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Beard Balm vs Pomade: What’s the Difference?

We get a LOT of questions about how to differentiate one beard product from another, so in this post, we’ll take a look at a very specific beard products that get confused a lot: beard balm and beard pomade.

For those of you who put a high premium on your time, we’ll give you an overview, and if you’re interested in the details, you can keep reading after that:


In a nutshell:

1) Regular pomade—the kind you’d use on your hair—is formulated to moisturize hair and keep it hydrated and shiny and full-looking, and offers a little bit of hold, but not much;

2) When people say “beard pomade,” what they usually mean is “beard cream” or “beard butter,” and these terms are interchangeable—they’re all basically the same thing; 

3) Beard pomade, aka beard cream/beard butter, exists someplace between a beard oil (very slick) and a beard balm (stiff and waxy), and it’s designed to moisturize your beard and the skin beneath it;

4) beard balm is good moisturization and hold—it usually has some wax, which makes it a good option for shaping your beard—whereas beard pomade/beard cream/beard butter, does NOT have wax, and is mainly used for moisturization purposes. Both moisturize, but beard pomade/cream/butter can’t really shape your beard, whereas a beard balm can; so finally

5) If you want moisturization and hold, use a beard balm, and if you want just moisturization and don’t care about hold, a beard pomade/cream/butter can be a good option.

Also: both are made in a variety of scents that can be very pleasing.

Alright! Now for those of you who are detail-oriented and what to know more about beard balm vs pomade:

Beard Pomade is Really Beard Cream Under Another Name

If you’re new to having a beard, you’re probably learning that there are a literally hundreds of products you can use on them. You can soften your beard, moisturize it, shape it, sculpt it, condition it, etc etc etc. There are a lot of products out there.

That’s all great, because beard grooming is a satisfying thing—some simple care can make your beard look a lot more healthy and a lot more manly, and a lot of the products smell really good.

The problem is that it’s not really intuitive what these products do or how they differ from one another, and it becomes even more difficult when different companies refer to the same product by different names (and that happens a lot).

So, here’s a (very) quick rundown of each product, and what it’s supposed to do:

Beard Oil. Used to moisturize a beard and the skin beneath it, and can relieve dry/itch skin and beardruff. Has a slick consistency—like an oil—and it’s good for hydration and relieving beard itch. Does not provide any hold, but it can make a beard look healthier and/or shinier. Usually made from a a variety of oils, like grapeseed oil, argan oil, coconut oil, cedarwood oil, and jojoba oil. Here’s what the bottle looks like: 

…and here’s what the dropper and oil look like:

Beard Pomade/Beard Cream/Beard Butter. Used to moisturize a beard and the skin beneath, and can relieve dry/itchy skin and beardruff. Has a smooth, spreadable consistency—like a lotion, almost, but not greasy—and it’s used to provide hydration for beard hair and skin. It doesn’t really provide any hold, and usually features seed or nut butters, like shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado butter, or others, as well as oils like the ones you’d find in a beard balm. Here’s what the tub looks like:

…and here’s what the pomade looks like:

Beard Balm. Used to moisturize beard hair, and can provide a bit of hold—it can tame flyaways and give your beard some shape. It’s not really great for moisturizing skin—it can be difficult to work in far enough to reach the skin—but it can do so with some effort. It has a waxy consistency and a firm feel, but it melts when you rub it between your hands and rub it into your beard. It features oils and butters, but it also includes some type of wax—usually bees wax, but sometimes other types of waxes as well, like candelilla wax. Here’s what the tin / container usually looks like:

…and here’s what the contents usually look like:

Beard Wax. This is solely used for hold, and doesn’t really provide any kind moisturizing properties. It’s got a very firm, very consistent feel, and it takes some effort to work into your beard (and to get out later on!). The ingredients usually includes a few oils and butters, but it’s mostly wax. We’re all out of beard wax right now, so no photo—apologies!

The important thing to keep in mind here is that beard pomade is basically the same thing as beard cream and butter butter, and no matter what you call it, it’s kind of a “niche” product. Most guys seem to use either beard oil or beard balm (or a combination of both), and that’s kind of a shame, because beard pomades/creams/butters are fantastic. They’re easy to use, they’re offered in a great suite of scents, and they can do an *incredible* job of moisturizing under-the-beard skin.

Which of the Two is Right for You?

Alright! Now you have an idea of what’s what. A beard balm moisturizes the beard and provides some hold, and a beard pomade moisturizes the beard, but can also moisturize the skin underneath it and relieve flaky skin and beard itch. So if you’re looking to moisturize your beard and get some hold, go for a beard balm, and if you’re looking to moisturize your beard and moisturize the skin beneath it, a pomade/cream/butter is usually a better choice—but it doesn’t provide any real hold.

Now let’s look in more detail at the beard balm vs pomade debate, and which might be right for you:

> Beard balm tends to last longer. Beard butters usually come in larger containers, but because you need more of the product to get the desired effect, it seems to run out more quickly. Your results may vary, of course, but that seems to what happens over here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman.

> Beard balms tend to come in a broader—and more recognizable—scents. That’s both the classic, well-known scents, like sandalwood, cedar, bay rum, citrus, and so on.

> Beard balms have a larger presence on the market, whereas pomades/creams/butters are fewer and further between. That’s a bummer, for sure, but it’s true. To provide a little guidance, we talk about our favorite balms and pomades below.

> Beard pomades tend to have more “signature” scents—that is, they tend to have more complicated scent profiles. That’s actually a big plus, because some of those scents are great. Maestro’s Beard Butter (affiliate link)—which, again, is a pomade by another name—has a grapefruit/black pepper/bergamot scent, and it’s really enticing (in our humble opinion!).

> Beard pomades are a lot easier to wash out of a beard. Balms, because of their wax content, can really coat whiskers, and it can take some effort—and time—to get them out at the end of the day.

We’re going to repeat this, even though we’ve already said it before, but it really is important—beard pomade/cream/butter can moisturize the skin really well, whereas beard balm has a hard time doing so. Beard balm has a lot of advantages, but moisturizing skin is *really* important, and it’s a huuuuuge benefit of pomades/creams/butters. It can do a great job of relieving beard itch, dry skin, and beard dandruff.

What else? That’s most of it. With all that in mind, here’s a rundown of the balms and pomades we like most:

Our Favorite Balms

We’ll break these down into their main characteristics:

Striking Viking Beard Balm Four-Pack: A great moisturizer that can make a beard look bushier and healthier, and provide a good deal of hydration. It’s offered in a four-pack of the “classic” beard balm scents, which include sandalwood, cedar and pine, bay rum, and clary sage;

Honest Amish Beard Balm: This is our favorite “signature scent” balm—it’s a blend of clove (sweet and fruity), anise (smells like licorice, but very faint), and cedar (pine-y, but also faint). It’s a really unique, very enticing scent, and it’s probably one of the most popular beard balms out there. Also a good moisturizer for beard hair and skin; and finally

Grave Before Shave Beard Balm: Grave Before Shave really leans into the scent game, and they offer a wide range of fragrances, from tequila/lemon, to tobacco/vanilla, leather/cedar, and a ton more. Also good at moisturizing, but they really stand out for their scent profile.

There are a lot—like, a whole lot—of other balms out there, but those are probably our three favorites.

Our Picks for Best Beard Pomade

So, here’s where this gets real: remember how we said that beard pomades are usually called beard creams or beard butters? There are only two products that we know of that are actually called beard pomades (and one of them is actually a beard-AND-hair-on-your-head pomade). They are:

Professor Fuzzworthy’s Gentlemans Beard Pomade & Hair Styling Cream for Men: Professor Fuzzworthy doesn’t have as much name recognition as a lot of other brands, and that’s a bummer, because they make a lot of good products. This is a unique offering, because it’s a 2-in-1 tool—you can moisturize your beard with it, and then put it on your head to do the same.

Bossman Beard Pomade: Bossman is actually a really great company, and we’re huge fans of their beard jelly, and we think their beard pomade is a great option if you’re looking for a pomade. It’s offered in a range of different scents (with fun names, like Hammer, Gold, Magic, etc.), and it actually offers more hold than most creams/butters do, which makes it a very unique product. This is probably our top pick for a legit beard pomade.

Cremo Beard and Scruff Cream: If you’re looking for an actual cream—that calls itself a cream—we usually suggest Cremo. They’ve got a ton of great products, and they make their creams in two scents: Mint (which is VERY minty) and Forest Blend (which has a nice, pine-y smell).

Does All That Make Sense?

We hope so! If you’re still confused by all the beard products out there, we feel you. You’d think it would be very simple to sport a beard and take care of it, but there’s a surprising amount of knowledge required. Hopefully this sheds some light on the “beard balm vs. pomade” discussion, and if you have any questions, feel free to hop over to our “Contact” page and drop us a line. Until next time, be good, have fun, and happy beard!

Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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