With all my posts on moustache this and moustache that, I don’t mean to marginalize or ignore beards. I sport a beard along with my Stache and I try to give it the same kind of attention..Alas, I think we all get a little lazy at times and can take our beards for granted.. .
While most of us focus mainly on shaping and pruning our upper lip fur, the beard often takes up more facial real estate and deserves a little more consideration with a dressing. Ideally, a beard dressing should soften, nourish and moisturize not only the beard, but tend to the skin that sports it.
I like a bit of shaping power to my beard dressing. Having a trimmed goatee and a twirled moustache I like to keep them relatively synchronised and in tandem.
When creating or choosing a beard wax, oil, or dressing it is important to give thought to how much sculpting power you need. Personally, I don’t use a beard oil. I find they make it difficult to apply my moustache waxes and my beard doesn’t really need one. We have fish and chips for that…..
On the other hand, I don’t want a product so sticky or heavy it makes my beard look too stiff. If I want some bold sculpting I’ll use a moustache wax and work it in where I want it with the dressing. Unless I’m going for some radical creative hair sculpting, I prefer a beard dressing that will look natural, work with, and accent the waves, ripples and highlights already present. Something that will give me as much shaping as I can get without being a moustache wax.
For me, a good beard oil or dressing will have 3 components.
- A nourishing and moisturizing element that will soften and protect my facial hair, especially in harsh environments or extreme temperatures. If possible also keep my skin smooth, supple and moisturized.
- Something that will keep it in the style and shape I want for extended periods without constant reapplying or making it look too obvious.
- It has to smell good, which may actually be at the top of my list. So whatever it takes to achieve that very important aromatic quality. Not overpowering, but doesn’t disappear after a few minutes. Something that is attractive to me and attractive to those I want to be attractive to. Ideally I want my beard to smell so good to me that when no one is looking I will want to cup it up to my nose and inhale it deeply. Mmmm, Labdanum…….
For #1, There are many vegetable/carrier oils available. Some basic and well-known, and some part of a parade of new and “exiting” exotics vying for our dollars and approval. Some are fads and will fade away with time. Personally I prefer the tried and true classics.
-Oils- Though classified as a wax, there is nothing as time-tested and as close to our own natural skin oils às Lanolin. It is collected from sheep’s wool after shearing and before the wool is processed into yarn. Using Lanolin causes no harm to sheep, it is eminently renewable, sustainable and ethical. It has been used for centuries to protect, moisturize and heal the skin, just as it protects the sheep’s own hair and skin through the constant wear and tear of elements. It is easy to use and adds a wonderful softness to facial hair while giving some shaping power to your dressing and adding body to your beard.
Extra Virgin Olive oil, and Jojoba oil are my oils of choice in the lab. (Though again, Jojoba is officially classified as a wax), Almond oil is light, lovely, and runs a close third for me. Argan oil is highly regarded for its nourishing properties so I have been experimenting with it. There are many other natural alternatives, and much for us all to explore.
2 – Waxes, lend body, hold, and often fragrance. I love using Beeswax.. with its sweet, warm, woody/honey scent it is perfect for men’s products. Depending on whether you want to just firm up your beard, give it volume, or get creative with styling, you can add varying proportions of this lovely natural product. It gives a beard definition and adds hold to hair.
Of course there are many other types of wax that you can use. Candelilla, Soy, Carnauba and microcrystalline wax, which is mainstream candle wax and a petroleum product.
#3 A little known secret is that tree resins, even in small proportions, will not only keep stray hairs in line, but will also tame and perm your facial hair. A little tree sap or oleo-resin added to your formula will noticeably help your hair keep the form you shape it in for days.
Another “group” of ingredients that can enhance the texture and fragrance of a beard dressing is vegetable “Butters”.
Adding some Cocoa Butter or Shea Butter to your formula adds sheen, makes your product go on smoothly, and in the case of a stiffer styling wax, reduces hair pulling. The chocolate fragrance of Cocoa Butter is heavenly. The fragrances of both Shea and Cocoa Butters blend in a most pleasing way with the base ingredients listed here. There are many vegetable butters available now, but these 2 are by far my favourites.
An important point to make, is that butters,(and some waxes), must be heated separately from oils, (in the water-bath), before combining. Their temperatures must match before attempting to blend them. Otherwise they tend to granulate and can give you a grainy unpleasantly textured product.
Here are some simple recipes you can start with. You can modify, improvise and adjust them until they have exactly the look, feel, effect and fragrance you consider perfect. Please remember to take clear and accurate notes of any modifications you make. Otherwise, if you come up with the perfect product, you may never be able to duplicate it. You may also end up repeating the same mistakes ad infinitum, which is how some people define Hell…..
This is a most personal endeavor. Though there are many products in the market there is nothing that can work the same for everyone. And of course there is nothing like the satisfaction of making your own beard or mustache wax. (Or making the perfect product for someone you love.) There is no one out there who has the exact same facial hair as you.
RECIPES FOR A BEARD DRESSING
– Spruce Sap beard oil-
- In a jar, placed in a double boiler, (See “A Solid Moustache Wax Recipe” for how to use a water-bath), combine 3 parts vegetable oil of your choice, or a combination of oils of your choice and 1-2 parts raw sticky Spruce, Pine or Fir sap collected from the tree.
- Mix well when hot, until the sap is melted into the oils as much as it will melt.
- Force the hot mix through a metal coffee filter or the corner of a pillowcase into a clean jar.
- Either pour it into bottles for use, or add your essential oils while it cools down, and then pour it.
If you want to give your dressing more body and hold,
- put your jar back in the water-bath,
- to the water-bath add another jar with a wax of your choice.
- When the contents of both jars are as hot and liquid as they can be, add a small amount of hot liquid wax to your sap/oil mix.
- Mix well and test a drop on a room temperature surface.
- When it’s cool, see how firm it is.
- When it is at the consistency you like, remove your beard dressing from the water bath, pour in to containers, or add essential oils and then pour to its final destination.
To add greater nourishing, protecting and moisturizing qualities, you can add a bit of Lanolin, in small increments directly to your sap/oil mix. It usually blends well without being preheated in the water-bath.
-Frankincense resin beard oil-
- In a double boiler set one jar with your vegetable oil/oils of choice.
- In a second vessel set ground Frankincense Frereana, Copal or Elemi oleoresin at 10%-20% the weight of your finished product. If you are making 100 grams of finished product, use 10-20 grams oleoresin.
- When both are heated evenly, mix the oils into the resins.
- Stir and agitate thoroughly until they can’t be blended any further.
- As in the recipe above, pour and filter your oil/resin mixture.
- To give your product more sculpting/styling power, you can, as described above, add a little Beeswax or Lanolin to your formula. If you add a lot of wax you will end up with a moustache wax! So use a light hand…
- The above oleo-resins have little or no water-soluble gum in them. This helps them blend easily with vegetable oils.
- You can use other types of Frankincense like Boswellia Rivae, Sacra/Carterii, Papyrifera, Neglecta or Serrata, though due to their added gum component, you will need about twice the quantity of resin, and will have to grind them quite fine before using them. (See How to Grind Frankincense and Myrrh). They will leave behind more residue after filtering, but will still work just as well in your products lending your dressing their unique fragrance and shaping powers. Freshness of your oleo-resins will also impact the quantity you will need. The fresher and more fragrant or pliable, the less you will need. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to find these exotic resins freshly harvested.
Lanolin beard oil and dressing
Similar to“An easy 2 part Moustache wax recipe”, all you need here is one jar, pure lanolin and a vegetable oil of your choice.
- In a water-bath heat one jar or vessel with 1 part lanolin and 1 part vegetable oil/oils of your choice.
- When thoroughly heated, melted and fully mixed, test with a drop or two on a room temperature surface.
- If the cooled product is too thick for your preference, add a bit more of your oils to the mix. If it is too thin, add more lanolin.
- If you want more body or hold, add small amounts of Beeswax in increments. (See above). Make sure to measure, record and test each time you add new material and adjust accordingly.
- To add essential oils and create a fragrance for your beard dressing, be patient, I will get to it….
Best ingredients for a beard dressing.
Oils, waxes, Butters and fragrances
Steer away from using petroleum products. They smell bad, using them sustains an industry that is environmentally destructive, non-renewable and non-sustainable. There are no justifications for using them, especially when there are fragrant, sustainable and ethical alternatives. In general, one could say that petroleum sourced products are simple man-made chemicals, while natural products are much more complex compounds. They exist in a deeper harmony with us and work to heal, nourish and support our body’s systems on many levels.
- So,,, don’t use Vaseline, instead use Lanolin.
- Don’t use microcrystalline wax- use Beeswax, Candelilla, non GMO Soy wax or Carnauba wax.
- Don’t use mineral oil/Baby oil. Use Olive oil, Almond, grapeseed, Argan or any one of many other renewable oils that sustain the communities that produce them.
For more information about Lanolin VS Petroleum jelly and some interesting history, you can check out my post “A moustache twirl to save the world”
When adding fragrance to your product the same guidelines apply.
- Don’t use “Fragrance oils” they are artificial, manufactured chemical fragrances. They cost less, but do no good for us or the planet on any level. Use only real essential oils. They don’t have to be “Therapeutic quality”, which is a phrase coined recently to market some well known brands and sell their products. All essential oils are therapeutic. There is no such thing as “Therapeutic quality essential oils”. Either it is a reak and pure essential oil, or it’s not.
Here is a short list of the best ingredients in my opinion for beard and moustache grooming products.
Beeswax- wonderful fragrance for men. Gives hold and good tackiness for shaping moustaches and beards. Easy to use. Keeps for many years. Using it supports small communities, local businesses and the people who are best qualified to save our bees from extinction.
Lanolin- Naturally sourced, renewable, ethical and sustainable. Protects and nourishes both skin and hair. Nice musky aroma that works well in male products.
Olive oil- Used for thousands of years for its nourishing and healing properties on the skin and hair. Extra Virgin has the most nutrients and seems to keep the longest. It is a wonderfully therapeutic carrier oil.
Jojoba oil- Renewable, sustainable, supports farmers, collectors and communities in developing countries. Has a very, very long shelf life. Not greasy and great for skin and hair.
Almond oil- Light and easily absorbed by skin and hair. Lovely on the skin. Not a very long shelf life in my experience. An oil of beauty ruled by Venus.
Cocoa Butter- Mmmmmm.Cocoa Butter……Smooth creamy, the source of chocolate. The original , only, and never to be defeated champion of chocolate fragrances. Nourishes skin and hair. Melts at body temperature, (and in your mouth). There is a white variety, post cocoa powder extraction), and a dark brown type which still contains the dark cocoa which smells more intense, but will colour your product. Either way you will want to find someone to smear it on….
Shea butter-Nourishing to skin and hair. renewable, sustainable and supports small communities in Africa. Nice stuff….
Vitamin E.- Famous for its skin healing properties, is good for hair, (doesn’t hurt), and acts to prevent rancidity in oils.
You have been patient. Let’s talk fragrance,
Creating a fragrance for your grooming products
Since my own experience is constantly evolving, I will share some recent thoughts and insights briefly before pointing you to my page-Create a natural fragrance for male grooming products.
Use all essential oils in moderation. I try to add less than 2% to my products. Not only can too much be overpowering for you, a turn-off those around you, but you can “sensitize” yourself, both physically and emotionally to a particular oil. This means that if you overdo it with an essential oil, your body may react to it in the future. This often manifests as a rash, but just as sad, you may find that instead of enjoying the wonderful fragrance you so loved, you cringe at the smell, which is just as great a loss. As was said so wisely in the Tao te Ching, “Rather than filling it to the brim by keeping it upright, better to have stopped in time”. So use restraint.
My favourite scents for men’s products.
has held the lead in my formula book for men’s products, over a decade now. Woody, warm Amber, soft, sexy masculine with hints of Spice, dry tea leaf and looks like Buckwheat Honey.
Labdanum…..mmmmLabdanummmm. I have 2 oleo-resins/essential oils I find irreplaceable in men’s grooming products. Labdanum, the sticky oleo-resin collected from the mediterranean shrubs of the Cistus or Rockrose family, See -(Labdanum, Beard grooming Babylonian style). and Frankincense Frereana from Somaliland, the King of Frankincense. (See my posts-“Maydi- The King of Frankincense”- and “A Moustache wax recipe with Frankincense resin).
I have always been a sucker for a good Amber scent, and the oleo-resins from both these aromatics are as close as the plant kingdom can get to giving us an Amber fragrance and the materials for building one.
A few Essential oils that blend well with Labdanum for a masculine scent. The proportions below are a reference to the strength of each essential oil compared to the Labdanum, so if you like, you can keep the Labdanum heart to your product. We want a co-operative, a commune where everyone works together to create something new and exiting, not a battle with the strongest scent dominating or conquering the others.
-For 10 parts Labdanum, choose any of these fragrances, in the proportions indicated.
Play, have fun, use 1 or use 10, take your time and take accurate notes.
- 4 parts-Peru Balsam, Tolu Balsam, Vanilla
- 3 parts-all Frankincense types, Sandalwood
- 2 parts-Myyrh, Cedarwoods, Benzoin,
- 1 part-Opoponax, Jasmine, Spikenard, Vetiver
- 1/2 part-Clove, Nutmeg, Ginger, ( or Wild Ginger??), Cardamom
- 1/4 part-Ambergris tincture,
- 1/8 part-Civet tincture, Oud essential oil, or Castoreum tincture.
- There are many more essential oils that will compliment Labdanum and the other essences listed above, this is off the top of my head and I will leave it to you to explore, research and experiment….
- For more information on using Labdanum for grooming you can check out my recent post-Labdanum resin for perfume and beard dressings
is another Amber type fragrance that will prompt you and others to bury noses in your beard. Lighter than Labdanum, and possessing a sweet range of resinous wood, sweet spice and Amber notes, the two work well together and B. Frereana Blends like most other Frankincense types with many, if not all of the above mentioned fragrances.
So, enjoy the gender you were given this time round. Be respectful of the others because karma’s a bitch.
And remember to always take clear notes!
Your future self will thank you…