Beard & Mustache Care: The Definitive Guide

The popularity of Beards and Mustaches has waxed and waned over the centuries. From the long thin mustache style of Dr. Fu Manchu in 1912, to Blackbeard’s whiskers of terror in the 1700’s, to the bushy style of the man (Julius) on the Pringles can.

Although growing a beard or mustache might be easy for some men, caring for one is a process and takes work, commitment and time. Facial hair requires more attention than head hair as it is exposed to food, saliva, germs, other people’s germs, saliva and other “nasties”.

When a microbiologist tested Men’s beards they were found to be dirtier than public toilet seats. This is because not only is there food and saliva caught in beards, but also because men often touch their beards and mustaches several times a day. Everything that can contaminate hands can also contaminate mustaches and beards. Everything from your pets, lawn, work environments, restaurants, dirt, gas stations, public restrooms etc can end up in your facial hair. The food, saliva, fungi and other beard stowaways will continue to persist until they are washed out. 

Your beard and mustache are really close to your nose and mouth where disease-causing germs enter your system.  If it is in your facial hair, there is a good chance it will also get into your mouth, sinus’ and lungs.

In a survey of more than 1000 men, 41% said they do not regularly wash or clean their beard. YUCK!

Men often do not realize that like head hair, facial hair can have an odor after not being washed for several days. The odor from beards and mustaches can be quite pungent. The owner of the facial hair often does not detect the odor because it has been gradually increasing “right under their nose”. Their senses ignore it. Think of a cigarette smoker that insists that they do not smell of cigarettes; but, everyone within 100 feet can immediately tell that they are a smoker. The smoker’s nose is immune to the cigarette odor just like a person essentially becomes immune to the smell of their beard.

If you don a beard or mustache and smoke then the issues with facial hair cleanliness are even more important.

The first line of defense to decrease the chances of “The Nasties” making their way to your beard or mustache is washing your hands often and well with soap and water!

Washing Facial Hair

Men often do not wash their beards and mustaches daily.  When they do wash their facial hair it is often a cursory superficial wash rather than a complete and thorough job. Washing facial hair takes more time and effort than washing head hair. Head hair usually does not have food or saliva deposited in it (unless you have young children or a golden retriever!). Facial hair is also thicker and coarser than head hair and can be curlier and more interwoven than head hair. These factors make washing beard hair more complicated compared to head hair. 

The texture and density of beards and mustaches often requires that more time and effort be taken to get the hair clean compared to head hair. Facial skin is usually more sensitive than head skin and is more prone to irritation than the scalp. Some men avoid washing their beards and mustaches because they believe it is washing that is causing irritation to their skin. What is often causing the irritation is bacteria and fungi have been allowed to procreate causing more bacteria and fungi in the area leading to skin issues.

Some men have also had issues with grooming products that have been left on the hair and skin that are either irritating the skin or clogging pores. If there is a skin reaction within hours of using a product it is usually the product. If the reaction occurs days after the product has been applied it is often not the product, it is leaving the product on for days due to not washing the facial hair that is causing the problem. Starting a regular washing routine may eliminate the irritation.

If there is an immediate skin reaction it is wise to look for alternate products that have hypoallergenic all natural ingredients.

Beard Wash or Shampoo?

Companies that sell Beard Wash of course preach that shampoo will damage your skin and beard or mustache. Millions of men swear by their favorite shampoo for their beard or mustache.

Who’s right? 

It depends. . . 

All men are different and have different needs. There is a wide range of shampoos available and a moderate range of beard and mustache washes.

Before deciding what is best for you consider:

Head hair is usually more oily than facial hair which means your favorite shampoo may be stripping the limited amount of oil that your beard and mustache has and drying your skin.

Facial hair often has beard and mustache dandruff that drying of the skin can make worse. The longer the beard, the more of a problem beard dandruff can become. Dandruff shampoos often increase beard dandruff. Unfortunately, upon seeing that the problem is getting worse, users often use the dandruff shampoo more. Of course this makes the problem worse and then they use it more . . and so on . . and so on .. and so on.

Both Beard washes and shampoos can have sulfates, parabens and harsh detergents. 

Products are available in both the beard wash varieties and shampoos that are natural and gentle on the hair and skin.

As William Shakespeare said “to thy own self be true”. 

For some guys the most that they can commit to is washing their beards in the shower with whatever product sits in the carrier that day. Others are willing to follow a 10-step program if their beard and skin are healthier and look great. There are also men who are willing to start at one level and then slowly progress and add more steps. Wherever you sit on the continuum start at that point and improve if it is right for you.

If you have rarely washed your facial hair before, the first step is washing it every day (or at least 3 times per week). Be aware that just starting to wash your facial hair daily may produce more flaky skin as you clean and agitate skin that has been left with undisturbed layers of dry skin for weeks or months or years? 

When choosing a shampoo or beard wash look for natural (preferably organic) ingredients without sulfates or parabens. Investigate the costs of use. Some products literally need “a little dab will do you”, others will need a replacement bottle before the month is out. As cost is usually an important product attribute, it is important to consider before buying. Finding the perfect beard wash to then have to decide a month later if you will be buying another bottle or contributing to your child’s college fund, is not a good long term solution.

As with washing head hair, it is important to stimulate the skin and physically dislodge contaminants from the hair rather than lightly removing dirt and grime from the outer hair layer and not reaching the inner layers of the skin. Just like washing head hair, beard washing also cleans the skin where the oil originates. Washing a beard or mustache addresses the grime and nasties that come from the environment as well as the dead skin cells, dry flaky skin and oils that come from the skin on the inside of the beard.

Rinsing after Washing

It is important to rinse out products meant to cleanse head hair or facial hair. If these products are left on the hair they can be drying to the hair and skin, leave the hair dull and weighed down and actually attracting more dirt and grime. It is important to rinse all facial hair thoroughly which may take a considerable length of time depending on beard density, length and depth. The facial hair and skin should be agitated while rinsing to ensure all sides of the hair have been rinsed, including the underside of the hair shaft.

Combing and Brushing

Special beard and mustache combs and brushes are available to make the process easier. Combing daily helps keep your beard tangle free as well as stimulate skin cells and hair follicles. 

Beard combing done before washing, or during the washing process, can help dislodge unwanted particles from the hair which allows for better cleaning. 

Combing your beard when wet can help place the hair where you would like it to dry.  

Daily combing or brushing of a beard that is long enough to comb is always a good idea. It helps dislodge contaminants that may be caught in the hair.

Do I need a conditioner after washing?

Some hair professionals and health care professionals recommend washing and conditioning your beard every time you shower or at least a few times per week. The decision to condition or not condition your beard will depend on your hair type as well as the other products you are using. If you are using beard oil you may not need to use conditioner after washing. Some men with extremely dry facial hair may benefit from using conditioner and beard oil.


Do I need to use Beard Oil?

That depends . . . 

Let’s break down this question into cosmetic importance, hygiene, and skin and hair health. 


Beard oil can give your beard or mustache an improved look and feel. It can aid beard shaping and grooming as well as improve the appearance by giving it a lustrous and healthy look. The cosmetic benefits provided by beard oil products will differ by different brands as well as your individual beard and skin type. One type of oil may make your beard look greasy and lack-luster while another brand may make you look and feel like a millionaire. It takes trial and error to determine what works best for you. If a product is not working for you anymore then changing brands may restore the look you want. Hair care products often change ingredients or processes which can affect how well it works on you. As well, as a person ages their skin and hair changes. The product may be exactly the same as the last 5 years you used it, but YOU have changed and now another product may work better for you.

Skin and Hair Health

Just because skin is under a beard doesn’t mean it doesn’t behave like normal skin. If your skin is itchy, feels tight, has visible redness, starts getting bumpy or flaky you may be having a reaction to the beard product you are using. Do not continue to use the product believing your skin will “get used to it”. Thoroughly wash and rinse the product from your beard and give your skin 24 hours to rest before trying another product, even if the product is one you have used before.

As we become older, hair becomes drier. In younger days often people are able to grow hair half-way down their back and it remains healthy and luminous. As they age through their 40s’, 50’s, 60’s long hair usually is drier and more likely to break and have split ends. Beard hair follows the same pattern. As you age the length of beard hair may have to be shortened to keep the hair healthy and you may have to use beard oil to help moisturize the hair. 


Beard balms and oils can trap dirt, dead skin, bacteria, sweat and other nasties. It is important to wash your beard thoroughly before grooming with additional products. Because beard oil can make a beard look much better, some men are tempted to add more beard oil rather than going through the time and effort it takes to wash a beard. This creates problems as the facial hair already has a layer of hair product with trapped nasties and now another layer is being added to trap a fresh layer of nasties. Do not fool yourself that multiple layers of hair product looks any better on a beard than it does on a head of hair.

Grooming & Styling

Trimming your beard or mustache helps it look great as well as supporting the health of your hair and skin. 

There are more than a dozen specific styles for beards that are currently popular. Gillette has an impressive article describing the different styles and what looks best for each face shape. Perfect fades, shaping and lines takes time and practice and what is perfect changes over time. Your perfect technique at 25 may not work as perfectly at 40. 

Remember to address neck hair. This is often forgotten as the area is literally “staring you in the face”. Neck hair and stubble can completely ruin the look of a well defined beard.

Pro tip - The perfect styled look can be enhanced by using a beard oil or beard balm. 


Grooming for beard and mustache health

Split ends

Although it isn’t well known, beards and mustaches can get split ends. Like head hair, this will cause your look to be dry and frizzy (aka the scruffy look) as well as change the feel of your beard or mustache. Split ends do not repair themselves and will continue to get worse.

The best way to prevent split ends is 

  1. Keep your beard shorter than the length that your facial hair naturally starts to split,
  2. Trim your beard often, 
  3. Never use a hair dryer on your beard,
  4. Hands carry bacteria, food and other elements that are not healthy for your facial hair or skin. Try to resist stroking your beard to the times you want to look particularly wise or thoughtful.
  5. If it is right for you, use beard oil.

A easy and simple beard care routine is:

  1. Wash your beard and towel dry so the hair is moist but not wet. (The following steps also apply to mustaches)
  2. Comb or brush your beard.
  3. Trim flyaways - flyaways are those hairs that have a mind of their own and are going in a different direction from the group (there’s always one isn’t there?). Scissors or a clipper without a guard works best for these hairs
  4. Trim beard using a clipper with adjustable guards. Guards allow you to choose the length the hair will be. Adjustable guards allow appropriate shaping of the beard to give a great 3 dimensional look. If you have not trimmed your beard before, or if it has been awhile since you have, start with a longer guard and then gradually decrease the size of the guard to get the right look while not accidently trimming too much.

Beard Dyeing

Sometimes the Beard Gods smile on a few lucky men and they have the perfect amount of grey in the perfect places to bestow the distinguished silver fox appearance. For the other 99.9% of men they are left with the choices of going gray naturally or doing something about it.

“Doing something about it:” can be broken down into 4 categories.

Do you have a small to medium amount of gray or a medium to large amount of grey?

Are you looking for a temporary or a permanent solution?

It is important to use products that will not harm your facial hair and do not contain harmful ingredients such as sulfates, parabens or glycols. Products should also have ingredients that nourish and protect the hair. Hair dyes can be very drying to the skin and hair. Facial skin is more sensitive to these factors than the skin on the head which makes it more likely to dry out or suffer damage from hair dyes. 

If you have a small or medium amount of gray, a hair mascara like Grey Disappear may be your best choice. It provides temporary natural looking coverage of gray hair that washes out with shampoo while nurturing the hair with antioxidants, Vitamin E and natural waxes. It can also be used as a filler for patchy areas.

Permanent dyes can be used for a small or medium amount of beard or mustache grey. Look for products that have applicators that will target a small amount of hair. As the beard hair grows the new growth will be grey while the ends of the hair will be the color of the hair dye. When reapplying permanent hair color to facial hair be aware that usually you want to color just the new gray growth and not the previously colored hair. Adding new dye on top of old dye can cause the old growth to look darker which may give your beard a weird appearance. 

Although it is a “permanent” dye, facial hair will not hold the color as well as head hair. You may have to refresh the color in a few weeks or months. The color change to the hair is permanent, and will not go completely back to the grey that was covered, but it will not stay as vibrant as when you first dyed it because the color does not adhere perfectly to the facial hair.

Permanent dyes are often used when there is a medium to large amount of grey. Because the entire beard will now be the same color rather than the natural diversity that beard hair usually has, having a beard colored the exact same color does not look as natural. If you have heard of a “shoe polish” beard that is what this term is referring to. A beard that looks like it has been colored using shoe polish.

Remember permanent dyes dye everything they touch. Gloves will need to be used, protective clothing is recommended and covering the floor is often a good step. When using a permanent dye, washing and rinsing out the product completely is essential. Dye that is not washed out will continue to color and dry out the hair as well as having a detrimental effect on the skin. It may take several minutes of thorough rinsing to remove all the hair dye.

Pro Tip - Hair dyes should not get on the skin as it will stain the skin. Extra time needs to be taken to ensure the harsh chemicals in the dye are off the hair & the skin.

What is the difference between a beard dye and a beard color?

Because head hair and facial hair are different they do not respond to dying the same way. Head hair will respond better to dye and usually does not need to have the process again except to cover new growth grey hairs. Beards and mustaches do not incorporate dyes as well and often need to be re-dyed in weeks or months.

Beard color is a more general term that refers to changing the color of the beard and it can be permanent, semi-permanent or temporary. Grey Disappear by Generation Klean would be classified as a Beard color.

Remember that dyes and colors can cause allergic reactions even if you have used a different product of the same brand. To make sure you are not allergic to formula complete a patch test of the product on your skin

Facial Scrubs

Scrubs may be used to exfoliate the skin underneath facial hair when it becomes dry or builds up. They can help loosen dry skin which will then be removed by thorough washing. Care should be taken not to over-do using scrubs as they can dry out the skin further and remove the natural skin oils which keep skin, and the facial hair healthy. If you are having problems with ingrown hairs, exfoliation may help relieve the problem as it removes the superficial layers of dead skin. 

Factors that affect your Beard


A diet that helps head hair also helps facial hair. See this article for expanded hair nutritional information.


Exercise affects how you feel and look. Exercise improves blood and lymphatic flow throughout the body which includes the skin, which is our largest organ. Improving these factors improves skin and hair health.


Illness affects how we feel as well as affecting our skin and hair health. Having a 3-day flu will unlikely affect your hair; but, there are many other medical conditions that affect head hair as well as facial hair. Autoimmune diseases, thyroid conditions, psoriasis and rapid weight loss are a few of the conditions that can lead to hair issues.


Advancing age can cause hair strands to become thinner and finer. The amount of regrowth can also decrease over time which means that the full, thick beard you had in your forties may not be the same in your 50s. 

Beard Medical Conditions

Yeast Tinea barbae is a fungus that develops on the skin underneath beards or mustaches. Other names for this condition are barber’s itch or ringworm. The name ringworm comes from a circular pattern of red or scaly lesions. Ringworm can cause bald patches on skin that previously had full hair growth. The fungus can be transferred between people or from objects like brushes or clippers. 


Over the counter treatments are usually effective for treating the fungus. If improvement is not noted within a few weeks a trip to the doctor may be necessary for an oral medication to treat the fungus. 


Daily facial hair hygiene is the best defense against barber’s itch.


Beard and Mustache FAQ

Beard oil is designed to be used frequently or daily to help moisturize the facial hair and provide a healthy look to the hair. Beard balm's main purpose is as a styling product although it can also help moisturize the facial hair. Both can help condition, moisturize, soften and style your beard or mustache.

Both can be used at the same time; however, just like with head hair, multiple products can leave the hair looking dirty and oily. Layered facial hair products can be detrimental to the look you are trying to achieve.

Remember these products need to be thoroughly washed out as bacteria, fungus, germs and dirt are easily “captured” by the products.

While all men have facial hair, often they do not have the density of hair follicles, or the length of hair growth, to grow a beard or mustache.

Genetics plays a significant role in determining who can grow a beard or a mustache.


Many children grew up with a cowlick that their moms (or dads) spent the first 12 years of their life trying to tame. Did the hair grow in the desired direction despite your parents combing it the correct way 3000 times? No!

The direction of the hair follicle determines the direction of the hair. Combing hair will not change the direction of the hair follicle; however, combing can temporarily help hair, whether your beard or head hair, fall in the desired direction.

No-Shave November is a month-Iong journey during which participants forgo shaving and grooming in order to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness. The rules of No-Shave November: put down your razor for 30 days and donate your monthly hair-maintenance expenses to the cause.

In 2003 two Australian men started the trend because they wanted to grow mustaches. A year later they started a fund-raiser and raised over $40K. Since that time the Movember movement has grown to now support cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. By 2023 they had supported over 1,320 men’s health projects.

Edward Teach (c.1680-1718) was one of the most famous pirates that ever lived. He had a huge black beard that grew down to his waist. He lives on today in movies and books.

Dr. Rossi recommends using a cleanser made for your skin type which will “remove dirt and debris without drying your skin, which helps prevent the all-too-common dry skin beneath your beard.”

The terms soap and cleanser are often used interchangeably. Usually cleansers are gentler on the skin and less drying than soaps, however, because of different terms used for marketing reasons, and the entry of small manufacturers into the market, there is a great deal of over-lap between terms.

Per the FDA for a product to be called a soap, alkali salts of fatty acids must be the only material that results in the product's cleaning action.

Combing a beard and stimulating the skin can bring more blood to the hair follicles. This increased blood flow to the hair follicles may translate into faster hair growth; however, millions of people can attest that they stimulated the skin on their heads in the hopes of having faster hair growth and it did not result in increased hair growth.

Combing helps detangle your beard as well as distributing beard oil and balm evenly and thoroughly.

Both are correct. In the US Mustache is more common. In other English speaking countries both Mustache and Moustache are used.

There are a huge number of different types of beards, mustaches or beard and mustache combinations.

Beard styles are divided into 4 main styles - square, round, oval and rectangular.

Gillette has a good description of 18 styles with pictures.

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