies in patients with alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia. Archives of Dermatological Research (12): 605-6011