Can I wash my beard with just water? The ultimate guide for washing your beard with water

When you’re starting to grow a beard it is tempting to avoid using shampoo as it is an added expense and also you may have seen that washing your hair with just water results in a “naturally cleaning” effect. Cavemen didn’t have access to shampoo so why is it important that you use it? Here, we’re going to go over all of the aspects of washing your beard with just water and why you may want to add in a little bit of shampoo every now and again to really condition and clean your beard. So, can I wash my beard with just water – Let’s check it out.

It is possible to wash your beard with just water. If you decide that you are going to only wash your beard with water, you are unlikely to experience any issues other than the build-up of dirt and grime that can only be removed by using a shampoo or soap.

This is a common question that pops up when you talk about your daily beard routine. Some people say that after they stopped washing their beard daily their beards soon become softer, fuller and thicker in every way.

Unfortunately, modern life requires that we enter some pretty dirty environments. Maybe your beard will come into contact with pollution, smells, harsh UV rays, air-conditioning, and other daily exposure pollutants – like smoking. So, it is important that in today’s modern world we approach beard maintenance and care in a modern way. This includes using some, if not all, of the beard products available to us. That doesn’t mean that you have to use every single beard product all the time. Nor does it mean that you need to use shampoo every single day or even every week.

It’s perfectly acceptable to just use water to wash your beard

Can I wash my beard with just water every day?

Yes, you can absolutely wash your beard with water every day. In the shower I like to get my beard completely wet from root to tip and use a soft microfibre towel to remove the majority of the water and then use a hairdryer to dry out the beard on a medium heat.

Washing your beard every day with water will not cause any damage and as long as the water isn’t too hot it will not strip the natural oils from your skin and beard. Water is an effective way of washing away dirt, dust, and other water-soluble grime from the hair and face. This is the important aspect – if you are trying to wash away non-water-soluble contaminants to your beard then you will not be able to without using some form of soap.

How often should you wet your beard?

How often you wash your hair with water depends on a number of factors such as how much oil, sweat, dirt, products you are using and are likely to end up in your beard every day.

If you have entered a new environment that has a load of new beard contaminants you should consider washing your beard with water more often.

How can I clean my beard without shampoo?

There are a variety of ways to clean your beard without shampoo. In the know shampoo movement people don’t use anything other than naturally occurring products such as bicarbonate of soda and aloe vera or coconut oil. There are a variety of shampoo ingredients that people do not like which is why they choose not to you shampoo:

  • sulphates: sulphates deplete the natural oils from your hair and face which can leave your beard dry.
  • Parabens: these are not in many shampoos but they can actually confuse your body as they have molecules in there that imitate hormones.
  • Alcohol: alcohol can cause inflammation on your face and also contributes to the drying out of your beard hair as it evaporates more readily than water.
  • Petroleum: if your shampoo has petroleum in it it blocks the natural oils from your face penetrating into your beard hair.

The technique for washing your beard with just water is incredibly simple here is the step-by-step method for creating a clean beard with just water alone.

1. Agitate

Getting your fingers to the very base of your beard and massaging the skin and hair is what helps loosen excess dirt and oil as well as the dead skin cells that are trapped at the roots. Now you need to rub your fingers (avoiding using your harsh nails) in gentle motions across your face. You should aim to do this for at least two minutes.

2. Distribute oils

next, you need to distribute the oils from the base of your beard hair to the tips. This is particularly important if you have got a long beard and you find that the base is really oily and the tips are very dry. Here are the steps for distributing the oils evenly in your beard if you are washing with only water:

  1. isolate a section of your beard that is about a finger width in depth.
  2. Scissor the beard hair with two fingers so that it sits on either side of that isolated section of beard hair.
  3. Start from the base of the beard hair and slowly sweep in outwards motions to the tip of the hair.
  4. Repeat on different sections of your beard in till you have covered every section of your face.

3. Brush with a natural bristle brush

Brushing your face with a natural bristle brush such as one with all bristles mean that you are going to be nice and gentle on your hair. The problem with plastic and wooden combs is that they can easily break wet hair. Remember, that wet hair is the easiest to break.

Natural bristles have the same make up as your hair which is primarily keratin and their porous structure means that able to soak up any natural oils that are found in excess on your beard hair. They also allow you to dislodge any dirt and grime without risking damaging the hair. It is one of the best things that I have bought and they are surprisingly inexpensive.

Check out my recommended tools page for my recommendation of beard brushes – click here.

4. Rinse your hair with cold water

To finish off this simple beard washing technique you should wash your beard hair with cold water which locks the cuticles in place and make sure beard hair as smooth as possible on the outside.

After you leave the shower you can dry off your beard with a microfibre towel and hairdryer on medium to low heat. This is the complete process for washing your beard with water alone to give you the best results.

If you want more inspiration about a daily beard routine check out my YouTube video where I talk through all of the steps I go through every morning or every couple of days. I you shampoo but you could replace the shampoo step with just water.

Do I really need beard shampoo?

The answer to this question is no you do not really need to use a beard shampoo. Even if you decide to use a form of shampoo above using just water alone you can use soap or other hair shampoo instead of a beard shampoo.

This is best if your beard is shorter and you don’t have any issues with dryness or beard dandruff. For a full rundown of the best beard shampoos and soaps check out my other article where I go through all of the benefits of popular beard soaps and shampoos and why you should use them – click here.

If you decide not to use a beard shampoo but one formulated for your hair or body you could be using a shampoo that is too harsh on the hair. Using a body or hair shampoo can cause the natural oils produced by your face to be removed. If you find that this happens you should stop using the beard shampoo immediately and look at other alternatives or a dedicated beard shampoo. It is something that a lot of beard growers avoid but once they make the switch to a dedicated beard shampoo they love it!

Is water good for your beard?

Water is fantastic for your beard. Not only is water great on the outside of the beard and helps remove water-soluble dirt and grime from the outside – drinking water is arguably the best way that water can help your beard.

Drinking water and staying hydrated will help your body remain at its best and keep your beard hydrated and ensure that all of the important nutrients are delivered to the root of your beard hair. Your beard can only grow as well as the health of your body and therefore drinking water is a vital component to a healthy looking beard.

Never wash beard – No poo beard method

If you want to try washing your beard with just water this is the best place to start. This water only technique is one of the simplest available and it costs nothing and his super travel friendly. The first thing I recommend is to use warm water throughout the cleaning process. This is required to clean away any excessive oil that has built up underneath your beard. You will need to use warm water regularly and it may not feel like it works at first because you are so used to the clean feeling of using shampoo. But stick with it and after a few weeks you will get used to how your beard feels.

This process is best used by someone who doesn’t experience particularly oily skin and has never had an acne problem. People with oily facial skin may also require some other ingredients to clean out the oil and other dirt and grime that sits at the base of the hair. Some people use baking soda to achieve a better clean and to remove the sebum (facial oil) that builds up on the skin.

Tips to wash your beard with only water

To do this properly you really need to not use shampoo for about 30 days. Choose a month where you haven’t got any important dates – like weddings or important meetings – as it can take a while to settle in. But you may find that it doesn’t take any more than 30 days for your beard to be feeling awesome.

Here are the steps that you need to go through every time you are washing your beard without shampoo:

  • you have to use the same motions and action on your hair as if you are using shampoo. The action that you used to lather up shampoo is an important part of the cleaning process and dislodges any dirt whilst also getting to the root of the hair.
  • Spend the same amount of time on your beard as you would when using shampoo. This isn’t just about getting your beard superficially wet it is about using water and its natural cleaning power to remove the grime that has built up. That doesn’t happen just by letting water dribble over your beard it still needs to be worked in your beard for as long as you normally would with shampoo.
  • Initially you will feel like not much is working – in the early stages (the first few days) you will feel like using only water is doing nothing to your beard stick with it and you’ll start to see the results.
  • After the first week you should start to feel a little bit of a difference. The difference is that the buildup of the oil that you feel at the base of your beard will start to feel less. For most people it takes about two weeks to balance out and feel like your new normal.

If you are wanting to add something other than water to your cleaning schedule you can try a load of natural products this includes: apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, baking soda, lemon juice, soap nuts and a range of oils such as coconut oil and tea tree oil.

It will take a while for you to develop a routine and a cleaning recipe that you like but after a while you will settle in on the perfect beard grooming routine and schedule – using just water.


So there we have it, you can absolutely wash your beard with just water – it is actually a little bit of a movement. You have to make sure that while you are using just water that the water temperature is warm enough to help distribute the oils and remove dirt and debris. Making sure that your beard is completely clean will require the addition of natural products such as baking soda and coconut oil. And if you find that water isn’t cutting it you will have to you shampoo at least once a week but you can use a natural and non-harsh beard soap. Happy beard growing and keep that beard clean!

The Author

Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialling different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!