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Best beard balm 2023: keep facial hair soft, shiny and smelling great

Our top picks for facial hair fanatics - the best beard balms from just £9

In the same way a salad is naked without a dressing, a beard isn’t quite properly dressed without a beard balm. A good one can transform otherwise lacklustre, shapeless facial hair into a well-groomed, sleek-looking, sweet-smelling bag-on beard.

Acting like a leave-in conditioner, a beard balm is the perfect product to help keep face fungus soft and silky. And as they’re made with ingredients that are often just as good for skin, they’re also great for minimising itchiness and preventing the dreaded beard dandruff – a problem most beard growers will experience at some time point since facial hair wicks moisture away from the skin, leaving it dry and flaky.

As a bonus – and an important one given that beards can be real crumb catchers – scented balms will help keep facial hair smelling clean and fresh. They can even help beards looks fuller by plumping up the hair shafts, which is handy if your growth isn’t as thick as you’d like. Time then, to make that facial salad a tasty one.

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Best beard balms: At a glance

How to choose the best beard balm for you

Why should I choose a balm rather than a beard oil or moisturiser?

Both beard oils and beard moisturisers nourish and condition skin and hair but because balms are richer and thicker they often provide more intense conditioning and, if they contain beeswax, tend to be better at helping shape denser, more fulsome facial hair. Since most are fairly solid, they’re also more convenient for travel and for gym or work bags where accidental spillage would be a disaster.

What’s the best way to apply a beard balm?

Application couldn’t be simpler: simply scoop out a little beard balm using your fingertips, melt between your palms if the balm is solid, and run through your beard, using gentle circular motions to massage in.

Balms can be applied to beard hair that’s dry but for maximum benefits many products recommend you apply to facial hair that’s still slightly damp after washing as this helps lock in moisture.

Since skin also benefits from the conditioning properties of a beard balm, make sure your fingertips reach beneath the hair.

What if my beard is big and bushy?

For longer, thicker beards distribute the balm evenly with the help of a beard comb or beard brush. Remember, with beard balms less is often more; use too much and your facial hair will look greasy rather than silky so start with a small amount and add more if necessary.

How often do I need to use a beard balm?

Once a day is often enough to keep facial hair conditioned, though a freshen up throughout the day can help beards keep their shape and fresh scent.

Are all beard balms vegan-friendly?

No. To create their thick, balmy texture many need to use incorporate a small amount of beeswax. Check the ingredients list carefully and look out for the words Cera Alba – the posh name for beeswax – if you avoid ingredients from an animal origin.

Do I need to spend a fortune?

Unlike moisturisers or serums, which can feature premium ingredients and technologically advanced delivery systems, most beard balms are formulated with a similar raft of fairly basic ingredients (usually shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba, argan and avocado oils) so you rarely have to break the bank to afford one.

Smaller brands (like Jos Grooming) charge more but that’s because of their limited availability and small batch approach. As a rule of thumb, expect to pay between £5-15 for something worth gracing your man fur.

How we test beard balms

As an expert in all things related to male grooming, this journalist has sported a beard for over 20 years now, so the one essential requirement for testing is present and correct.

For testing, a similar amount of each balm is applied to gain an accurate comparison of each product’s coverage, and each balm is applied with fingertips and massaged in so it reaches the skin beneath the beard. Each balm is used for three days to see how it performs over time.

The testing process asks several key questions: How soft and glossy does the balm leave facial hair feeling and looking? Is there any greasy residue? How does it smell and does the smell last? We also note whether a product is vegan-friendly, whether it represents good value for money and how recyclable the jar, tin or tub is. Ultimately, though, the acid test is how fabulous these balms made facial hair feel.

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The best beard balms you can buy in 2023

1. The Brighton Beard Co. Creampot Tom’s Mandarin & Cedarwood Beard Balm: Best luxury beard balm

Price when reviewed: £22 for 80ml | Check price at The Brighton Beard Co. 

The Brighton Beard Co.’s Beard Balms stick closely to the traditional concept of what a beard balm is, particularly in terms of its texture, which is fairly solid and requires warm fingertips to melt.

It’s available in several fragrance combos but this Mandarin & Cedarwood variant (the company’s best seller) has a lovely, fresh, slightly buttery citrus aroma that instantly refreshes facial hair, while shea butter and jojoba oil provide conditioning.

Made in the UK, using 100% natural ingredients it also comes in a handsomely designed recyclable tin which makes it one of the best looking as well of the best performing balms you can buy.

2. King C Gillette Beard Soft Balm: Best lightweight balm

Price when reviewed: £10 for 100g | Check price at AmazonFrom Gillette’s ‘vintage’ range King C. Gillette (named after the company’s founding father) this balm harnesses over a century’s worth of grooming experience to deliver first-class results.

More like a thick moisturiser than a waxy balm, it’s lightweight enough to be non-greasy, and is formulated with nourishing cocoa butter, shea butter and argan oil. It has a lovely scent thanks to the inclusion of courmarin – a fragrance note often used in men’s aftershaves to give them a sweet, vanillary smell that’s also reminiscent of freshly cut hay.

Quickly absorbed, it’s great for beards of any length and given that it comes in a generously sized pot, is great value for money too.

3. Bulldog Original Beard Balm: Best budget beard balm

Price when reviewed: £7.99 for 75ml | Check price at AmazonBulldog excels in producing no-fuss, affordable grooming gear (its Original Moisturiser is especially good) and this beard balm is one of the stars of their range.

It has a thick, creamy texture (think Crème brûlée) and provides a light hold, while aloe vera, shea butter and antioxidant green tea make it as good for skin as it for hair.

The fragrance – made of natural ingredients like lavender – is pleasant without being overpowering and, in keeping with Bulldog’s commitment to the environment, the pot is made of post-consumer recycled plastic. It’s vegan friendly too.

4. Wilkinson Sword Barber’s Style Beard Balm: Best for a fresh scent

Price when reviewed: £10 for 56g | Check price at Wilkinson SwordPart of Wilkinson Sword’s range of products inspired by barbershop essentials, this balm — featuring shea butter and a trio of conditioning oils (sunflower, avocado and jojoba) — is perfect for freshening up facial hair thanks to a crisp, invigorating cedarwood and eucalyptus scent.

A solid balm, it melts in seconds once warned by the fingertips and has a great, non-greasy texture, conditioning hair without adding too much shine.

There’s a touch of beeswax there to give it solidity so it’s not suitable for vegans, but otherwise it’s a brilliant balm.

5. Fine Fettle Pine and Dandy Natural Beard Balm: Best all-natural balm

Price when reviewed: £19 for 50ml | Check price at AmazonHand made in the UK, this great-smelling balm, featuring a refreshing and alluring mix of lavender, geranium and pine, was one of our favourite beard balms. Intensely conditioning, it has a thick texture similar to Vaseline and offers excellent, glossy conditioning to beards of any length and a gorgeous scent which sticks around for several hours.

Granted, it will set you back more than the other balms on our shortlist but we found a little goes a long way and you’re paying for the hand-made, small batch, natural approach here. Its key agent is lanolin, a super-rich moisturiser derived from wool, though, so it’s not vegan friendly and if you’re allergic to wool you might want to avoid, but otherwise it’s a product any beard would benefit from.

6. American Crew Beard Balm: Best for long lasting fragrance

Price when reviewed: £9.31 for 60g | Check price at AmazonGiven that American Crew is experts in men’s haircare, it’s no surprise that this beard conditioner and styler is perfect for keeping beards looking their best.

Like The Brighton Beard Co’s beard balm, this handy grooming aid comes in a soft but solid form and requires softening between the finger tips.

Formulated with sweet almond oil, shea butter and beeswax, it both conditions and helps shape full beards – especially if you use a beard brush or comb to distribute. The fragrance is clean, fresh and pleasant and one of the longest lasting of the balms here – you can still smell it on your beard hours after use.

7. Hawkins & Brimble Elemi & Ginseng Beard Balm: Best value for money beard balm

Price when reviewed: £9.95 for 50g | Check price at AmazonBrit brand Hawkins & Brimble has steadily built a thoroughly deserved reputation for producing quality grooming gear at affordable prices and this Award Winning beard balm is no exception.

Based around nourishing cocoa butter, with added Omega 3 & 6 oils to help prevent dry skin it’s as good for the skin your beard emerges from as it is for the hair itself.

If you’re already familiar with Hawkins & Brimble you’ll know that the signature Elemi and Ginseng is a real highlight of the company’s products and that sophisticated blend of rose, coffee, lavender and geranium notes along with patchouli, musk and vanilla, is what scents this great value-for-money balm.

8. Baldape Parlour Beard Balm: Best unscented balm

Price when reviewed: £12 for 50ml | Check price at Baldape

A lovely solid yet creamy balm, Baldape’s beard offering helps lock in moisture with the help of natural sealants like cocoa seed, avocado oil and beeswax. Cocoa butter helps keep the beard soft and conditioned, while also adding volume.

What makes this balm special, though, isn’t what’s in it so much as what’s not. Designed for all skin types – even sensitive ones – it’s the only balm here that’s fragrance-free. This means it’s less likely to cause problems for easily-irritated skins, and also means it won’t clash with any scents you might be wearing.

The fact that it’s made in the UK, is cruelty-free and comes in a recyclable glass jar is the icing on a very tasty cake – or the balm on the beard.

Check price at Baldape

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