Beard Balm vs Beard Butter – The Key Differences, Explained

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If you don’t quite understand the difference between beard balm vs beard butter, trust me when I say I sympathize. ​

It took me an embarrassingly long time to find a beard care routine that works for me, and even longer to understand the nuanced little differences between these two (fairly similar) products. 

To help you shorten your learning curve, in this post I’ll break down the main difference between beard balm and beard butter, and explain how you can use both to look your bearded best. 

Beard Butter vs Balm

What’s the difference between beard balm and beard butter? Well… 

Beard Balm

What is beard balm? 

Man holding beard balm in hand
[Image via Bulldog Skincare]

Beard balm is a product that mixes multiple ingredients often found in other beard care products, including essential oils like jojoba oil and argan oil, shea butter, carrier oils and various waxes, into a solid, brick-like block. 

That block is then melted down into a balm, which is basically a beard cream or ointment that you can rub into your facial hair. 

What does beard balm do? 

There are two main types of beard balm, and each one does something slightly different. 

Beard Balm Conditions

The softerst version is conditioning balm, which serves as a beard conditioner and does something similar to what the conditioner you use in the shower does for your hair. 

It softens your beard hairs and provides a light hold, but doesn’t contain any hard waxes like beeswax. 

The absence of beeswax allows the natural ingredients in the balm to be more easily absorbed, which helps lead to healthy hair. 

Beard Balm Provides Hold
A tin of beard balm
This Heavy Duty beard balm from Honest Amish provides both conditioning and styling

The second kind of beard balm is a styling balm, which – as the name implies – is focused less on health and more on aesthetics. 

This type of beard balm contains a styling agent that provides a stronger hold, keeping your beard in place and preventing flyaway hairs from making you look scraggly or disheveled. 

A styling balm basically combines the firm hold you get from beard wax with some of the health benefits you get from beard balm. 

Benefits of Beard Balm

To summarize, the advantages of using a beard balm are as follows:

  • Conditions hair and face 
  • Can help prevent dry skin
  • Promotes a soft and healthy beard 
  • Provides some hold, and helps 
  • Reduces need to buy multiple different beard products by combining benefits of wax and conditioner 

How to Apply Beard Balm 

Man putting beard balm on finger
[Image via Ivan_Shenets / Shutterstock]

To apply beard balm, dip one finger in the jar and start with a small amount, about the size of a pencil eraser. 

Note that the exact amount you’ll need will depend on the length of your beard: 

If your beard length grows at least an inch below your chin, go with two pencil erasers worth of balm.

If you have two inches of beard length or more, opt for three erasers’ worth. 

Rub the balm in your hand to warm it and allow it to melt a little, which makes it easier to apply. 

The more hold that your balm provides, the more you’ll need to warm it up.

For instance, if it’s strong enough to be used as a mustache wax, you’ll likely want to rub it in your hands for a bit to really melt it. 

Once warm, start massaging the balm into both your beard and your face, to hydrate and soften both. 

If you want a visual walk through, Beard & Blade has put together a good little visual on YouTube. 

When to Apply Beard Balm 

Beard balm can be applied any time you feel like you need it, really.  

If you’re using a styling balm it will obviously make more sense to use it in the morning or before you’re going out, but if you’re just using a conditioning balm it can be used basically any time. 

Where to Find the Best Beard Balm

Amazon is the 10,000 ton gorilla in the room when it comes to retail shopping, and has become a go-to resource for pretty much every kind of men’s grooming product.

They’ve put together an editorial round up of their best beard balms, along with some further tips about how to use them.

Beard Butter

What is beard butter? 

Beard butter
[Image via Softsheen-Carson]

As the name (obviously) implies, the main ingredients in beard butter are natural butters like cocoa butter and mango butter, which are often paired with smaller amounts of natural oils like coconut oil.

Beard butter tends to have a lighter, creamier texture than beard balm, especially styling balms that contain wax. 

Think of the soft consistency of actual butter after it’s been sitting out on the counter for a couple hours, and you’ll have a good idea of how beard butter feels in your hand. 

What does beard butter do? 

Woman kissing a bearded man
[Image via katemangostar / Freepik]

Where beard balm can often be used for styling, the major difference with beard butter is that it’s primarily for making your beard healthier. 

The natural ingredients in the butters help soften, strengthen and condition your hair while nourishing your skin, but don’t provide much hold, or do much to tame stray hairs. 

So if you go with beard butter, you may also want to invest in a beard pomade that you can apply after running the butter through, to achieve the style you want. 

But if you have a particularly dry beard or are prone to itchiness or beard dandruff, beard butter is still probably the best choice, even though it may require using different products for nourishment and aesthetics.

Benefits of Beard Butter

  • Softens, strengthens and conditions beard hair 
  • Nourishes skin 
  • Helps reduce beard itch and dandruff 
  • Easy to spread through hair with hands or beard brush 

When to Apply Beard Butter 

For best results, try applying beard butter when you get out of the shower. 

When your beard is already wet (or at least damp) from the shower, beard butter can help keep it that way by locking in moisture, which helps guard against dryness later in the day. 

In my experience this is especially important in the winter, when the lack of humidity can lead both your skin and your beard to get dry super easily. 

How to Apply Beard Butter 

When you get out of the shower, pat your beard dry as best you can. 

(You want to apply the beard butter to your actual beard, not to a coat of water that’s left on your hair.) 

Use the same finger method listed above for beard balm to select the right amount of butter, then rub it thoroughly into both your beard and skin. 

Once you’ve rubbed it in thoroughly, run a beard brush over the beard a couple times to keep things looking tame. 

A beard brush comes in especially handy with longer beards, which can look pretty unruly after you’ve massaged in the butter. 

Where to Find the Best Beard Butter

If you think beard butter sounds better than beard butter (try saying that five times fast), we’ve got you covered.

Check out our comprehensive guide to the best beard butters on the market to find one that will work for you.

Beard Oil vs Balm vs Butter

Dr. Squatch beard oil
[Image via Dr. Squatch]

The third common type of beard product that people often confuse with beard bam and butter is beard oil.

Whereas both beard butter and beard balm may contain essential oils like jojoba, argan or sweet almond oil, beard oil is composed (almost) entirely of them. 

The benefits of beard oil are quite similar to those of beard butter: 

The natural oils help condition, moisturize and soften your beard, which is why they’re often included in both beard balm and beard butter, and may even encourage healthy beard growth.

But because beard oil contains no wax or other styling agent, you’ll get a better hold from beard butter, and an even stronger one from a styling beard balm. 

The lack of hold isn’t the only difference, or the most obvious one. The thing that most distinguishes beard oil from butters and balms is the texture. 

Whereas both balm and butter have a creamy consistency, beard oil is a pure liquid that kind of has the consistency of olive oil. 

Some guys think that makes it easier to rub into their beards, while others feel weird about rubbing oil directly onto their face.   

So which is better, beard balm or beard butter? 

Illustration of man with full beard

If you’re not sure which one to introduce into your daily routine, the best way to think about beard butter vs oil vs balm is like this: 

If you want some hold, go with a solid beard balm that contains some wax, which will help with styling. 

If you don’t care so much about hold and just want something that will moisturize and hydrate your face and hair follicles, you can choose either a quality beard oil or a beard butter. 

Both work well to soften all lengths and types of beards. 

With that said, beard butter has a slight edge over beard oil since it provides deep conditioning, which long beards often need, but short beards can more easily live without. 

Here at Irreverent Gent we like to say that the handsome devil is in the details, and while ultimately this choice really just comes down to personal preference, the good news is this: 

The vast majority of men with manes don’t use any product at all, so becoming one of the best in the beard game is really just a matter of trying out each one, and deciding which one you prefer. 

Good luck, my bearded brother. 

More Resources ↓
More Advice on How to Look Your Bearded Best:

Banner Image: LTim / Shutterstock

About the Author

Geoff Hayes

Resident Irreverent Gent beard expert Geoff Hayes is a Toronto-based writer, baseball fan and craft beer aficionado (though not always in that order).

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