Growing a beard can be a challenging experience. There can be uncertainty, discomfort, and the need for some serious willpower. At times, it can be tempting to cut corners. Proper beard washing is essential. But, can you wash your beard with hair shampoo?
It’s an almost universally accepted fact that washing a beard with hair shampoo can be damaging for several reasons. These include drying out the beard, irritating the skin, and damaging the integrity of the hair shafts. Using a specific beard shampoo (a.k.a beard wash) for the beard is essential because it was designed with the beard in mind. Beard hair is different to scalp hair, and facial skin is different to the scalp skin. Failure to appreciate this leads to poor results.
That’s the short answer. But the short answer may not be enough to convince you. I’m going to delve into this quite deep.
Deep enough to ensure that not an ounce of doubt will be left in your mind.
After reading this I can guarantee that you would rather rub purple dye into your beard than hair shampoo.
3 Reasons Why You Should Never Use Hair Shampoo On Your Beard
These are reasons that can’t be ignored. They’re the main ones to worry about although there are most likely several more.
The main objective is to make sure that you opt for washing your beard with beard shampoo or just water. Never hair shampoo.
1. It can dry out the beard and the underlying skin
Hair shampoo is designed to thoroughly clean out dirt, grime, and dead skin cells from the scalp. It is also designed to strip away the excess oil produced by the sebaceous glands of the scalp.
Because scalp skin is tougher than facial skin, and the scalp produces more oil than facial skin, hair shampoo is “stronger”.
It contains harsher chemicals to “de-oil” the oily surface of the rough n’ ready scalp skin.
But apply hair shampoo on a beard and you’ll soon notice the mismatch. The harsh substance will strip away the relatively low volume of natural sebum oil from the facial skin.
Natural sebum can be a beard’s best friend. Sure, in large quantities it can produce a greasy, patchy appearance to the beard. But in small quantities, it can make the beard look well-moisturized and healthy.
Dryness is generally a beard’s worst enemy. It can make an otherwise luscious and full beard look like a weak and brittle one.
Hair shampoo will dry out the underlying facial skin. This will, in turn, cause itchiness. Yes, “beard itch” can become the bain of a man’s existence.
Beard dandruff will also become an issue as that dry skin starts to flake and leave a snowy residue atop your formerly magnificent facial locks.
Hair shampoo on beards equals a dry beard and dry skin. It isn’t worth it.
2. It can be deeply irritating to the skin
Irritation is a little different to dryness. I’m talking about discomfort and pain, rather than dryness and itch.
You wouldn’t use hair shampoo as soap, right? You’d notice straight away that it was starting to mess with your skin.
Facial skin is more sensitive than scalp skin. It can’t deal with the strength of hair shampoo. Over time, especially with overuse, it will start to get angry and irritated.
Proper skin care is an essential aspect of beard grooming, funnily enough. You could have the most impressive beard in the world, but if you’ve got red, sore-looking facial skin, all that hard work goes to waste.
It doesn’t look good, and it isn’t healthy.
3. It can cause breakages and split-ends
Washing your beard with hair shampoo will, over time, start to affect the integrity of the actual hair shafts.
The products you use on your beard should always aim to moisturize and nourish. Anything which doesn’t fall into this category should be kept far, far away from your beard.
Drying the beard out by robbing it of natural sebum makes it fundamentally more vulnerable.
This coating of sebum protects the hair shafts from physical damage. Breakages and split-ends become more common when it is removed.
The chemicals of the hair shampoo will also start to directly damage the shafts as opposed to just removing its layer of protection.
These chemicals include sulfates such as sodium laureth sulfate, as well as polyethylene glycol. They’re what give hair shampoo it’s detergent-like qualities.
This damage may not be immediately obvious at first. You may just notice your beard feeling coarser than it used to. But you may actually start to see and feel split-ends, as well as breakages over time.
Ultimately, premature beard hair loss will become more likely – an excruciating phenomenon to watch, and one that is difficult to reverse without expert input.
Beard Wash Vs Hair Shampoo: What’s The Difference?
The terms “beard wash” and “beard shampoo” are used interchangeably. They’re the same thing.
So, next time you see beard wash being marketed relentlessly in your targeted adverts online, this is what you should know.
Beard wash is really the only cleansing product you should apply on your beard. It’s much better for your beard than regular hair shampoo would be for more than one reason.
The main reason is that it’s “gentler”. It is usually created mainly from natural, botanical ingredients which soothe while they cleanse.
It takes into account the sensitivity of facial skin and is designed in such a way that it doesn’t strip it of too much natural sebum.
This allows it to maintain a healthy balance of oils which is great for the beard as well as the skin.
Beard wash is strong enough to remove excess oil from facial skin and the beard without drying it out too much.
This reduces the risk of suffering from that dreaded beard itch, as well as beard dandruff.
Beard washes can be scented, or fragrance-free. If you have particularly sensitive skin, go for a paraben and fragrance-free option, as these are known to be allergic and inflammatory triggers in some people.
Here’s an article I wrote to help you decide whether beard wash is for you or not.
Is Beard Hair Really That Different To Head Hair?
Put simply, yes! The best way of starting would be to ask yourself why you didn’t have beard hair as a child.
Beard hair is what is known as “androgenic” hair. It first starts to make itself known at puberty when testosterone levels start to rise. Scalp hair, in contrast, is present from birth.
Beard hair, much like any type of androgenic hair (including pubic hair), is typically thicker and coarser than scalp hair. Run your fingers through your scalp hair followed by your beard hair for a first-hand demonstration.
Plus, we’ve already talked about an important difference which is the relative levels of oil.
The scalp produces more oil than facial skin, and so scalp hair can become greasy and oily-looking much sooner than beard hair would.
Importantly, these reasons are enough to suggest that our grooming habits should be different for both types of hair.
Beard hair is thicker and curlier than scalp hair. Because of this, a specific boar bristle beard brush should be used to tame it instead of a hairbrush.
Boar hair is very similar in texture to beard hair, which enables it to glide effortlessly through it without causing too much tugging, pulling, and damage.
The benefits of beard brushing are the topic of a whole different article.
But getting back to the question of the day, our cleaning habits should also differ. The oiliness of the scalp would suggest that stronger products are required to remove the excess.
Enter, hair shampoo, together with its sulfates, polyethylene glycol, etc.
The sensitivity and relatively low oil levels of facial skin would suggest that a gentler product, preferably all-natural, would be necessary.
Enter, beard shampoo (beard wash).
Hopefully, that’s a little clearer now.
Can I Just Wash My Beard With Water Instead?
This question is asked a lot. So much, that I’ve written a whole article to address it.
Many men wonder whether beard shampoo is necessary or not. It’s no secret that there are men out there with full, healthy, and clean beards that don’t use any beard shampoo whatsoever.
These men simply rinse with lukewarm water daily and get by just fine. But there are reasons why this may not be an option for you. They mainly revolve around how oily you get, your climate and environment, and your occupation.
Read this article to find out more about this topic.
Knowing what you know now about washing your beard with hair shampoo, it’s quite likely you’ll want to shop for a specific beard shampoo.
Alternatively, you may consider just sticking to using water only.
Either way, it’s important to finish off on this point. Growing a beard is a multi-faceted experience. Sure, you need to grow it, sculpt it, nourish it, and worry about thickness, softness, and so on.
It can be tempting to focus on one or two of these aspects and become pre-occupied with them. In doing so, you neglect the “less interesting” but crucial aspects such as beard hygiene.
Keeping a clean beard is essential, but a balance must be struck between cleansing and damaging.
Hopefully, this article will help guide you in making a decision for your specific beard. What may work for one beard may not work for another.
But I can guarantee this one thing; using hair shampoo on your beard is never a good idea.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.