q 5 Ingredients Men Should Avoid in Their Beard Products - Harcourt Health

5 Ingredients Men Should Avoid in Their Beard Products

This is a guest post courtesy of Paul Agelidis, the Founder and Owner at Revolucion, a cigar, tobacco and men’s gift shop in beautiful Vancouver, BC.

When you shop for beard oil, special conditioners for facial hair, or any other type of product that is supposed to help improve the look and health of your beard, there are bad ingredients found in some products that might actually do the opposite. Some grooming product companies use them because they’re cheap, or they help preserve the products better. Regardless of why they are still used, here are five ingredients you should look for and avoid in your beard products.


Sulfates are often a common ingredient in things like shampoos, and that has been sadly true for beard shampoo as well. They were originally used as industrial degreasers, and are added into shampoos and other grooming products to help make them produce more foam and lather when you wash. People tend to associate lather with effective cleansing, but in actuality you don’t need foam to help clean anything.

The drawback of sulfate ingredients is that they are extremely harsh. They strip away any and all oil and moisture from your hair and skin, even the good natural oils you want to keep. Using products with sulfates makes your beard and skin dried out and brittle, rather than soft and lush like you want. When reading the product ingredients, look for things like “sodium laurel (or laureth) sulfate”.


Formaldehyde is a preservative that historically has been used to preserve medical specimens for research, as well as dead bodies at a morgue. Some companies will add this type of ingredient to grooming products, including those for beards, to help maintain the look of your hair. However, it also has several negative side effects, including hair loss and even cancer. The irony of adding a chemical to ‘preserve’ the look of your hair only for it to cause hair loss is not lost on us.

Formaldehyde can be tricky, because companies will include chemicals that release formaldehyde when applied, rather than adding it directly. There are many such chemicals, but here is a list of the most common such ingredients to avoid: glyoxal, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, and 3-diol (bromopol).


Phthalates are a chemical agent used in manufacturing to soften plastic and make it more pliable and less likely to break. Grooming product companies will add them as a way of making your hair feel more soft, but like formaldehyde, there is a long list of very serious side effects that are mainly caused by messing up your hormones: infertility, lower sperm count, and birth defects. In fact, phthalates have been banned from use in children’s toys since 2009 because they impeded genital development among male children.

If just having it in a toy is problematic, why would you want it in a product you apply directly to your hair and skin all the time? Look carefully in your products’ ingredient lists for the following: dimethyl phthalate, di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, diethyl phthalate, di-n-butyl phthalate, and benzylbutyl phthalate.

Propylene Glycol

Used by airlines to de-ice their fleet of planes, as well as in paint and engine coolant, propylene glycol is also used by some companies in products like soaps, lotions, and shampoos. There is a wide variety of concentration or amount depending on the product, but propylene glycol is similar to sulfates in the negative effect it can have on your beard. It makes your hair extremely dry and brittle, so your beard feels scratchy and breaks off.

Despite that common side effect, it is still used in low-quality beard balms, conditioners and beard oils. It is thankfully its own ingredient and easy to spot, unlike some of the other types of ingredients mentioned above. Stay away from products that use it if you want to grow a full, healthy beard.

Petroleum Jelly

Used as a preservative in many grooming and cosmetic products, petroleum jelly is used to increase the lifespan of a product before it expires or loses its potency. However, it is such a thick substance that when you use it on your skin it actually blocks your skin pores and hair follicles, preventing them from producing the oils that help keep your skin and hair hydrated, protected and healthy. It is also highly absorbent, which means it soaks up good ingredients in products to make them less effective.

While in a pure, refined form, petroleum jelly has no negative health effects. However, it is often not properly or completely refined and is contaminated by a number of carcinogens and other toxins that can cause cancer. It can appear on an ingredients label as petroleum jelly, paraffin, and mineral oil — if you see any of those listed, put the product back on the shelf and find something better.

About the Author:

Paul Agelidis has been the founder and owner of Revolucion, a Canadian cigar, tobacco and men’s gift shop in Vancouver, since 2005. For the last decade Paul has worked very hard to become an expert in tobacco products, men’s care, travel & accessories, body & bath, and gifts & home. Prior to 2005, from 1997 – 2005 Paul worked in the wholesale cigar industry and travelled to the annual cigar trade show (Habanos Festival every February). He loves to share his tips with others who are looking to achieve a complete lifestyle with the finer things in life.