Get rid of red flaky skin under the beard
This post is going to be a detailed guide on identifying and treating red flaky skin under the beard.
Unfortunately, red flaky skin is a symptom of many different problems. Each with their own treatments.
It’s not always a simple fix. There won’t be a one size fits all sort of cure. In fact, some skin conditions can’t be cured at all, just managed. And using the wrong treatment can make your problems even worse!
For example, using moisturizing oils or balms on your skin when you have seborrheic dermatitis will only feed the yeast/bacteria causing the problem.
There are specific fatty acids in oils that Malassezia (fungus responsible for dandruff) feeds on.
Or using anti-dandruff shampoos on dry skin will cause it to dry out further. They tend to be harsh but, effective for dandruff.
Let’s not jump too far ahead yet! Although we all like to self-diagnose and think of the worst case scenarios, the most common issues for beards are usually not a big deal to take care of.
The first step is to figure out what’s causing our skin irritation.
Let’s look at how to get rid of those flakes.
What causes red flaky skin under the beard?
Flakes/dandruff are a sign that your skin is irritated. Duh!
There are a few different causes of irritation. But, here are some of the most common ones:
- New beard growth (Initial Itchiness)
- Dry skin (Flaky skin)
- Allergic reaction or irritant
- Seborrheic Dermatitis (Dandruff with irritated skin)
- Environment, stress, diet, the immune system, genetics
Key tools to fix red flaky skin
For short beards with dry skin use a hydrating beard oil.
For long beards with dry skin go for a deep-conditioning beard balm that soothes and heals your skin.
If you think shampoo or soap is really drying out your beard, switch to a mild beard shampoo.
If you have dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, use a long-lasting anti-dandruff shampoo.
New beard growth
Please note: new beard growth should only itch. If you have red irritated skin or flakes, this is probably not your issue.
This is the most common reason your brand new beard will itch. Shaving has made the edges of your facial hair sharp and that scratches your face as it grows out.
How do I get rid of the itch of a new beard?
There is no cure for an itchy beard before a couple weeks of growth. You’ll just have to power through it. It gets better though pretty quick. You can survive!
After you have a little length on your beard, beard oils can help soften facial hair.
A simple case of dry skin is typically responsible for flakes in your beard without any red skin.
Dry skin can be a whole host of different issues. But, it’s usually not a serious condition that can be easily treated.
Ways to deal with dry skin under your beard:
- Avoid extreme temperatures. The cold can’t really be avoided but, you can avoid super hot showers that can dry out your skin. Short warm showers are best.
- Moisturize your skin and beard. Beard oils are the best for shorter beards and balms work great for longer beards that need help with hairs that stick out
- Avoid harsh detergents like those in some shampoos.
Let’s talk a little bit about the top two products to help with dry skin. Beard oil and beard balm.
Will beard oil fix red flaky skin under the beard?
Yes. Beard oil helps with:
- Beard flakes
- Dry and irritated skin
Beard oil is a leave-in conditioner meant for skin and facial hair.
And longer beards will definitely need more hydration than shorter ones.
Does beard oil have other benefits besides moisturizing?
Beard oil puts a layer between your beard and the elements. It’s protection.
Since it’s a conditioner, beard oil softens your beard too.
It can also act as a very light cologne. Each beard oil is going to have a different scent. Some are even unscented.
How do you apply beard oil?
The application is simple. Just use a few drops and rub it into the beard. Obviously, the longer your beard is, the more you’ll need to apply.
Remember, don’t just apply the oil to the top layer of your beard. Get it in from the roots to the tips. It doesn’t just help your beard but, it hydrates the skin too.
I recommend using a beard brush or comb with it. It helps spread the product evenly.
Beard balm is similar to beard oil.
There are two key differences.
- Offers deeper conditioning for your beard and skin
- Gives your beard some hold
Typically, it’s recommended that shorter beards use beard oil and longer beards use a balm but, you can use either or both.
Long beards need extra help with styling a lot of the time. The hold from beard balm makes it much easier to keep the beard looking fresh.
Allergic and irritant contact dermatitis
This issue arises when you either use substances you’re allergic to on your beard or substances that just irritate your skin without an allergy.
For example, some folks have no issues using regular shampoo on their beards. But, for others, it’s too harsh. Especially when used every day.
Make sure to use a beard shampoo that won’t irritate your skin!
That’s why milder beard shampoos are so popular in addition to washing your beard less often.
Why is beard shampoo important?
Beard shampoo is key to get rid of beard dandruff and irritated skin.
All soaps, shampoos, and washes dry out your skin. These kinds of cleansers remove oils. Good and bad.
Beard shampoo is milder. Milder than shampoo you use for your hair.
Our beards and faces need moisture. Beard shampoo reduces the number of natural oils removed from our skin. That means more protection for your beard. Less dryness and less irritation.
It’s a better alternative to regular shampoo which may be causing you problems.
What makes it different from regular shampoo?
Chemicals in regular shampoos are effective but, harsh. Beard shampoos use natural ingredients.
Why is my hair fine with regular shampoos then? Two reasons.
- The skin on the scalp is thicker than the skin on the face.
- Our scalps produce more oil than our faces.
So our hair and scalp can handle stronger soaps. Our faces do not. Especially if you have red flaky skin under the beard or even overly oily skin.
What will beard shampoo help with?
- Dry skin and irritation
- Beard dandruff
How often should I use a beard shampoo?
The way you use it is just as important as what you use!
Not every day. Once or twice a week is perfect.
You keep your skin hydrated and healthy. You save money on products. Win-win.
Exceptions: If you tore up some bbq ribs or something equally as messy and hopefully as delicious.
The rest of the time? Just rinse with water.
Why not wash it more often?
Even a mild cleanser can cause irritation if used too often.
There’s a balance at play when it comes to keeping your beard in good shape. Wash it too much, it becomes dry. Don’t wash it enough, well, it gets nasty.
Depending on your skin type overwashing can mean dry skin. Or it can mean your skin overproduces oil. Your body tries to adjust.
Long beards usually absorb a lot of oil. So overproduction isn’t the case most of the time.
Rinse all of the shampoo out of your beard
One thing that can mess up your beard is accidentally leaving shampoo in it. Make sure you are thoroughly rinsing out all of the shampoo during your shower.
Two in one shampoo conditioners
I just wanted to take a moment to address these kinds of products.
A two in one shampoo conditioner is an oxymoron. A shampoo does the opposite of a conditioner. A shampoo is meant to remove oils and a conditioner is meant to replace them.
Putting them together doesn’t do anything. It’s essentially just a shampoo.
Seborrheic Dermatitis/Seborrheic Eczema and Dandruff
Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a long-term skin condition. A chronic condition. Its symptoms are flaky, red, and itchy skin. Dandruff is considered a milder type of the disorder. It can never be cured but, it can be managed.
Beard dandruff is one of the most common beard problems out there. Dandruff (beard and hair) affects 50% of adults. And that’s just because it’s pretty tough to get rid of. Washing your beard alone isn’t always enough.
There’s a type of fungi called Malassezia. It is thought to be the culprit of Seborrheic Dermatitis.
We all have it. It lives on the skin of you and me, all people, and many animals too. That fungus eats sebum (natural oils our skin produces). As it eats sebum it produces oleic acid which causes skin irritation in many people. Previously, it was thought this fungus was the main cause of dandruff in general.
Naturally, since Malassezia eats sebum, this condition is a problem with oily skin. Not dry skin.
New research is showing that dandruff and skin irritation are more closely linked to bacteria imbalance and the water and oil content of your skin. Malassezia wasn’t thrown out as a factor but, it was found that the bacteria is more important to dandruff creation.
Regardless, dandruff is most commonly linked to the relationship between us and the microorganisms on our skin.
How to deal with Seborrheic dermatitis on your beard
First off, don’t use beard oil!
Beard oil and beard balms are very bad for Seb Derm. These are the most commonly suggested products to keep your beard healthy. But, beard oils and balms use carrier oils (mostly vegetable oils) to hydrate the skin. Malassezia feeds on carrier oils.
My main recommendation is to start with an anti-dandruff shampoo. And the best one, in my opinion, is Nizoral.
I picked Nizoral for two reasons:
- Ketakonazole is the active ingredient in Nizoral meant to fight dandruff. It’s known for its effectiveness and how long the treatment lasts.
- Beards are more sensitive than the hair on your head so we want to choose an option that we don’t need to use as often. Nizoral’s recommended use is once every 3-4 days.
That way we can use our more mild beard shampoo on days we don’t need to use Nizoral.
Please be careful which beard shampoo you choose. I use the website Sezia to see if there are any ingredients that aggravate dandruff in products.
Anti-dandruff shampoos have an active ingredient that fights Malassezia so if they have one or two ingredients that contribute to the fungus, it’s not as big of a deal. But, your regular shampoos should not have anything that makes it worse!
If you need an alternative to beard oil, I’d recommend Squalane oil or MCT oil.
I’ve also written an extremely detailed guide on dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis on your scalp if you’re interested. It goes into more detail about why squalane oil and MCT oil are better than vegetable oils as well as other treatment methods.
Although that post is about hair on your head, the condition is the same on your beard. The only issue is that your face is more sensitive than your scalp so some treatments may be too harsh.
Environment, stress, diet, the immune system, genetics
These things increase the likelihood of skin irritation and dandruff but don’t directly cause it. For example, if you already have seborrhoeic dermatitis, stress or the cold dry air of winter can worsen the skin disorder. Even hot humid environments can have a negative effect on your skin.
Next up, Beard brushes and combs
The primary purposes of a beard brush or a comb are to clean the beard, distribute oils, and style your beard.
Nothing’s worse than a beard full of flakes.
How does that help my beard?
Keeping the beard clean is part of getting rid of dandruff and reducing irritation. We remove the dead skin cells, dirt, and old product from the beard. That’s called exfoliating.
And exfoliating reduces irritation by keeping our skin free of debris so pimples and ingrown hairs form less often.
Does it matter when or how I brush my beard? Yes!
- Don’t brush your beard when it’s wet. I mean completely soaked. That’s bad
- Only brush once or twice a day
- If you have seborrheic dermatitis/dandruff, avoid scratching the surface of your skin when brushing. Rubbing or scratching irritated skin will further irritate it.
That IS the only wrong way you can do it. You’ll pull out your beard. Trust me.
There should be very little pulling or snagging on your beard. Be gentle with it.
What does a beard brush or comb help with?
- Beard flakes
- Ingrown hair
- Make conditioners more effective
The most common type of brush for beards
A boar bristle brush. Why?
Natural boar bristles are better at collecting and redistributing oils and product.
That makes it the top choice for a brush. Boar bristles actually absorb oils because they are porous like a sponge. Synthetic brushes don’t do that as well.
We also need a balance between a brush that is:
- Firm enough to get through a thick beard
- Soft enough to avoid skin irritation
There are different types of boar bristles too.
How to choose a brush
When it comes to a beard brush I would choose something with firm bristles. A soft brush is not going to get through thick and coarse facial hair.
Scrubbing the top layer of your beard won’t get a whole lot done, will it?
First cut boar bristles are firmer and typically, are of higher quality.
They are thicker and healthier because they were closest to the animal. And they usually include the rounded part of the bristle, the bulb, which is easier on your skin.
Second cut bristles are softer. That’s usually okay for a short beard. But, longer ones definitely need firm bristles.
First cut boar bristles usually cost a little bit more. But, it’s worth paying extra for a good brush. It’ll last much longer than something cheap.
To make it last a long time don’t forget to clean your brush!
Types of beard combs?
There are a few types of beard combs available.
Cheap plastic molded combs. Usually, they’re the black combs we see so often. These combs are not good for your beard. They pull a lot. Watch out for these.
The reason they pull is that they are molded plastic. They aren’t made by hand. So there are imperfections and snags in the comb.
Beard combs are usually cut and polished by hand. They do not pull.
The beard combs you’d want to use would be wood, cellulose acetate (natural kind of plastic), metal, and natural horn.
Which comb is the best?
It’s all personal preference. No comb is better than the others. Unless you break combs constantly, I would recommend using a natural material over metal.
Should I use a beard brush or a beard comb?
There are many uses for each and a lot of men use both.
There are many differences between beard brushes and beard combs. But, here are a few summarized:
A boar bristle brush is like a comb with finer teeth.
The beard brush is more intense. It penetrates deeper, cleans the beard more thoroughly, and spreads product through the beard better than a comb. Beard brushes can only be used on a dry or slightly damp beard.
The beard comb is better for styling. It’s portable and gives more control for styling and trimming.
Many men use both, but, if you have to choose, it’s recommended that shorter beards use a beard brush and longer ones use a comb.
Fix beard dandruff with a boar bristle brush
Hands down the best tool for dandruff under the beard is a boar bristle brush.
It’s a more effective cleaning tool than any comb. That said, I mentioned that longer beards may want to go with a comb. Brushes are more intense and may have trouble getting through a long beard.
If you have a long beard and want to use a brush, get a wide tooth comb first.
Use a wide tooth comb immediately after a shower to detangle and smooth out your beard.
If your beard is extremely curly, dry your beard, apply beard oil and brush it in with a wide tooth comb and a blow dryer. Then you can go in with your brush once your beard is softer and straight.
The best way to dry your beard
Simply pat it down with a towel. Rubbing is a bad idea.
Your beard doesn’t need to be completely dry. Damp is fine. It’ll air dry pretty quick.
Just a tip for curly beards: an alternative is to apply beard oil or balm and blow dry it. Make sure not to keep the dryer on one spot for too long. Blow dryers can be devastating to a beard because of the high heat.
We want to avoid dandruff, not create it.
Avoid high heat?
Avoid high heat. Like a long hot shower or the blow dryer.
You can do both of those things but, the key is to protect your beard.
If you put beard oil or balm on before you use a blow dryer, the oils will protect your beard more than without it.
This is something you should already be doing but, if you’re not changing the pillowcases very often those dead skin cells and dirt can build up and start clogging pores resulting in pimples.
Take care of your body
Diet can help with dry skin too.
Take a look at a diet for growing a beard.
Working out helps too.