How to Exfoliate Your Beard (And Why You Should)

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably sporting an awesome beard. And let’s face it, while most life circumstances improve dramatically for bearded men, there’s one nemesis we all encounter each morning with a proper amount of dread and horror. I’m talking about the feared “ingrown hair.” To rid ourselves of these evil, irritating insurgents, we need to talk about how to exfoliate your beard and why you should do it.

How to Exfoliate Your Beard

  1. Thoroughly wash your face and beard using soap or beard shampoo
  2. Gently massage your beard and skin with a beard scrub that matches your skin profile [for ingrown hairs pair with a cleanser containing salicylic acid]
  3. Moisturize your beard area using a beard-specific cream or oil 
  4. Using a comb, carefully groom your beard

Tired of fighting with sensitive skin? Keep reading to learn more about how to exfoliate your beard and the reasons why it matters. 

Why you need to exfoliate your beard

So why should you exfoliate your beard in the first place? 

Everyone’s skin, on average, regenerates about every 40 to 56 days, which means it takes that long for dead skin to slough off. However, your skin will need some help removing the grime because everything is covered with your magnificent beard. Simply washing your face isn’t enough. Exfoliating your beard removes the impurities under it that lead to beard issues and complications. 

Exfoliating your beard will help you avoid ingrown hairs, angry red bumps, and clogged pores. When hair follicles begin to produce stubble, a few wayward hairs will curl up and grow back into the skin, causing irritation. This irritation will result in inflamed, red bumps on the neck and chin. 

These red bumps are unpleasant to look at and create sensitive spots that become difficult landmines to navigate when shaving close. Regularly exfoliating your beard allows these rouge hairs to fall in line with the rest. Exfoliation can provide great relief from the discomfort of constant ingrown hairs. 

Does exfoliating damage beard?

Exfoliating your beard will not damage the beard itself, but overuse of chemical exfoliants could damage your skin’s microbiome. Make sure you only use chemical beard exfoliants 2-3 times per month. In place of chemical exfoliants, try using a physical exfoliant, such as a dry brush in between shaves. 

You’ll also damage your beard with exfoliating if you apply too much pressure or rub too vigorously. Scrubbing your beard too hard during exfoliation damages your skin, the base, and the core of your beard.

Is it safe to use exfoliant on beard?

It’s safe to use exfoliant on your beard. In fact, exfoliation is part of a healthy beard care routine. If you have a beard and choose not to exfoliate, you will likely develop painful in-grown hairs and irritating, dry skin. The irritation caused by ingrown hairs and dry, flaky skin can be very unpleasant. Again, just be sure not to overuse exfoliating products. 

Poor beard maintenance and improper beard exfoliation can weaken your skin and leave you vulnerable to ingrown hairs and infections because there’s nothing to protect it from the elements. You need to be mindful of how you treat your beard and skin, much like you should be with your overall health.

Aggressive beard exfoliation and poor beard maintenance can lead to:

  • Breakage and Weak hair
  • Damaged hair follicles
  • Ingrown hairs
  • Skin infections

How to exfoliate your beard properly (6 Options)

Everyone has a different preference when it comes to beard care. This is especially true regarding different products and methods for exfoliation. Consider the following tips and methods as a menu of options. Choosing one or two of these methods will help keep you irritation-free.

  • Use a Chemical Beard Exfoliator Scrub 
  • Use a Dry Brush
  • Shave
  • Use a Comb
  • Use Baking Soda
  • Use a Natural Sugar Scrub

Use a Chemical Beard Exfoliator Scrub

The most obvious beard exfoliants are the dozens of beard scrubs on the market. Some of these beard exfoliators are not much different than normal face wash products, while others are essentially just oils mixed with Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs). Many cleanser-type scrubs are made with salicylic acid, which is a chemical used to treat acne.

The second variety may contain microplastics (if the product is made outside of the U.S.) which are meant to help break up dry skin cells and to free impacted hair follicles, but these may not be all that good for the environment

Remember, when using these types of exfoliants, you only use them 2-3 times per month. If used too much, the acid in them can strip all of the good oils and bacteria from your skin, leaving a dry, irritated mess behind. 

When using a beard scrub, make sure to squeeze out a small amount of scrub, run it around in your hands until it covers your palms, add a bit of warm water, and then scrub the beard and neck area thoroughly in smooth circular motions. When you’re finished, make sure to rinse the area completely with cool water.

Use a Dry Brush

Dry brushing is one of the best and least invasive ways to exfoliate your beard. Dry brushes come in two varieties: hard, boar bristle brushes, and soft bristle brushes. 

Obviously, the boar bristle brushes are a bit more thorough at exfoliating beards, but if you have sensitive skin, you may want to try a soft bristle brush. When brushing, try to go against the grain a bit to free impacted hairs. 

You may also find in-shower wet brushes on the market. This will work similarly to the dry brush but will be for use in the shower. These can be effective, but don’t often exfoliate as efficiently as a hard bristle dry brush. 

Shave

Believe it or not, shaving is actually the best way to exfoliate your face. Most irritation problems arise from in-grown hairs. When you shave, that problem gets negated. Although we would never encourage you to shave your beautiful beard, if you’re having in-grown hair problems on your neck, it may be time for a trim!

Use a Comb

Another way to exfoliate your beard is to take a comb into the shower with you and comb your beard while making sure to also run the teeth of the comb along the skin under your beard. This is a great way to exfoliate without going out and buying new accessories. 

Use Baking Soda

Another cheap way to exfoliate is to run a small amount of baking soda into your beard. Baking soda is a natural exfoliant and is classified as a mild abrasive. Its texture will help break up dry skin and impacted hairs. It will also remove excess oils from your beard.

Just remember not to use too much, as it can also strip your skin of essential oils and bacteria, and always remember to wash it out when you’re finished. 

Use a Natural Sugar Scrub

Another safe, abrasive substance to use as a beard exfoliant is natural sugar scrub. This scrub is often advertised as a natural substitute for chemical exfoliants. It is probably better for your skin than some of the microplastics that you can find in commercial beard scrubs, and it likely smells better too!

Should I exfoliate every day?

So how often should you exfoliate your beard?

While exfoliating regularly is important, it’s probably not wise to exfoliate your beard every single day. Instead, try to exfoliate your beard 2-3 times per month. If you exfoliate too much, the acids and other chemicals in your exfoliant will begin to dry out your skin, creating flakiness and dandruff. 

By contrast, failing to exfoliate your beard enough will lead to ingrown hairs and skin sensitivity. Like with anything, balance is important. It really comes down to the way you plan to exfoliate. Chemical exfoliants shouldn’t be used every day. If you simply plan to exfoliate by using a dry brush, it will be possible to make this an everyday practice. 

Can you exfoliate and shave on the same day?

You will find mixed responses to this question online, with some blogs asserting that it’s ok to exfoliate before shaving and others cautioning against it. The question is a bit pointless; however, when one considers the fact that the act of shaving is a form of exfoliation. To be exact, shaving is a type of physical exfoliation. 

This makes exfoliating before a shave a bit of an exercise in redundancy. Instead, it’s best to exfoliate on shaving off days. However, there may be some benefit in exfoliating with a dry brush directly prior to a shave to remove dead skin cells that may have built up over time. These can clog the blade and lead to a less effective, close shave.

Do you exfoliate before or after shaving?

Exfoliating on days leading up to a shave and on days between your next shave will ensure that the shaving process is smooth. Every time you raze the “old crop” of hair to the ground and start anew, you create an opportunity for stubble to grow into an irritating problem.

An occasional exfoliation session in the space between shaves will help the hairs grow in an orderly manner. Don’t attempt to exfoliate directly after a shave, however. This can cause irritation for those with sensitive skin.