balm (noun) a fragrant cream or liquid used to heal or soothe the skin.
Editor's note: If you were wondering what a beard balm is and what kinds of things you can expect to be in one, this is the article is jam packed with information that you might not already be aware of. Please note however that although this blog is mostly educational, there are a couple of small plugs for Milkman's beard balm. We hope you don't mind.
If you've been taking an interest in products for your beard then you will almost certainly have come across the term "beard balm". Although this term doesn't have any widely accepted technical definition, a casual browse through the ingredients of a beard balm will give some insight into what it is intended to do. In almost all balms on the market you will see bees wax, shea butter and one or a combination of oils, such as jojoba, coconut or grape seed oil. Each of these ingredients will give the balm properties to help address the problems I was encountering. So what are the main purposes of a beard balm and why should anyone consider buying one? Different people may offer other views on this but the Milkman considers that a good beard balm should at least do the following.
The balm should not only weigh hairs down like a beard oil, it should also have waxes in it to add stiffness to the hair, keeping the beard looking tidy through the day. Bees wax is the most popular, and often the only wax used in a lot of natural beard balms. The only problem with bees wax only balms is a lot of people complain they do not apply easily, often requiring scraping of the product to get it out of the container, as well as excessive work to rub it in. It can also result in a strange "product feel" whereby the balm is quite stiff to touch and then slowly becomes more workable as it heats up.
Some manufacturers may try to work their way around this by using lanolin, a type of grease taken from the wool of sheep. Although there has been some controversy over the allergenicity of lanolin, it appears that (although allergies are possible) it isn't a huge problem in this regard. However, some people do not want sheep-based products in their balms. It's a shameless plug but this is why Milkman's beard balm (called Beard Candy TM) achieves a similar effect using only a combination of soft plant-based waxes, that gives the balm a wonderful product feel without the wool grease. The other advantage of using these waxes is that they complement the hold qualities of the bees wax, making for an ideal beard styling product.
You may also see beard balms and (perhaps more commonly) moustache waxes with petroleum-based waxes like paraffin. Again, these are not used in Beard Candy as a lot of Milkman's customers are opposed to these kinds of ingredients. In recognising the need for society to gradually move away from fossil fuels and their by-products, we feel it's best to avoid petroleum waxes, especially when there are other readily available alternatives.
Much like beard oil, the natural oils and butters in a beard balm should help to moisturise the skin and hair, as well as add a protective coating to lock in moisture without clogging the skin. As you may have noticed from our post on beard oils, these ingredients will differ with respect to skin and hair absorption, filming/protective qualities and nourishment.
For this reason, we recommend a balm that has quite a few different oils and butters in it, so that the relative advantages and disadvantages of each are balanced out. For example, if a balm only contains shea butter, you may be missing out on the fantastic qualities that other natural plant butters can provide. Also, as noted in our Demystifying Beard Oil blog post, some oils absorb into the hair really well, and others do not. In our view, it's better to even out the choice of oils so that there is a mix of moisturising, absorbing and filming oils to increase product effectiveness.
This is self-explanatory. The denser, more waxy features of a beard balm should coat the hair evenly without clumping and give the beard hair a brilliant lustre that will make it stand out from the crowd. The hold that a good beard balm provides will also help to straighten the beard out, minimising light scatter from the hairs thereby making it look shiny and healthy.
A lot of beard balms will be scented with essential oils to make you smell wonderful and make others want to cuddle up to your gorgeous beard. The scents can be many and varied so it will be up to your personal tastes as to which you prefer. Generally speaking, it is worth noting that compared to other ingredients in a beard balm, there are essential oils that have the capacity to be relatively more allergenic. We recommend you avoid essential oils you know you are allergic to. Also, as with all new cosmetic products, do a patch test before use to make sure you aren't susceptible to any unwanted reactions.
The bottom line
If you haven't ventured into the world of beard balms, we strongly recommend you give it a go. A lot of people say that if they could only use one beard product it would be a good balm because it keeps their beard looking so neat. Luckily, you don't have to limit yourself with many beard products available at affordable prices. If you've got a beard that could use some TLC, do some research and grab yourself a can of balm - you'll never look back. If you want to pre-order Milkman's all new Beard Candy check out our beard product catalogue.
If you've got a second, let us know in the comments section what you look for in a beard balm.