You've Grown the Best Beard. Keep It That Way With the Best Beard Oil

·14-min read
Photo credit: Buena Vista Pictures
Photo credit: Buena Vista Pictures

Cultivating a thick, lustrous beard – the type that makes patchy-faced men weep into their real ale – requires patience. Dedication. Oh, and a monthly barber’s appointment (the occasional once-over with a decent beard trimmer will not do). But in addition to all that, a beard, like your skin, requires a purpose-built grooming kit – and a beard oil is arguably the most important tool in your arsenal.

Because beard hair is still hair. If you don't maintain it, and nourish it, and look after it as you would the hair on your head, you'll end up with the sort of knotted thatch that causes people to heave whenever you're at mealtime. Modern beard icon George Clooney definitely uses beard oil. Ditto for old-school beard icon Papa Christmas.

“Beard oil should be used at least once a week as a deep treatment,” says Sam Hickey, head barber at Murdock London and a man that has built a career on tending to (and creating) impressive beards. “Beard hair requires special care and therefore specialised products, with beard oil aiding its long-term health.” So, in other words, not Head & Shoulders.

Instead, invest in something that's designed for the job at hand, and, with the right beard oil, you'll be as successful as a Midnight Sky-era Clooney. Probably.

What is the best beard oil?

In the Esquire lab, we put the best on the market to the test with our panel of 300 men - all with a range of different beard types and textures - to see which one came out on top. The Esquire Editors’ have also chosen their top picks, so you have a full range to choose from.

These are the beard oils we rate the most:

Esquire Lab Picks

Esquire Editors' Picks

What is beard oil?

Put simply, beard oil is a special blend of oils (no way!) that softens and conditions facial hair, which tends to be coarser. That makes the appearance of a beard smoother, and beard oil can sculpt flyaways into a rounder, neater shape. It's not just skin deep, either. The right ingredients can also prevent split ends – especially important if you've a longer beard.

Plus, it smells good which is always nice, but the benefits of a beard oil go deeper than that. “If you’re serious about having a soft, luscious beard, it’s so important,” explains Tom Harrigan, head barber at The Ned, who recommends investing in the right stuff just as you would with top level skin and anti-ageing products.

Photo credit: Gotham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gotham - Getty Images

Beard oils are specially formulated to be lighter and less greasy, which mean they're absorbed both by your beard hair and the skin beneath, rather than coating it. You can tell if you've got the right stuff because, after applying, your beard should feel soft, smooth and nourished without leaving any residue on your hands.

The best beard oils use only natural ingredients, like argan, jojoba and sweet apricot oils, although skin-friendly additions like vitamin E are increasingly common. Avoid anything containing silicones or chemicals that you can't pronounce, says Harrigan. These “nasties,” as he describes them, coat the hairs to make them look smoother, but can prevent the oils from actually being absorbed. No absorption means no softness, and in those instances, the quack beard oil is actually detrimental.

Do I actually need to use a beard oil?

Beard oils aren't only for guys who mistake a Gandalf beard for a personality. You've just got a bit of scruff, surely you don't need to go to all that trouble? Not so. “Every beard is different – in length, texture, thickness or colour – and not all of them will require beard oil,” says Harrigan. “If you have stubble, you can probably go without it and just use a good moisturiser. A beard often requires the extra hydration though.”

Photo credit: Steve Granitz - Getty Images
Photo credit: Steve Granitz - Getty Images

Once your facial hair moves past an insouciant scruff, a few drops will help keep it in good nick. In other words, if you can pinch some length, then beard oil is required.

Alternatively, if you're growing yours in, you'll appreciate the difference a beard oil can bring almost immediately. As it reaches medium length, the hairs begin to curl back on themselves, which is the cause of that familiar biblical itch around a week in. Beard oil will soften sharp ends and help to keep the skin underneath moisturised, which also reduces the risk of beard dandruff (yes, beard dandruff, which is as gross as it sounds).

Those with longer, thicker beards might consider switching to a beard balm, which is more pomade-like. Typically formulated with beeswax or shea butter, balm sits on top of the beard (unlike oil, which soaks in quickly), meaning it conditions deeper and gives a slight hold. Again, look for beard-specific products. Your face is no place for Brylcreem.

Do I need to shampoo and condition my beard?

In short: yes. "It’s important to look after the skin underneath your beard,” says Harrigan. “Make sure you cleanse and exfoliate to avoid the dreaded flaky beard.”

The jury’s out on whether a specialist shampoo is necessary – more important are the ingredients in whatever you’re using. Sulphates are often added to face washes and shampoos to help them foam, but they are renowned for drying out skin and hair (especially brittle hair types, such as afro). A sulphate-free face wash will probably suffice for most, although some (especially those with longer, thicker beards) might prefer to use a shampoo bar with added conditioners.

Whatever you use, Harrigan advises you go deep. “Make sure you get your fingers right in there and give your face a good scrub, rinsing product out thoroughly.” He also suggests using a soft bristle brush on your beard twice a week or so, to help exfoliate and slough off dead skin cells that can get trapped in your thatch.

Once you’ve patted your beard dry, apply a beard oil or moisturiser. Hickey recommends oil as a weekly conditioner, with a specific beard moisturiser as part of your daily routine. These specially-formulated serums are better at reaching the skin underneath your beard than your usual lotions, and won’t leave any sticky residue (moisturising is extra important if you've got a beard because all that facial hair sucks moisture out of the skin beneath, which dries it out, makes it flaky, and causes dreaded beard dandruff). They can also be mixed with an optional drop of beard oil, for those who need it.

How to use beard oil

“Beard oil should be applied to a dry beard, which will help avoid it dripping onto your clothes,” says Hickey. “I would recommend three pumps of beard oil into the palms of your hands. Rub them together and work into the beard upwards and downwards to ensure maximum coverage.” Once rubbed through, use a beard brush or comb to guarantee an even spread, and to style. If you’re unsure about the amount of oil to use, start sparingly – you can always add another drop or two, but you can’t take any away. The Deepwater Horizon look is not what you're after.

How we test

Our panel of 300 men, all with stubble, short beards, moustaches or long beards, tried 24 brands of beard oil to find the best at smoothing and softening facial hair, making it easier to style, brush and tame any unruly strands.

Testers gave feedback on the softness and hydration of their skin after using the beard oils and noted if they experienced any reduction in itchiness.

Back in the Esquire lab, we used a Dia-Stron machine to measure the performance of each beard oil by analysing the smoothness of facial hair before and after application.

The Best Beard Oils in 2021

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Percy Nobleman Signature Scented Beard Oil

Best beard oil

SHOP

Voted the winner by our panel – and scoring top marks in our lab test – was Percy Nobleman’s classy offering. Every tester said they would continue to use it after the trial ended, with 86% agreeing that their skin felt softer and more hydrated. They all found it easier to brush and style their beard after only a few drops, and some noted that the taming, conditioning effect lasted all day. It proved easy to dispense the right amount and worked well as a pre-shave product, absorbing quickly without feeling too greasy.

Key specs
Size: 30ml
Dispensing type: Pipette
Fragrance free: No

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Jack Black Beard Oil

Best beard oil for adding shine

SHOP

Ideal for injecting a glimmer of shine into your facial hair, 90% of our testers said this beard oil left their whiskers feeling smoother with a fuller, healthy-looking finish. Not only did it reduce scratchiness, but 88% found it also made it easier to get a comb through their beard each morning. It successfully tamed stragglers and didn’t leave a sticky residue. Overall, the panel felt fresh and sleek after trying it, leading most to say they’d keep it in their grooming arsenal.

Key specs
Size: 30ml
Dispensing type: Pump
Fragrance free: Yes

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Captain Fawcett Ricki Hall's Booze & Baccy Beard Oil

Best oil for shorter beards

SHOP

If you’re at the start of your beard-growing journey and need a product that’s straightforward to use, softens hair and hydrates the skin underneath, then this is your best match. Our testers found a only a small drop was needed and absorbed quickly, while 80% said it helped tame unruly strands and left them looking suave. It felt luxurious to apply, smelled of soothing essential oils and nobody experienced any irritation, making it a smart choice if your skin is on the sensitive side.

Key specs
Size: 50ml
Dispensing type: Pipette
Fragrance free: Yes

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Seven Potions Beard and Body Oil

Best beard and body oil

SHOP

Streamline your collection of grooming products with this two-in-one oil that can be used to hydrate facial hair and any dry patches on your body. Our panel liked its lightweight texture - perfect for those with finer strands - and it aced our lab test when it came to softening coarse beards. It was mess-free to dispense, absorbed instantly and helped keep razor burn redness at bay. Though not the best for styling, it’s a fantastic, versatile moisturiser.

Key specs
Size: 30ml
Dispensing type: Pipette
Fragrance free: No

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Redken Men’s Beard Oil

Best for softer skin

SHOP

You can’t grow a decent beard without treating the skin underneath first. Our testers found this lightweight oil did the trick, noting that their skin felt softer and more comfortable after using it. They appreciated its “pleasant woody scent” and loved that it didn’t feel greasy, particularly when used on wet facial hair straight after a shower. It reduced itchiness for 71% of the panel and one tester’s wife commented that her husband looked more groomed – result.

Key specs
Size: 30ml
Dispensing type: Screw on cap
Fragrance free: Yes

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Clockface Beauty Beard Oil Ho Leaf & Bergamot

Best for refreshing beards

SHOP

Featuring a blend of antibacterial ingredients and a rich fragrance with notes of myrrh and frankincense, this beard oil aims to freshen up facial hair while keeping it hydrated and flake-free. Our panel needed only one drop per application to tame wild strands and make their beards easier to trim. It spread well, absorbing quickly and cleanly, and our testers were impressed by its performance on thick and coarse hair, making it a top pick for gentlemen with fuller beards.

Key specs
Size: 30ml
Dispensing type: Pipette
Fragrance free: Yes


Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

L'Oreal Men Expert Barber Club Long Beard & Skin Oil

Best beard oil for detangling

SHOP

If managing to grow a lengthy beard is the first step, the second is styling it so you don’t end up looking like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. That’s where this guy comes in. Our entire panel said it tamed flyaways and made facial hair easier to comb through, without feeling heavy. They found it easy to use and liked the subtle woody scent, with some testers noting that their skin felt moisturised after use. It worked well as a shaving lubricant, too.

Key specs
Size: 30ml
Dispensing type: Pump
Fragrance free: No

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Gentlemen’s Tonic Beard Oil

Best non-greasy beard oil

SHOP

This non-greasy formula absorbed instantly, without leaving any sticky residue at all. Claiming to eliminate dry skin and promote shine, our panel appreciated how fresh it left them feeling, with one tester even noting that it soothed their sensitive skin. It made facial hair easier to brush and style (88% said so), with many testers saying they would incorporate into their future grooming regimes.

Key specs
Size: 30ml
Dispensing type: Pump
Fragrance free: No

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Elemis TFM Smooth Result Shave and Beard Oil

Best pre-shave oil

SHOP

Shaving parched skin is a one-way street to irritation and redness. This featherlight must-have helps eliminate that problem – its rich blend of nourishing oils give shavers a bit of slip to avoid aggravating your skin. Our testers raved about how rapidly it absorbed and how “unbelievably soft” it left their hair and skin. The majority found their beards easier to brush and style after using it, but the screw cap made it tricky to dispense the right amount of oil.

Key specs
Size: 30ml
Dispensing type: Screw on cap
Fragrance free: No

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Lab Series The Grooming Oil 3-in-1 Shave and Beard Oil
Best multipurpose beard oil

SHOP

There’s nothing more practical than a three-in-one, which is why our panel loved this oil that’s designed to condition, improve manageability and add shine to all beards. Our testers liked that its moisturising effects lasted throughout the day, with 83% finding it helped to whip their facial hair into shape. It could be used pre-shave to give smoother results and is a hydrating choice if your skin is often thirsty.

Key specs
Size: 50ml
Dispensing type: Screw on cap
Fragrance free: No

Esquire Editors' Picks


Photo credit: Haeckels
Photo credit: Haeckels

Haeckels Hydrating Beard Oil

SHOP

“I’ve used literally hundreds of beard oils and balms over the years and this is my top recommendation,” says Harrigan. With a blend of seaweed extract (good for dry hair) and oils including neroli (antibacterial and smells delicious), it’s a great all-rounder.

Haeckels, £34 for 50ml

Photo credit: Murdock London
Photo credit: Murdock London

Murdock London Beard Oil

SHOP

Murdock knows its way around a beard, and this nous extends to its products. Fresh-smelling and reasonably-priced, this beard oil's blend of jojoba, almond and other natural oils is lightweight and dries matte.

Murdock London, £18 for 50ml

Photo credit: Harvey Nichols
Photo credit: Harvey Nichols

Tom Ford Conditioning Beard Oil

SHOP

A light blend of almond, jojoba and grape seed oils are enriched with vitamin E, which helps prevent dandruff and itching. Available in four of Tom Ford’s covetable Private Blend scents: Neroli Portofino, Fucking Fabulous, Tobacco Vanille, and our favourite, Oud Wood.

Harvey Nichols, £44 for 30ml

Photo credit: *
Photo credit: *

Mr Mullans Beard Oil

SHOP

Biker turned hair stylist, John Mullan is a busy man. Between running his salon, boutique Soho store and jumping on editorial shoots, he has his own grooming range, crafted from all natural ingredients, including his made in England beard oil.

Mr Mullans, £20 for 30ml

Photo credit: Mr Porter
Photo credit: Mr Porter

Le Labo Inc Beard Oil

SHOP

An entirely plant-based, paraben- and colourant-free beard oil that’s good for sensitive skin. Enriched with jojoba, grapeseed and protective sunflower oil, it also smells the business. But what else would you expect from Le Labo?

Selfridges, £48 for 60ml

Photo credit: -
Photo credit: -

D R Harris & Co Beard Oil

SHOP

Good for those annoying early days of beard growth, D.R. Harris’s oil combines a fresh, citrusy scent with vitamin E, jojoba and Abyssinian oil, said to be the next big thing in grooming.

Mr Porter, £20 for 30ml

Photo credit: The Püre Collection
Photo credit: The Püre Collection

The Püre Collection Beard Oil Organic

SHOP

Oud oil, so rare that it's worth more by weight than gold. Earthy, dark oud is balanced with baobab, prickly pear, sandalwood and rose otto oils, with the promise that it'll stimulate beard growth and eliminate dandruff. Smells nice, too.

The Püre Collection, £74.13 for 50ml

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