The Best Beard Dye: Which is Right for You?
Many of us love our beards and could never imagine life without them, but we’re not crazy about the actual color of our whiskers. It’s actually a pretty common concern, and luckily, there are a lot of different ways to add color and tone to your beard.
There are, however, some things you’ll need to consider, so below, we’ll cover the A to Z of beard dyes: we’ll provide a quick buying guide of the different types of beard dyes you can buy, list our picks for the best beard dye, and then we’ll give a “crash course” on beard dyes and how to use them. Let’s jump right in:
How to Select Beard Dye: Factors to Consider
Beard dye is kind of a unique item, and if you're new to it, you may not know what features to look for. As you’ll see, many of the factors are split between chemical dyes and all-natural dyes.
Here's a broad outline of the most common factors guy want to consider:
Prep and Dyeing Time. Some of us are extremely busy, and some of us have more time on our hands. As a general rule of thumb, chemical dyes apply and set quickly—usually in the range of 5 to 15 minutes. Natural dyes—that is, dyes that use only all-natural ingredients—can take a little more time to set, and that can be anywhere from a half-hour to a half-an-hour or two hours.
How Long the Dye Will Last. This is another important factor—how long the dye will actually remain in/on your whiskers. Generally, chemical dyes are designed to last a while, and can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months; natural dyes usually last a shorter time, and you need to re-apply them every few weeks. Some natural dyes are even “daily use” dyes, and you need to apply them every day (and we talk more about that below).
Color Predictability. Natural dyes are more random; chemical dyes are more precise. Your chances of getting “the color on the box” are better if you’re using a chemical dye, and you may need to make a couple attempts at getting the color you want if you’re trying an all-natural dye. However, that’s usually a trade-off because of…
Skin Sensitivity. While there are no guarantees about any product, men with sensitive skin may do better with all-natural dyes than chemical ones. Many of the coloring and setting agents in chemical dyes can be hard on the skin, and all-natural dyes that use ingredients directly from nature, like henna and indigo, may be a little bit gentler. All dyes suggest you put some of the dye on your skin to test and see if you’ve got allergies, and it’s wise to check with your doctor or dermatologist to make sure a beard dye will be OK for your skin.
Semi-Permanent vs. Daily Application. Some guys want a “set-it-and-forget-it” option that lasts a while; others only need dye in their beard here-and-there, and a daily application dye can be a great option for that sort of need.
To Sum Up: chemical dyes are quicker and more reliable, but may be more likely to irritate the skin; all-natural dyes take a little while longer and you may need to give it a couple of attempts in order to get the color you want, but they don’t contain a long list of chemicals and may be easier on your skin and hair.
Our Picks for Best Beard Dye
There are quite a few options out there, but here are the ones we consider the best dyes for your facial hair:
Grizzly Mountain Beard Dye
Perhaps our favorite aspect of Grizzly Mountain Beard Dye is that it's got a unique list of all-natural ingredients. It's got no harsh chemicals added, and the ingredient list includes emblic, neem tree, false daisy, henna, and indigo.
Those ingredients may seem a little exotic for most of us, so here's a description of each: emblic is also known an Indian gooseberry, and is an important fruit in the Buddhist religion; the neem tree is also known as Indian lilac, and is used in medicines, cosmetics, and soaps; false daisy is dried and used in traditional medicine in Southeast Asia; henna we'll discuss below; and indigo is a plant famous for making a dark dye. In other words, all-natural ingredients.
This is a gentler dye that provides great color quality, and gives tone to the outside exterior of your whiskers. As is often the case with more natural dyes, Grizzly can take a while to set—you'll need to prepare it, apply it your whiskers, and then let it relax for about 10 to 30 minutes (and that depends a bit on the coarseness of your beard—if your beard is thinner, it may take a shorter period of time; if your beard is very thick, it can take a full half-an-hour). The dye may also take a little while to oxidize into its final color, and that's also normal for dyes with natural ingredients, and it may appear slightly greenish at first—another thing that happens with natural dyes—but that usually goes away within 12 to 24 hours.
"Grizzly Mountain" is kind of a tough name, but the dye has a nice organic feel, and it can be a great option if you've got a little of time and are looking for an all-natural option.
Summary: A non-chemical dye that takes a little time set (but less time than other all-natural dyes); great list of natural ingredients.
Godefroy Professional Tint Kit
Despite having a kind of French-sounding name; Godefroy Professional is a French product that came to the United States in 1930s and became popular all over the country. Now they're based in Texas, and according to their website, they make a lot of their products in the U.S.
Godefroy is a general-purpose chemical dye, meaning that you can use it on your beard, but you can also use it on your sideburns, your eyebrows (and a lot of women use it on their eyebrows), and even at your temples. They offer a lot of the advantages that a chemical dyes offer, namely 1) quick application—it only takes a few minutes for the dye to set, as opposed to the half-hour plus that some natural dyes require; 2) it lasts for a while—up to six weeks, which is also a benefit over natural dyes; and 3) it's a lot more durable, and you go swimming, go work out and get sweaty, and so on.
It is a chemical dye, so you'll need to cover your skin with Vaseline when you apply it (otherwise you can stain your skin), but it doesn't have that ammonia smell that some chemical dyes have—that smell can be very overpowering!
The other thing we like about Godefroy is that it features a capsule instead of semi-solid liquid dye. Instead of mixing the semi-solid liquid, you crack a capsule with powder in it and then mix. That's a unique delivery system, and if you dislike the paste-like material that most dyes feature, those capsules can be a nice change-of-pace (although they can be a little bit difficult to crack open, and you want to crack them open with care so that the powder doesn't go all over the place; if you have difficulty, you can put the capsule into a small clear plastic baggie, and crack the capsule in that).
Summary: A great option for a chemical dye that's designed to last for a while, and one of our picks for best beard dye overall.
Henna Hair & Beard Color and Dye
Henna has kind of a mysterious reputation—it's been used in India for millennia, counter-culture types used it for body paint in the 1960s, and you probably know one or more hippy-types in your own life who have used henna for various hippie-related interests. If you're not familiar with henna, you might be a little weirded out by it as a hair dye—it has a sort of mysterious reputation, and it can a little obscure.
That's pretty funny, really, because it's just a plant, and it's really great for dying beards, and dudes have been using it to dye their beards for a seriously long time. It's literally a time-tested way to tone your beard. It's natural, it's easy to apply, and it works pretty darn well.
If you're going to give henna a shot, we like Henna Hair and Beard Color by the Henna Guys. Other henna brands add weird chemicals, but this one does not, and that can be great option if you've got sensitive skin. You should still do an allergy test—there's no product out there that 100% safe—but Henna Guys is 100% natural, and it can be a gentler option if your skin gets irritated by some of the ingredients in chemical dyes.
It's not perfect—like many natural dyes, it takes a long time to set, and henna actually takes about two hours to set. That's much longer than some of the other natural dyes we've reviewed, so it's not a great "set it and forget it" option. It can take a little bit of practice, because there can be a little more color variation in natural products, and it can take a couple of applications to find the right mixture for your desired look.
Summary: If you've got enough time to apply it, and if you have any hold-ups about all the chemicals in your grooming products, henna can be one of the best dyes you’ll find. And, it's cruelty-free and vegan, and that's wonderful, in our humble opinion.
Blackbeard for Men Formula X
Blackbeard for Men (great name!) is a little bit different than all the other products we've reviewed, because it's a daily use product. All of the other dyes in this post are semi-permanent dyes—you color your beard with them, and if they're a chemical dye, they last a month or two, and if they're a natural dye, they last a couple of weeks.
Blackbeard for Men is different: it's a daily-use dye, meaning that you color your beard / mustaches / sideburns with it in the morning, and then it'll last from anywhere to 8 to 12 hours (or thereabouts). It literally only takes a few minutes—you brush it in to color intensity that you want—and it dries within minutes. Pretty easy.
That "daily application" feature does mean that you'd have to apply it literally every day you want color in your beard, but it's has some really nice benefits: 1) If you've never tried beard dye before and you're not sure of how it'll look, you can use this and if you don't like it, wallah, wait 12 hours and wash your beard, and you're back to where you started; 2) You can dye in a range of color intensity—you can give yourself a solid color (and it's manufactured in light brown, brown, dark brown, black), but you can also leave some grey if you like, which is a great option for some guys; and 3) If you don't need your beard colored all the time—and with so many people working from home now-a-days, you may not want color in your beard every day—this can be a nice "use it when you need it" option.
Plus, it's made from an all-natural formula, and that's a nice surprise. It's non-toxic and hypoallergenic, so if you've got sensitive skin, it may be a good option (although obviously, you'll still want to do an allergy test).
Summary: A great daily-use option that’s quick to apply and non-toxic and hypoallergenic—a nice surprise for a chemical dye.
RefectoCil Color Kit
RefectoCil is an interesting brand. They're owned by GW Cosmetics and based in Austria, and as per their website, all their products are produced in Leopoldsdorf, Austria. And, honestly, our favorite thing about this company is the goal they state on their "Company Philosophy" page: "We want to be really good!" Well, you can't argue with that.
While many of the products we've reviewed in this post are solely beard dyes, the RefectoCil Color Kit is more of a unisex all-purpose dye, and it's made for beards, sideburns, hair, and even eyebrows—so if you also want to dye other patches of hair (like your sideburns or brows), this can be a good option. It's a good option for very white whiskers, and it's relatively quick—it's designed to set in about 5 to 15 minutes, and to last for several weeks.
RefectoCil is supposed to be good for very white whiskers, and that can be very particular beard situation. Many guys just want to do away with some greys, but some other guys have a whole lot of white whiskers they want to target, and RefectoCil has been known to do well with colorless whiskers (although, as with all shaving products, your mileage may vary!).
Summary: A good all-purpose dye for beards, sideburns, hair and eyebrows that sets quickly; good for all hair colors, but a great option for folks with blonde/blonde-ish/white beards.
If You’re Dyeing A Beard to Cover Grey Whiskers, A Word of Advice
So, there you have our reviews! And now, some advice:
Choose your dye color carefully, and have a plan for using it.
There are hundreds of reasons why we dye our beards: some of us may not like the natural color of our whiskers; others may want facial hair that more closely matches out skin tone; some might just want to change things up a little bit, and try out a new look.
It seems like most of us, though, dye our beards because we want a more youthful look—less grey, and more robust, youthful whiskers. There’s no shame in that game—everybody wants to look young, and trust on this: we get a lot, a lot a lot, of emails about how to dye beards.
Here’s the thing: there are two things that can go wrong when you’re dyeing out grey whiskers: you go too light or your go too dark.
When you dye your beard too dark, your whiskers stop reflecting light the way natural hair does. They become a kind of black hole on your face, where no photons can escape. It’s a weird look, and it’s an obvious tell that you’ve been dyeing your beard (and a lot of guys want their beard-dyeing habits to be nobody’s business).
Leave dye in too long, or choose a dye color that’s too dark, and you get that look.
If you do the opposite, however—where you dye your beard and it’s not dark enough—you a similar-but-different problem: you still look weird, but it looks like your beard is schizophrenic, or kind of like a calico cat. Also not good.
So what do you do? We’ve got three pointers:
Ditch the Mirror to Find Out the ONE Color of Your Beard. You read that right. When you're selecting a color, don't look in the mirror to try and find the color of your whiskers—look in a photograph. Your real-life visage can be a little complex, and chances are you've actually got a lot of different hues and tints in your beard. Looking at a photograph is a good way to make selecting a color easier, because you'll be able to say "OK, my beard is dark blonde / light brown / medium brown / dark brown / black”—and you want to be able to say with certainty exactly what color your beard is, because beard dyes are often sold in a monochromatic tone;
Watch the Clock, Not the Color. Whatever dye you get, there will be a set of instructions that come with it, and a lot of first-time beard dyers follow those instructions to the letter… until they see the dye actually changing the color of their whiskers. They see that, assume the dye is working quicker than it should, and being to wash it out. Our advice is… don’t do that. Whatever kit you bought has been tested and tested again, and the length of time listed in the instructions is the length of time you should use. Set an alarm with the right amount of time on it, sit tight, and don’t worry. Follow the instructions and chances are things will turn out fine.
If You’re Stuck Between Two Shades… Go with the lighter one. If you’re wrong about the shade that’s too dark, there’s no turning back, really. But if you’re wrong about the shade that’s too light, you can reapply it for a shorter period of time, and hopefully your beard color will come out a little closer to your natural hue. If you’re uncertain about the actual color of a dye, you can dab it on a paper towel, and see what color the paper towel turns. More on that later.
And, finally, here’s our bonus tip: realizing beard dyeing is kind of an art, and there’s some trial-and-error involved. You might have to give it a couple tries, but hey, that’s life.
Steps: How to Dye Your Beard
Dyeing a beard actually takes a little bit of time and a little bit of prep. Here's a general sense of what you'll need to do:
1. First Step: Don't Shower! When you hold off on showering for a day or two, there are natural oils that will build up in your beard, and those oils can form a protective layer that stops the dye from dripping onto your skin and irritating it. Not only that—chemical beard dyes tend to use materials that bond with the oils that occur naturally in your beard, so having extra oil in your beard may cause the dye to "stick" better when you apply it.
2. Test Yourself for an Allergic Reaction. While you're in that pre-step of not showering for a day or two, apply a small amount of the dye to a sensitive area on your skin, so you can see whether the dye will cause an allergic reaction. The inside of your elbow is a good spot, and a spot of skin inside your beard is a good option too. If your skin breaks out in bumps or a rash, or swells up in any way, you may need to try a different type of hair dye, or maybe even an all-natural option like henna.
3. Gather the Items You'll Need. Get a pair of latex gloves (beard dye is powerful stuff, and if it gets on your hands, it can stain your skin, and can lead to irritation), an old set of clothes (a lot of guys get a shirt they don't care about and make it their "beard dyeing shirt," and trust us—that thing is going to get stained), and some Vaseline to protect your skin from dye (you put it on your neck and above your whiskers and between your ears and sideburns, because the dye can splash about and turn your skin strange colors). If any dye does get on your skin during application, washing it with warm water and scrubbing the stain with paper towels will eventually remove it. The stains can be incredibly stubborn to deal with, though.
4. Prepare for a Mess. Cover your sink and counters with paper towels, and have a few extra paper towels handy to dab up any spillage that might occur. Dyeing your beard can make a mess, especially the first couple times you do it.
5. Ready the Dye. Most chemical dyes come in two tubes—the first is the chemical that gives color to your beard, while the second is called the "developer," and it's the agent that acts as fuel for the chemical reactions that allow the dye to set in your beard. Stir the contents of these two tubes together, and look at the instructions to make sure you're using the right amounts—very often, these tubes will have enough for more than one application of the dye, so mix them in equal amounts and consider putting some away for later.
6. Distribute Evenly. Once the dye mixture is prepared—and this goes for chemical dyes and natural ones—use the bristle brush that came with the dye (or a toothbrush, if your kit didn't include one), and evenly distribute the dye in your beard. You should start with areas you want to color but also—and this is SUPER important—apply the dye evenly to areas that still have natural beard color as well. If you don't, when the dye sets it may cause patches to form in your beard with different tones that look unnatural. Lastly—if you used a toothbrush for this step, you're going to want to toss that puppy. Do not use it to brush your teeth after putting dye in it.
7. Do Nothing! Wait a while. Each dye should have individual instructions with the packaging, but generally, you want to wait five minutes (for chemical dyes) and much longer (for natural dyes).
For chemical dyes, the color won't change at first, but after several minutes it should start to darken quickly and considerably. At this point, you should step into your shower or go back over to your sink and begin scrubbing your beard thoroughly, removing the chemicals. If you allow them to linger, the color can continue to get darker, leading to an unnaturally dark shade of facial hair (the black hole scenario that we described above).
8. Grab a Towel and Inspect. After you've washed out the last of the dye, pat your beard down with a dry towel. When you're done, check your towel for stains—if you see some dye on the towel, you might not have washed all of the dye out of your whiskers, and you'll want to step back in the shower or go over to the sink and wash off.
9. Look at Your Gorgeous Mane. Finally—check and see if the color is right! If your beard is still too light after the dye has set, you can apply another coat—but if your beard is too dark, well... that's more of a problem. You'll probably have to wait until it fades a little bit before you can try again (and that's why we gave the advice above, about going light if you're uncertain about whether a dye is too light or too dark). Just remember that beard dye isn't permanent, and that washing it deeply and regularly can cause the color to lighten sooner than it normally would.
10. Consider Beard Shampoo. If you're satisfied with your new dye, remember to buy shampoos that are compatible with beard dyes. Normal beard dyes usually last two to three weeks without fading, but a beard dye shampoo can extend the time between applications of dye by up to about a week before the graying hair starts to return. Beard dye shampoos are made with a specific set of ingredients, and they're manufactured specifically for guys who use beard dye.
Helpful Tips for Using Beard Dye
Most men really don’t know too much about beard dye—and after all, if you’ve never used it before, why would you?
So here are a few helpful hints about how to dye your beard, some answers to questions we get a lot, and some facts/myths about dyes and dyeing.
Be Careful with Jet Black Dye. We mentioned this earlier, but we’ll expound here… As a general rule of thumb, jet black dye can be a good choice for guys with darker skin, but if you've got lighter skin, jet black dye can end up just looking weird—even if you originally had black hair. Jet black dye absorbs light differently from naturally black hair, and the difference can be... somewhat startling. If you’ve got darker skin, jet black dye can be a great look. If you’ve got lighter skin… be honest with yourself, and if you’re not sure about the results, get an opinion from someone you trust.
Test the Dye on Thin Skin with High Blood Flow. Remember earlier, when we suggested you test the dye on the inside of your elbow? There's actually a scientific reason for that: areas like the crease in your elbow (or behind the knee) are areas that have thin skin and high blood flow, and that's why doctors put patches and skin-applied medications on those areas—they allow medication to be absorbed quicker. If you place the dye on that area and you do have an allergic reaction, it'll allow an allergic reaction to form more quickly.
Dyeing is Faster the Second Time Around. Repeat dying usually doesn’t take as long as the first time—the chemicals in beard dye usually break down the resistance of your beard to the dye, so it's absorbed faster in subsequent applications. Because the color will take to your beard faster, you may want to cut a few seconds or minutes off your dyeing time once you get the hang of things.
Keep Your Skin Moisturized. As you might have guessed, dyeing your beard can dry out your whiskers and skin. The entire process is based on chemicals (and even all-natural ingredients can dry out your skin), and the dye clings to the outside of your whiskers, forming a layer that makes absorbing water more difficult. Beard oils and beard butters are designed to soak in beneath the dye and restore moisture to your beard and skin before they become dried out and frazzled.
If You Don't Like the Color... You can sometimes get it out quicker than just waiting for it to fade. If you've just applied the dye and it's already a color you don't like, you can try to wash it out with warm-to-hot water before it finishes setting. You can also use a clarifying shampoo, which is kind of like a shampoo on steroids that can remove oil and buildup, and it can lighten the color of your beard (but be careful, because it may make it lighter than you want—those shampoos can be pretty strong). Some guys have tried using a mixture of water and bleach to lighten their beards, but we'd seriously advise against that—bleach, even when diluted, can irritate your skin, or burn it severely.
Attend that Pool Party You’re Really Excited About. While you will definitely want to read the labelling on the dye you use, many dyes won't immediately wash out in chlorinated water, so feel free to attend any pool parties you have scheduled. Be aware, though, that chlorinated water will shorten the time before you must reapply your dye, so if you're a dedicated swimmer, you may want to keep an eye on your facial hair and see how it's holding on. By the way—regular tap water doesn't really affect beard dye too much, so you normally shouldn't have to change your showering/face washing routine.
If You Get Dye on Your Skin and You Really, Really Want to Remove It... Try using nail polish remover or isopropyl alcohol. These agents are very powerful and nearly instantaneous, and they can remove a dye stain from your skin very quickly (just, again, be careful if you've got sensitive skin, as those chemicals may irritate your skin). If you decide to use nail polish remover or isopropyl alcohol, be sure to keep it away from your beard, because it can take the color out of whole spots or patches of hair. That can lead you straight back to square one, so make sure to use these products with caution. And, because doooooo happen, we always advise that you...
Give Dye a Practice Run. If you want to dye your beard for a big event like a wedding, or a business presentation, or a really rockin' pool party, give it a practice run a while in advance. Beard dyes have come a LONG way in the last few years, but there are still some surprises, and while a lot of guys use beard dye and it works out great for them, some guys don't like the results. That's why it's always safest to use it for the first time when you don't have any big events coming up.
Don’t Be So Quick to Rule Out Henna!
We get a lot of questions about henna, and we’ve written about henna in-depth in other posts, but here’s a quick summary: henna is not for everyone, but it’s got a few unique advantages that work really well for some men.
Henna is a natural—emphasis on “natural”— dye which has been used to darken the color of hair for centuries, far predating most cosmetics and chemical beard dyes. It is taken from the flowering plant called lawsonia inermis, and because it’s a natural dye, it’s a bit weaker than most chemical dyes, and won’t last as long as store-bought/manufactured dyes. Plus, if you apply black henna to white whiskers, it can make those whiskers look a little greenish or greenish-grey.
Henna has some fantastic features going for it. It’s far less likely to irritate your skin, and applying it—and reapplying it—can be much less of a hassle. Plus, that greenish / greenish-grey tint, if it does occur, usually fades within a day, and the henna’s color then shines through.
Finally—and this is perhaps more important than we usually remember—it can be a 100% natural option. There are so many crazy chemicals in everything from shaving cream to deodorant to toothpaste, that by the time you leave you bathroom after your morning grooming routine, you can be covered in dozens, if not hundreds, of crazy-sounding chemicals. Having at least one natural option can be a great thing.
Applying henna is very similar to applying a chemical dye:
- Wash your beard and dry it, to remove any dirt or grime that might get into the dye mix;
- Apply vaseline on the skin around your beard—on your neck and by your ears and on your cheeks—to protect exposed skin;
- Put on gloves to keep dye from staining your hands;
- Mix the henna powder and water (and we suggest using roughly half as much water as the powder during this process);
- Apply the paste to your beard, and let it set in for an hour or so, depending on the product you use; and finally
- After an hour (or thereabouts), wash the paste out, and allow it roughly 24 hours to finish the process.
Henna dye can last four to eight weeks before it starts to fade again, and as mentioned, reapplying it before it washes out is fine and harmless, unlike chemical dyes that may irritate your skin due to overexposure to the components within.
Wrapping Up Beard Dyes
Alright! That about ties it up for our discussion about beard dyes. Hopefully we’ve given you proper insight into the topic, and you have all the info you need to move forward. Good luck, and we hope a big beautiful beard of your color choice awaits you!