It’s official: beards are fashionable again. These days, a man with a full, lustrous beard is a man to be admired. Adding in a sharp haircut and an even sharper suit certainly doesn’t hurt either, but the beard remains the centerpiece.
As the partner of a long-time beard-grower, I can certainly appreciate the finer points of a well-tended beard. It adds definition and character to a man’s face, protects the skin underneath from the harsh vagaries of nature, and can make a dull face look a whole lot more exciting.
That’s when the beard is well tended.
Show me a beard that’s spiraled out of control, and I’ll run for the hills. An unruly beard? No thanks. A dirty beard? Yuck. A beard that’s grown just a little too long? Not a fan.
But the kind of beard that scares me the most is one that makes its owner incessantly itch at it. An itchy beard means the skin underneath and (and in some cases the hair follicles themselves) are suffering, and that just won’t do.
Contrary to popular belief, maintaining a healthy beard actually takes some hard work. It needs to be regularly cleaned, moisturized, trimmed and nourished. But for many men, an itchy beard is simply a fact of life. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way: here are five remedies for an itchy beard that’ll make you love your beard again (and probably make your partner a whole lot happier in the process).
1. Clean and condition
Personally, I’m not a big fan of regularly washing my hair. As a holistic health coach, I’m well aware that cleaning the hair on your scalp too much can strip the hair follicles of nutrients and remove the natural oils that keep the skin in this area soft and supple. The same is true for beard hair.
But that doesn’t mean a man should never wash his beard. In fact, if you don’t make a point of washing your beard every once in a while, it’s bound to transition into that dreaded “itchy phase”. Washing your beard with a gentle, natural shampoo can help to remove excess oils and debris (a.k.a. the juices from that shawarma which dribbled into your beard at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning), while a gentle conditioner can help to soften the hairs and lock in moisture.
Commit to a regular (but not too frequent!) beard washing routine, and you’ll have a solid basis for a healthy beard.
2. Eat a nutritious diet
No matter how intensively you manage your beard, it’ll all be for nothing if you’re not getting the right amount of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet. In addition to eating a varied diet rich in whole foods, here are some of the more important nutrients that’ll take your beard from itchy to silky smooth in no time:
- Vitamin E blocks the formation of reactive oxygen species, protects against ultraviolet damage, and is an important nutrient for hair, skin and nails. Foods rich in vitamin E include almonds, spinach, sweet potato and avocado.
- B vitamins, especially B7 (biotin) and B9 (folate), help to regulate healthy sebum and keratin production, both of which are critical for healthy hair and beard growth. High biotin foods include organ meats and egg yolks, while dark leafy greens and citrus fruits are great sources of folate.
- Vitamin D is a critical part of supporting healthy skin and hair, so if you’re deficient in this vitamin, it’s easy to see why you might be suffering from a bad case of the beard itch. Luckily, it’s easily fixed: get outside into the sun! And if not, get your hands on a high-quality vitamin D supplement.
- Zinc is responsible for regulating a wide range of enzyme cofactors in the body, and like vitamin D, it is critical for healthy, supple skin. Supple skin means less chance of beard itch, so get involved with foods like oysters, red meat, beans, nuts and dairy products.
While these vitamins and minerals are heavy hitters when it comes to beard health, making sure you eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and free-range meat will go a long way towards preventing that dreaded beard itch.
3. Shea butter
If it’s a quick fix you’re after, shea butter might just be the ticket. Because the leading cause of an itchy beard is dry skin, regularly moisturizing the underlying skin with a natural cream like shea butter can provide instant relief. Shea butter is loaded with powerful antioxidants like vitamins A and C, along with other phytonutrients that protect the skin against free radical damage and UV degradation.
Scoop out a little shea butter every day, warm it up to a thick liquid consistency, rub it between your hands then massage it into the skin and base of your beard.
4. Aloe vera
The skin-hydrating powers of aloe vera are legendary, and it’ll be put to good use moisturizing not only your facial skin but your malnourished beard as well. Not only that, the enzymes naturally present in aloe vera have been shown to remove dead skin cells — another common cause of itchy beard.
Apply pure aloe vera gel (make sure it doesn’t have anything else in it, especially alcohol!) to your skin and base of your beard one to two times a day. Whether you rinse it off afterward is your choice — my man usually just leaves it on and it eventually absorbs into the skin.
5. Homemade beard balm
While shea butter and aloe vera are undoubtedly powerful allies in the fight against beard itch, combining several beard-nourishing ingredients into a magnificent beard balm is a surefire way to permanently avoid an itchy beard. This recipe uses coconut oil, which simultaneously hydrates the skin while fighting off the microbes that can cause beard itch, along with a range of essential oils known to promote healthy skin and hair.
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
- 10 drops rosemary essential oil
- 10 drops sandalwood essential oil
- 6 drops tea tree essential oil
- 10 drops cedarwood essential oil
- Place the coconut oil in a small heat-safe bowl and warm in the oven for a few minutes, until the oil has turned liquid.
- Add the essential oils, stir, then pour the entire mixture into a glass jar. Put a lid on and give the jar a bit of a shake to evenly distribute the oils.
- Rub into the base of your beard whenever you like and reap the rewards!
— Liivi Hess