generic shampoo or beard shampoo

One of the most controversial beard products has to be the beard shampoo.

When most people hear about it the first time, they go: “Huh, beard wash? Hair is hair, I’m going to use my normal shampoo on the beard and call it a day!”

They couldn’t be more wrong in this though, as beard hairs are very different from the hairs on the top of your head.

Beard is androgenic-hair, controlled by hormones and desperately needs the natural sebum oils. Scalp-hair, on the other hand, is non-androgenic, doesn’t need hormones to grow, and isn’t that dependant on the natural sebum oils.

Because of this, it’s important that you understand the key differences between regular shampoo and beard wash, and why it may make sense to use the latter on your whiskers.

If you’re only here to find out what the best beard washes are, click on that link as we already reviewed them before.

Main Differences Between Beard Wash and Generic Hair Wash

beard shampoo bottle with head and shoulders

Okay, so let’s take a minute to actually filter through the biggest differences between generic supermarket shampoos and specific beard shampoos.

You might think they’re the same stuff with a different label, but you’d be wrong on that…

  • Beard washes are – most of the time – made from natural ingredients, with very small amounts of chemical cleaning agents.
  • Generic shampoos are often made from a mixture of man-made chemicals, strong cleaning agents, and a few natural oils.

This is why your average supermarket shampoo often comes with SLS, parabens, benzoates, and other powerful detergents, with maybe a small amount of natural oils like almond oil.

Beard washes, on the other hand, are mostly made from natural oils like jojoba oil, coconut oil, olive oil, Castile soaps, and maybe a small amount of potassium hydroxide or lye.

It’s crucial to understand that no shampoo or soap is never 100% natural, as it has to use saponified oils and alkali, which are man-made chemicals – without these ingredients, it simply wouldn’t clean the facial hair.

But the difference is in the fact that beard shampoos use natural ingredients and small amounts of detergents, which make them mild and sensitive.

Whereas generic hair shampoos use man-made chemical ingredients, with high amounts of detergents, making them strong and ruthless against the natural sebum oils.

To put it simply: Beard shampoo = high in natural oils, small amounts of detergents, very mild cleaning results. Generic shampoo = high in chemical detergents, low in natural oils, very strong cleaning results.

Why You Should Avoid Generic Shampoo on The Beard

beard washing

I firmly believe that one of the biggest beard mistakes you can make would be to wash your facial hair with the same shampoo that goes on top of your head.

Here’s why…

  • The parabens and many other chemicals in normal shampoo can suppress testosterone and DHT, the key beard hormones.
  • The powerful detergents and chemicals in generic washes strip almost all of the natural sebum oils from the beard hairs.
  • Beard shampoo leaves some of the natural oils intact, while normal shampoo causes dry skin under your facial hair and beard split-ends.
  • Beard washes are designed to help reduce beard dandruff thanks to the natural oils, generic shampoo dries the skin and causes beardruff.
  • After beard shampoo, you only need a bit of beard oil to replace the natural oils. After normal shampoo, you need beard oil + beard balm.
  • Generic shampoo uses silicone to make the hairs appear shinier. Beard shampoo achieves the same results through natural oils.

How to Properly Use Beard Shampoo

Wash your Beard Sparingly

man washing beard over sink

The fastest way to mess up your beard washing routine is to do it daily.

Sure the mainstream media is constantly telling us how disgusting and dirty beards are, but in reality, they’re not so dirty that you would need to hop on a shower and scrub your beard daily.

Most experts agree that the healthiest beard is a 3-day beard and that you should be washing the whiskers for 2-3 times per week at the maximum.

Shampooing the facial hair daily will mean that you constantly strip the natural oils away, which means that you will need to apply more and more beard oils and beard balms to replace the lost sebum oil and mitigate the dryness.

This, in turn, will mean that you’re running through beard washes, beard oils, and the balms in a record time which is the equivalent of pissing away money.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re using special beard shampoo, you still don’t want to wash daily.

Even though beard washes are gentle and strip less of the sebum oils than generic shampoo, they still do strip some of the oils.

Wash your beard twice, maybe three times per week (once if you’re hardcore) and you’re good to go.

Beard Wash Doesn’t Replace Beard Oil & Balm

two panel beard oil beard balm

The longer your beard gets, the more beard products you will have to start using.

This is inevitable, as the sebaceous glands are only finite in size, and the bigger the beard, the more oil it needs.

You should logically start from beard oil once your beard starts to hit around 1-2″ in length, and the longer it gets, the more drops you need to use.

The next step would be beard balm which can preserve some of the moisture by creating a protective lipid layer on top of the beard hairs.

But somehow, many men think that if they start using beard wash, they wouldn’t need to use beard oils or balms anymore.

Big mistake. 

You will need to use at least beard oil at some point even if you wouldn’t wash the beard at all, and washing it with generic shampoo would mean that you’d have to use insane amounts of oil.

Since beard shampoo is milder than generic shampoo, (but it still strip some natural oils), you will still need to use the balm and oil. I’m sorry, but that’s just the name of the game if you want to prevent itchiness and dry skin in the long run.

So don’t go thinking that facial hair shampoo would replace the basic beard care items because it certainly doesn’t.

Consider Getting Beard Conditioner Toobeard conditioner bottles

We recommend that you always pair beard conditioner with the beard wash.

Conditioners are usually loaded with coconut oil and shea butter, which both have the ability to penetrate the beard hair fibers and deep skin layers and nourish from deep within.

They also mitigate the sebum oil-stripping effects of washing the beard, and naturally reduce beard dandruff as well.

So it’s a no-brainer really.

There are a couple of different types of conditioning agents you could choose (classic kind, leave-in, etc), and we recently reviewed the best beard conditioners right here in our blog, so definitely check that article out.

Short Beards Don’t Need Shampoo at All

evenly trimmed beard

Do you always need to use beard shampoo?

Well, no.

If your beard is short, say around 0.5 to 1″ in length, then you can still get away with using generic shampoo, as the natural sebum oil production can still replace the oils you’re stripping away with each wash.

Around those lengths, you don’t even need beard oil, as there’s plenty of natural moisture available from the sebaceous glands for a shorter beard.

It’s only when your beard gets closer to that 1.5 to 2″ and more length that you will need to start considering some product use.

The pesky little sebaceous glands just can’t keep up with the demands of a big beard after that.

We recommend that you start getting into beard oil and beard wash at around 1.5″ and then once you hit something like 2.5″ to 3″, add in balm and conditioner as well.


Washing the beard is not rocket science.

The only key things you need to remember are to not wash it too often and to always opt for mild beard shampoo instead of harsh sebum oil stripping generic hair shampoo.

That’s all folks. No need to stretch the topic any further.

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Ali is a published author and a beard grooming expert. To this date, his articles have been read more than 15-million times on various sites, and he has helped thousands of men make their beards look better and grow thicker. His work has been featured and cited in Seeker, Wikihow, GQ, TED, and Buzzfeed.


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