Some men are lucky enough to have straight, easy to groom facial hair. If you’re one of those men, I’d be happy to send you passionate hate mail if you leave your address in the comments. If you’re like me and have a mane like a bramble bush, a good beard comb and/or brush is essential to avoiding the classic caveman look. Available choices for combs include plastic, wood, bone, and horn, while brushes are available in natural and synthetic bristles.
I strongly recommend steering well-clear of plastic combs and brushes because they build up static electricity that can make grooming difficult. Plastic tends to catch and pull the hair a bit more than wood or horn too, which can be painful and is hard on your beard.
Wood and bone/horn have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and hair type. I prefer horn because the tines are smoother, causing less tug-n-pull. Horn is also non-porous and therefore water-resistant. Unfortunately the non-porous nature of horn and bone means that it does not absorb oils and lotions. Wood will absorb whatever you put in your beard, holding it for future combings and conditioning your beard longer when you don’t have your oils on you. This also means that wood is more likely to be damaged by exposure to water–including a quick wash cycle in your laundry…which has happened to me more than I care to admit.
Still, washing a horn comb isn’t brilliant…
Synthetic brushes are cheap, but you get what you pay for and natural bristle brushes aren’t much more expensive. Natural bristles absorb any oils or lotions that you use in your beard already, conditioning the bristles against wear and leaving trace residue in your beard when you groom it. Brushes give a different texture to the beard hair, slightly polishing the strands and softening them without the tug and pull of a comb. On the other side, brushes don’t tame scraggy beards as well as a comb and may leave the beard puffy.
I haven’t actually used this brush, but I’ve heard very good things about it and it looks like a great product. The other advantage to this set is that it comes with a comb. Although the comb is made of bamboo rather than horn, it will give you an idea of the difference between a brush and comb if you’ve never used either.
There are many natural horn combs and brushes available, but my absolute favorite is the EQLEF Buffalo and Sandalwood Beard Comb. I find that this comb is thick enough to put up with my abuse, large enough to use for my head and facial hair, and smooth enough that it doesn’t pull my beard.
This one is a decent economical option for shorter, thinner beards but I noticed that it pulled my hair quite a bit (especially after 3 or 4 wash cycles).
If you’re not sure if a comb or brush is better for you, there are some great sets available that include both along with balm, oil, or both.