Even though facial scruff and beards have a lazy reputation, pogonotrophy (the official, fancy term for the act of growing out or cultivating a beard, mustache or other facial hair) requires a decent amount of effort and care. Left to their own devices, beards will most likely become hurly-burly, wild and wiry. And that’s only if you’re able to make it through the dreaded itch-fest phase.
Yet just because beards require a bit of maintenance doesn’t mean it’s difficult to strike that perfect balance of brawny and beautiful. You just need the right, simple products. You need a beard balm or beard butter.
So which should it be? Balm or butter? That depends on what you’re looking for. If you want conditioning, smoothing, and sweet skin benefits, go with a beard butter. If you want all that, plus some hold, choose a beard balm. The reason is that both balms and beard butters use a combination of Shea Butter and cocoa butter, two super skin helpers, but only balms also contain beeswax. The more beeswax it has, the more hold you get. One word of caution- too much beeswax can leave your beard crunchy and dry. Finding the right beard balm or butter is a combo of trial and error and personal preference. It’s okay to mix and match to find what you like. Fortunately, most beard balms and butters are easy on the wallet, and some offer a money-back guarantee.
Before we jump into our top balms and butters picks, let’s quickly review their proper use. First of all, the best time to use your balm or butter is in the morning after a shower. Then, take out a small amount of product (use the back of your thumbnail to dig out if it’s a harder balm) and work it through your hands to warm it up and coat your palms. Next, rub and massage your beard and face thoroughly, making sure to get the roots of your hair (to help prevent that itchiness and wiriness). Finally, flatten your beard down or style as you please, and you’re all set.
Now let’s get to the great gets, from less expensive to most expensive, but all still $20 and under.
1. Urban Prince Beard Balm
If your beard resembles a broomstick rather than the glorious mane masterpiece you’re aiming for, then grab some Urban Prince Beard Balm. At under $10 a pop you get a quality product featuring a multitude of beneficial oils on top of Shea butter and beeswax. The result adds shine, conditions and helps keep the dreaded “beardruff” (that’s beard dandruff) at bay. The texture is a pleaser too, soft enough to get out of the tin, yet substantial enough to provide decent hold.
- Under $10
- Good combination of hold, conditioning and subtle shine
- Smell is a hit or a miss
- Some users were put off by the yellowish color
2. Beard Balm
From the get-go, this balm comes off as mighty impressive with it’s comprehensive dedication to every detail: it’s handmade in Detroit, only adds beeswax from 100% Michigan bees, utilizes union-made product tins forged from American steel and employs custom equipment solely designed and used for beard balm production. It’s popular original scent also features a blend of lemon peel, eucalyptus leaf and geranium flower. While some find it nostalgic and pleasing, other users felt it was a bit too overpowering. Most users did feel though that the balm struck the right balance of conditioning and shaping without resulting in too much stiffness.
- Good for thick, coarse beards
- All natural, fair trade, organic, pesticide-free ingredients
- Handmade in Michigan, USA
- Original scent is a hit or miss
- 1.5 oz tin is a bit smaller than the general 2 oz size of other brands
3. Honest Amish Beard Balm
Honest Amish knows beards. As they say, “long before the current beard trend… beards have been an integral part of Amish culture” and the care of beards is something that has been passed down from generation to generation. They incorporated all that knowledge into a trusted line of beard care products, including the Beard Balm, which has become a best seller on Amazon with over 5,000 reviews and a 4.5 star rating. The Beard Balm is made from scratch with an original recipe including not just Shea and cocoa butter, but also aloe and kokum too. It promises to soften coarse and rogue hairs while stopping itch and eliminating beard dandruff. Plus, they feel so strongly that you’ll love it, that you can return your Beard Balm for a full refund (as long as 50% of the product is remaining).
- 100% natural, organic and sustainable ingredients
- Handcrafted in Pennsylvania, USA
- Money back guarantee
- Spicy, woodsy scent is a hit or miss
- Doesn’t contain as much wax, so not ideal if you’re looking for more hold
4. Grave Before Shave Bay Rum Beard Balm
Who doesn’t love a skeleton pirate challenging their beard to a bristles-taming duel every morning? True to its packaging, there’s nothing frou frou about this product. It uses common beard balm ingredients including Shea Butter, beeswax and “some essential oils.” While this pick is more solid out of the can and must really be worked through the hands in order to soften and warm it up, most users felt that it provided better hold than other balms. There was also a clearer opinion across the beard on its scent: nice and light.
Price: $13.45 for 2 oz.
You can also get this balm in a 4 oz. tin for $24.
- All-natural ingredients
- Excellent hold and hair-taming capability
- Majority of users liked the scent
- Made in California, USA
- “Waxier” feel
- Not as great for conditioning as it is for hold
5. Smooth Viking Beard Balm
Contrary to the common public perception of bearded, unwashed Viking warriors, this ancient people is actually believed to have been dapper heartbreakers, quite dedicated to cleanliness. Smooth Viking Beard Balm allows you to grab a little bit of that well-groomed magic. This balm is uniquely designed to make your beard look and feel thicker with blend of avocado oil, safflower oil, sweet almond oil, pumpkin seed oil, jojoba, argan oil and the old standby Shea butter. The specific ingredients are also meant to keep your beard stylish and manageable, no matter how long it gets. With continued use, your scruff could start looking majestic enough to make the great Odin proud.
Price: $13.47 for 2 oz.
- All natural ingredients
- Special formula to make beards look fuller and thicker
- Made in the USA
- Scent is a hit or miss
- Harder, “tackier” feel due to more beeswax
6. Detroit Grooming Beard Butter
Our second Detroit pick on the list begs the question: Who knew the Motor City was so devoted to improving beard care? Our guess is that their Great Lakes winters beg for some extra warmth any way you can get it, resulting in many gentlemen turning to added face fuzz and then keeping the look. Of course, that comes with maintenance. Detroit Grooming itself was born out of its founders’ frustrations at not being able to find a great Michigan-made product to keep their facial hair in check. Their Beard Butter doesn’t disappoint. Made in small, handmade batches with coconut oil and Shea butter, it helps control the strays while making your beard look and feel like a million bucks. You can also snag this butter in a new “Leland” mango and lime scent.
- Excellent balance of shine and a little hold too, for a butter
- Long-lasting scent and performance
- Handmade in Michigan, USA
- Tobacco, cedar wood and vanilla scent is a hit or miss
- Comes in a plastic jar as opposed to metal or glass
7. Wild Willie’s Beard Butter
Wild Willie’s is made for the truly unique dudes. For the “original beardsman” and the guy who wore a “Magnum P.I. stache not because it was cool, but because it’s simply the right thing to do.” Its Original Beard Butter will help any particular gent keep his facial hair conditioned, smooth and soft. It also helps keep hair follicles moist, which helps promote better beard growth from the inside out. And unusual for a butter, this selection also offers hold that lasts all day long. An excellent pick for light every day use, but if your beard is a bit coarser, you might want to go with a more heavy-duty option. It also comes in “Cool Mint” scent for $17.77.
- Softens and shines
- All natural, organic ingredients
- Handmade in Georgia, USA
- Money back guarantee
- Using too much could make your beard appear oily
- Tea tree and pine scent is a hit or miss
- Has a harder consistency that’s closer to a balm
8. Maestro’s Classic Beard Butter
This pick is definitely different than the rest—rather than being oil-based, Maestro’s Classic Beard Butter is a water soluble hydrating creme. This results in a lightweight product that still grooms, softens and makes your beard more manageable. Just make sure that even though Maestro’s seems more like a lotion, that you don’t apply it like one. A little product still goes a long way and too much could result in your beard feeling dry and crispy. Scent-wise, the Mark of a Man blend includes grapefruit, black pepper and Bergamot notes. Many users felt that it came on a bit strong at first, but faced nicely.
Maestro’s Beard Butter also comes in different scents/blends including unscented and more aromatherapy-inspired. You can browse them all here.
- Creme rather than oil-based
- Lighter consistency is easier to use
- Different scent options to choose from, including unscented
- Made in the USA
- Not great for coarser, thicker hair
- Longer ingredient list includes common cosmetics chemicals and preservatives
9. Liberty Grooming Beard Balm
Liberty Grooming believes that the most successful, powerful men care about their appearance and notice the impact their style makes upon social, business and romantic aspirations. Its natural Beard Balm is made for all beards, but sets itself apart with a slightly higher wax content for better wrangling of dry, wiry and disorderly bristles. It also features a “subtle yet manly scent that brings you back to nature and the great outdoors.” It’s a scent that consistently receives the thumbs up across the board, which as we’ve seen, is quite a feat when it comes to balms and butters.
- Subtler scent than other options
- Purchase comes with a free grooming manual
- All natural ingredients
- Made in the USA
- Money back, “Gentleman’s Guarantee”
- Harder consistency makes it more difficult to spread
10. Scotch Porter Beard Balm
Scotch Porter is a “high end line for wallets of any size.” And within the sleek jar, its Beard Balm is a nice, thick cream that spreads well and absorbs quickly. It’s an excellent pick for African American beards and even safe for color-treated beards as well. The Beard Balm is also Step 3 out of 4 with Scotch Porter’s specially designed grooming system. The regimen is great if you’re a bearded dude looking for a way to get and keep your facial hair looking good consistently and simply.
- Easy-to-use, cream texture
- Part of a simple, four-step routine
- Safe for color-treated beards
- “Sweeter” scent is hit or miss
- Doesn’t offer a lot of hold