Beard Balm vs. Beard Oil Showdown – A Head-to-Head Matchup On These Two Unique Products

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In all the years of running Tools of Men, we were astonished that there was never an article written that truly broke down the differences comparing beard oil vs beard balm.


We have written exhaustive guides on how to make beard oil, defining the best beard balms on the market (as well as beard oils), but never did we do a comparison between beard oils and beard balms…well, until today.

These two products can be an incredibly powerful weapon in any beardsmans arsenal when it comes to providing a healthy and great looking beard.

Instead of droning on about its unique properties and characteristics, we wanted to do a bit of a showdown of sorts.

Like Frazier vs. Ali or Little Mac vs. Mike Tyson, which one of these products will truly knock the other to a bloody pulp of holding the crown on being the best beard care product on the market in this 4 round Rumble in the Beard?

pre shave oil will help make your face feel much better

Round 1: Beard Balm vs. Beard Oil Showdown – The Conditioning Phase

When it comes to conditioning your beard, both are eerily similar on paper.

In fact, when looking at just about any quality beard oil, you will notice a set of ingredients which includes the following:

  • Carrier oils
  • Essential oils
  • Vitamin E oil (sometimes)

It’s this unique mixture of ingredients that make beard oil work.

Contrary, when you look at a beard balm you will find the following ingredients on its container:

  • Carrier oils
  • Essential oils
  • Butter (shea/cocoa)
  • Beeswax

Now if you aren’t sure what a few of these ingredients are, let’s break it down:

Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are the heavy lifters of the beard conditioning world.  Usually coming in the forms of jojoba, argan, grapeseed, sweet almond, or many other varieties, this ingredient is the base of the moisturizing and nourishment properties.

Without the inclusion of a carrier oil, you would have a pronounced amount beard flakes present that would be incredibly unsightly.  In addition, the carrier oils help to keep your beard itch tepid as well – which is of course key in achieving incredible comfort throughout the day.

But beyond the skin properties, carrier oils take it a step further.  They also play a key role in helping to soften your beard.  So, it its feeling a bit brittle, a carrier oil will make your beard smooth to the touch.  Secondly, an added benefit of a smooth beard is that it will be less susceptible to split ends.

Essential Oils

Beyond the carrier oils, you will also see that beard balms and beard oils also contain essential oils.  This ingredient is what truly defines these beard care products from your standard conditioning cream or balm.

Essential oils infuse incredible scents into the product that can evoke a smell of that woody manly scent that so many men often desire to one that is a bit more holiday centric by delivering nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon notes.

Essential oils are great at delivering wild scents that aren’t overly pungent.  Typically, after application of either a balm or oil, you will notice that the smell will subside after a few hours.

Oh, and essential oils can provide some pretty great secondary benefits as well, such as being a natural anti-fungal all the way to increasing blood flow to your skin (helps with beard growth).


Now here is where beard balm starts to take the lead.  Unlike beard oil, balms contain an additional moisturizing agent in the way of shea or cocoa butter.

Found as a core ingredient in both men’s and women’s natural skin care products, butters provide an extra level of moisturization to your skin.  Therefore, if you have a pronounced amount of beard flakes, or simply find that your skin gets dry rather quickly, butter is a killer secondary coat that works great in tandem with a carrier oil.


Noticeably absent in beard oil, beeswax is great for adding just a light touch of styling ability to your beard.  It’s volume is pretty light in the beard balms found on the market, but can help to keep a few wiry whiskers in check throughout the course of a day.

Secondly, beeswax acts as an effective protectant to your skin.  So, if you live in a dry climate, it can help to keep your skin and beard well-nourished throughout the day.

Judge’s Scorecard

When it comes to conditioning, it’s unanimous that beard balm was way more effective when compared head-to-head with beard oil.  It’s inclusion of secondary ingredients of butter and beeswax ensure that it can penetrate the skin and provide a protective barrier for your beard.

Winner: Beard Balm

growing a healthy beard

Round 2: Beard Balm vs. Beard Oil Showdown – The Styling Ability

And down goes Frazier!!!

But in this case, it’s not going to Smokin’ Joe Frazier, instead its beard oil!

To put it as kindly as possible, beard oil gets knocked flat on its ass when it comes to styling ability.  Given that it has zero binding or holding agents within the bottle, it will provide very little in the way of shape or form to your beard.

So, if you are going for ‘that look’ of the perfect beard once you are done visiting the barber shop, then beard oil simply won’t cut it.

Remember from Round 1, beard oil is just a mixture of oils – so if anything, your beard will be less likely to maintain and hold its shape when applied regularly.

Furthermore, as we mentioned in Round 1, beard balm includes beeswax.  While not exactly the highest concentration, especially when compared to a mustache wax, it does provide at the very least a slight hold to your famed follicles.

When heading out the door, a beard balm can help your beard to maintain its shape at least for a few hours.

Judge’s Scorecard

If this were a true fight, there is no doubt about it that beard oil was beat to a blood pulp in this round.  If it were the UFC, the fight would have been over by now!  But alas, there is still a lot more fighting to go between these two products – let’s see what the next round brings.

Winner: Beard Balm

Round 3: Beard Balm vs. Beard Oil Showdown – Portability

Whether you are flying across the country or simply headed on a weekend road trip, both beard balms and beard oils will be able to easily store away in your favorite dopp kit.

Both products are usually housed in 1 or 2 oz. containers, making them absolutely perfect for portability.

But when it comes to durability, beard balm is not relenting in its conquest to knock beard oil down.

Just about any beard oil is made from an amber glass bottle.  While great for storage, as it will naturally block out the UV rays from destroying the integrity of the ingredients, being that it’s made from glass, it is susceptible to breakage.

Therefore, when handling a beard oil bottle in the bathroom, you need to be careful on not dropping it.

Letting your favorite beard oil bottle slip out of your hands could lead to either beard oil shooting out the top, or simply breaking and having shattered glass all over your bathroom floor.

Contrary to beard oil, beard balm is designed a bit more intelligently.  Housed in a metal (often screw top) tin, beard balm travels incredibly well.

You can easily keep your favorite tin contained within your back pocket or daypack for the occasional application.

Judge’s Scorecard

We are beginning to think that beard oil might be the next Glass Jaw Joe.  Simply because beard balm flattened beard oil with ease in this round.  I mean come on, there is no question that a metal tin will be way more durable than one crafted from glass!

Winner: Beard Balm

Round 4: Beard Balm vs. Beard Oil Showdown – Beard Type

So, what’s your prized beard looking like?

A few weeks of growth?  Or are you wearing a full yeard (beard for a year)?

Well depending on your length, either a balm or oil can both be pretty effective.

Generally speaking, men who have a bit shorter beard (~ less than 6 months of growth), beard oil will likely be the better of the two options.

The reason for this is that you likely don’t have a lot of wiry whiskers getting in the way of your daily activities.

For instance, one of the biggest drawbacks when growing a long beard is that the mustache hairs will start to get into your mouth when eating.

Instead, during the beginning beard growth phase, you want to concentrate on conditioning and getting your skin and beginning hair follicles healthy through the high concentration of carrier oils found in beard oil (remember these will forever be the tips of your hair follicles, so you don’t want them getting frayed).

As you could probably guess, when your beard gets longer and more unkempt, a beard balm can help to keep all the whiskers in check to provide a better bearded experience.

Judge’s Scorecard

It’s a toss-up!  Depending on where you are in your beard growth journey, either product may be appropriate for application.  Even with a longer beard, you still can wear beard oil – just don’t expect styling capabilities due to the lack of beeswax.

Winner: Split Decision

Round 4: Beard Balm vs. Beard Oil Showdown – Marketing Adeptness

Let’s go to the world’s largest online retailer and look at the numbers:

When doing just a simple search for beard oil there was 2,212 results:

Contrary, when searching for beard balm, there was a respectable 914 results:

Sure, not every single product is likely a beard oil or beard balm, however, we feel that this is a good indicator regarding market size through the number of product listings.

And with good reason…

Beard oil is incredibly cheap to make.  In fact, if you sell a beard oil for $20, you are looking at a cost of less than $5 bucks per bottle – making for a $15 profit margin (75%).

It’s no wonder that beard oil companies are pushing this stuff hand over fist to beardsmen everywhere – even if it’s not nearly as well rounded of a product when compared to a beard balm.

With beard balm, there is the inclusion of more ingredients (i.e. higher production costs), along with heating and setting of the product within the tins (i.e. labor costs).

Beard oil production is simply mixing carrier and essential oils into a bottle and calling it a day.

Sure, there is an ‘artisanal’ process of making beard oil, but that’s no different than the same process that a beard balm goes through as well.

Judge’s Scorecard

Given its high profit margins coupled with its lower production costs, it’s no wonder that beard care companies push this product a lot harder than a beard balm.  At the end of the day, who wouldn’t mind making a few extra bucks?

Winner: Beard Oil

Tallying The Scores

As we tabulate the results from above, from an objective analysis, beard balm simply single-handedly defeated beard oil. From ingredient profile to portability, beard balm overall is an incredibly effective product at bringing your beard care game to the next level.

Now, this isn’t to knock on all the great work that beard oil companies do on a daily basis. Beard oil is a great product that will help your beard immensely.

However, it seems that beard balm just simply doesn’t get the love it deserves even when on paper its objectively a better product.

If you aren’t conditioning your beard at all – beard balm or beard oil still will do an incredible job at bringing your beard care game to the next level.

Want recommendations?

For a full review of the best beard balms on the market, be sure to check out our in-depth analysis of the top brands.

If you are still thinking about picking up a beard oil, we put together this epic post also comparing the top beard oils currently available.

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About Shawn Burns

Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn's expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.