Beard ownership opens up a whole new world of grooming possibilities. The trimming, the combing, the shaping, the beard oils! It’s all fun and games until you realize that having a beard can also come with some issues. One of the weirdest? Beard dandruff. Yes, the telltale flakes can show up in your beard, no matter the length, just like on your scalp.
If that does happen to you, don’t freak out. “Beard dandruff is very common,” says Robert Finney, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, but that doesn’t mean it’s unavoidable. Treating, and most importantly, preventing it is possible as long as you know what to do. Follow these steps for a flake-free face.
1. Use an Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Yes, you can use the same shampoo you would use on your head to wash your beard. In fact, you should. With any anti-dandruff shampoo, the most important thing is to let it sit for five minutes. “I recommend wetting the hair in the sink and applying the beard shampoo to the skin at the base of the hair, then brushing your teeth or something before getting in the shower to wash it off,” says Dr. Finney. “Do this one to three times a week depending on how much is needed to keep flares from coming.”
2. Use the Right Cleanser
On days that you don’t use anti-dandruff shampoo, make sure to use a mild cleanser that keeps your beard and the skin underneath nourished and helps prevent oil buildup. “Ingredients like coconut water, argan oil and avocado can help work to hydrate skin,” says barber David Falla.
3. Keep Your Whiskers Hydrated
When your whiskers get dry, your skin can sometimes produce more oil to try to balance it. This is bad news for beard dandruff since the yeast that causes it thrives in oily environments. To combat this, regularly apply a beard moisturizer to maintain beard hydration but keep oil from getting out of control. Gian Antonio Pisterzi, master barber and founder of Pisterzi Italian Grooming Art, recommends a moisturizer designed for both your skin and beard.
4. Wash Correctly
“It is essential to avoid scratching your beard with your nails while washing it as it can worsen dandruff flaking,” says Pisterzi. “Instead, clean the beard using gentle circular motions with your fingertips. Refrain from rubbing your beard with a towel. Instead, pat it dry.”
5. Exfoliate Regularly
To help avoid buildup from skin flakes and oil, Falla recommends exfoliating the beard once or twice a week “to remove dead skin cells and reduce flakiness.” A face scrub can do the trick, but if your beard is thick, consider a chemical exfoliator to make sure you reach the skin underneath and avoid granules getting caught in your whiskers.
6. Trim Your Beard Regularly
Pisterzi also recommends trimming your beard regularly. It won’t just help it look better, but will also help “prevent ingrown hairs which can contribute to skin irritation.” Trimming your beard can also help keep flakes and oil from building up in the whiskers.
What Causes Beard Dandruff?
The best way to treat and prevent beard dandruff is to understand what’s causing it in the first place. Dandruff on both your scalp and beard is called seborrheic dermatitis and is caused by a specific kind of yeast called Malassezia that’s found in hairy areas. “We all have a microbiome that consists of bacteria and yeast that live on our skin,” says Dr. Finney, but too much Malassezia is what “triggers itchy, flaky scalps and beards.” Malassezia thrives in oily, warm environments (hello, beard) and an increase in oil production, like through stress or applying oily face products, can trigger flare ups. “We also often see flares around the change of seasons,” he says.
What Are the Symptoms of Beard Dandruff?
If the skin under your beard is chronically itchy and accompanied by red, flaking skin, then there is a good chance you have beard dandruff. “The skin under your beard may also become greasier with white clumps that are visible as dandruff flakes,” says Gian Antonio Pisterzi, master barber and founder of Pisterzi Italian Grooming Art.
How to Prevent Beard Dandruff
Like the dandruff on your head, the best treatment for beard dandruff is a well executed prevention program since there is no cure, according to Dr. Finney (we’ll get to treating flare ups later). “This should be continued year round, but if someone has milder cases only during certain times of the year, then maintenance can be targeted around those times,” he says. Follow these steps to keep your flakes in check.
How to Treat a Beard Dandruff Flare up
No matter how good your maintenance routine, flare ups are bound to happen. When they do, “use a cortisone solution sparingly to help treat them,” says Dr. Finney. He recommends applying an over-the-counter steroid cream to the area for no more than 10 days a month on the face. “Using it longer can lead to problems, so if it isn’t helping enough, consult a dermatologist,” he advises.
Read more on the Best Ways to Prevent Beard Dandruff
Garrett Munce writes about men’s style and grooming. He’s written for Esquire, New York Magazine, Spotlyte, and Very Good Light and held staff positions at GQ and W. Follow his skincare obsession on Instagram at @garrettmunce.
Deputy Editor, Commerce
As Men’s Health’s Deputy Editor, Commerce, Christian Gollayan oversees all shopping content on menshealth.com. He relocated back to New York by way of Portland, where he was the Associate Managing Editor at TheManual.com. Christian’s work has also been featured in InStyle, Food & Wine, the New York Post, and Tatler Asia.