Most people don’t ask us about our beards; they simply observe them, experience a moment of awestruck wonder, and then move on.
But when people do ask about them, one of the most common questions is “doesn’t that thing itch?”
It might get annoying hearing it so often, but we can all attest that the question is valid. Beards get itchy. All hair does – new growth in particular. But there are some tools that we can use to minimize or even eliminate this problem in our beards.
We talk a lot about beard products on this site. Being either bearded or pogonophiles, this is an industry rather close to our hearts. You’ve probably seen our article on beard oil – if you haven’t, please note that those letters are blue and highly clickable – and several other pieces where we’ve surely mentioned the benefits of oil. And one of those benefits is combating beard itch.
One of the main reasons our beards get itchy is dry skin. Beard hair is coarse and dry, and loves to suck the moisture out of your face. The “moisture” in this case refers to sebum, aka skin oil. Think of it like a tug of war between your hair and the skin it’s growing out of. But as our URL indicates, beards can be fierce, and they’ll win that war every time.
The fix for this is simple: beard oil. By applying oil to your beard and the skin under it, you’re replenishing that lost moisture. Science is a little unclear on whether the application of oil to the beard stops it from leeching oil from the skin – it’s not like the hair is making a conscious decision either way – but the oil is good for the hair anyhow, so using it solves the problem either way.
Most beard oils also come packed with essential oils that provide additional benefits when used. Oils like tea tree and lavender can be useful as antiseptic/astringent agents. Like any essential oil, the FDA has no comment on this function. So you’ve got to make up your own mind on that.
Beard oil is pretty common these days, and most bearded guys know about its basic benefits. But what you may not realize is that when it comes to beard itch, a good beard shampoo (often also called beard wash) is just as important. People will also recommend beard oil – rightfully so – as a way to prevent beard dandruff. But in this case, beard wash is actually much more important!
To understand why, you’ve first got to understand what causes dandruff. Dry skin is a common cause, and in that case beard oil is a good supplement to help treat the condition. But dandruff can also be caused by an overabundance of malassezia, a yeast-like fungus that exists on all of our bodies (especially in the hair), and which feeds on the fats and proteins offered by skin oil and skin itself. This can be rather itchy as well, so treating can be one of the most crucial methods of combating itch.
Dandruff and itch can also be caused by oily skin, but that’s very seldom a problem with beards (99% of the time we have the opposite problem). In some cases, dandruff may result from using a shampoo that causes an allergic or allergy-like irritation. Neither of these are the most common causes though.
And if you have either of the most common causes – dry skin or malassezia – then increasing the frequency of washing with a moisturizing beard wash is the best move you can make.
If you’ve got dry skin itch and dandruff, you need to use beard oil to help your beard get the moisture it needs. You also need to wash with a moisturizing shampoo so that you don’t strip that much-needed oil away from your beard, but you will wash away the skin flakes that are hanging out and waiting to start precipitating through your beard.
If malassezia is the cause, you’ll still need to wash with a good moisturizing shampoo. Something with tea tree and lavender can make for a nice, natural solution here; though there are commercially available shampoos for this condition as well. Our suggestion is to use something gentler and more natural like Beard Monster’s beard wash – the Death’s Garden beard wash in particular, as it’s supercharged with tea tree oil. If your malassezia does not clear up with these methods, you may want to contact your physician as aggressive cases do exist, though they are rare.
Of course, if that’s not enough to convince you, the Mayo Clinic lists one of the causes of dandruff as “not shampooing often enough.”
Washing your beard is not the magic solution for all your beard care needs, but it’s the most neglected among today’s beardsmen. A lot of people don’t really even think about washing their beards. But they wash the hair on the heads pretty much every day – so why the hell not?
Not Too Much
Though it may be very healthy for your beard, you shouldn’t wash it too often. Washing every day runs the risk of stripping too much natural oil away. Remember, while beard oil is great for your skin and hair, and a moisturizing beard wash can help minimize the damage of washing, your skin’s natural oil will always be better for it than any externally applied oil.
If you are experiencing dandruff issues with your beard, we recommend using a beard wash every day for a couple of weeks, then reevaluating. If you’re still having a problem, consider talking to a doctor. You may have a dandruff issue that transcends the cosmetic and becomes medical.
If you are using a wash / oil combo for maintenance, we recommend using the wash every three days, and beard oil daily (focusing on the skin when applying).
(Note: This blog is not your doctor – if you have a serious dandruff problem, especially if there is pain involved with the skin irritation, you should see a doctor before beginning any sort of regimen).