Six reasons why your beard brush smells!

There are a variety of reasons why your beard brush may be smelling. I have noticed that my beard brush start smelling after I have not washed it for a few weeks, and it has been particularly warm or humid. The smell isn’t obvious until I bring the brush up to my face and brush the beard hair under my nose.

Some beard brushes – such as an animal hair brush – can smell like a wet dog. After a few washes, this can be removed. Beard brushes can become smelly due to rancid products, dead skin cells attracting fungus and bacteria and continuous humidity or dampness in the brush.

Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities and methods for cleaning your beard brush that can leave it smell free and as fresh as the day you bought it.

Here are the six reasons your beard brush is smelling slightly offensive.

Brush type

Some brushes smell bad when they are new.

Some of the boar hair brushes smell like an animal out of the box. Badger and boar hair seem to be the worst offenders. Forums often talk about preferred brands, and I have found that sometimes brushes smell when they have a natural bristle, no matter what the brand.

Boar hair brushes smell weird

Boar hair brushes can smell like an animal when they become wet.

After a few use, most people find that the smell dissipates and becomes less intense. The intensity of the smell is determined by the manufacturing process and how well the hair is treated before being placed into the brush’s handle.

Putting the brush through a few uses and allowing it to dry completely in between uses will minimise the smell over time, but a small level of stench may linger.

If you notice that your beard brush starts to smell after a few weeks of use, you may be accumulating a product that has turned rancid.

Excess product

Beard products are relatively complicated formulations that bring together many carrier oils and essential oils to create a nourishing treatment for your beard. Also, beard products can contain hold components such as natural beeswax.

The use of beeswax means that it is very difficult to remove from the bristles without using soap completely.

Not many people regularly wash their beard brush which can lead to the buildup of oils and waxes in the depths of the hair fibres.

Rancid products

if you notice a strong sour or putrid smell emanating from your beard brush, you should consider washing it thoroughly as soon as possible.

The putrid or sour smell comes from breaking down natural oils into smaller molecules that have a strong smell because they evaporate easier.

The longer the product sits on the beard brush, the longer it has a chance to turn rancid. Exposure to oxygen and humidity will accelerate the breakdown of the natural oils in beard products and cause them to smell.

Each beard product ingredient has a different shelflife, and your beard brush will start smelling when the lowest shelf life component starts breaking down.

Here is a table of common carrier oils regularly found in beard oils. Carrier oils make up the main components of beard oil and act as a “carrier” for other ingredients such as essential oils or any medicinal components.

Jojoba oilTwo to three yearsVery stable. No changing colour means it has not turned rancid. Study: Study of jojoba oil ageing by FTIR
Coconut oilRefined – 18 months Virgin – 3 to 5 years plusIt will become rancid if exposed to air. Use an airtight container away from sunlight. Study: Quality characteristics and oxidative stability of coconut oil during storage
Avocado oilSix months once opened unopened – one year.Store in the fridge. Study: Oxidative stability of avocado oil
Argan oilOnce opened six monthsStudy: Oxidative stability of cosmetic argan oil: a one-year study
Sunflower oilUnrefined – four months hot pressed – 10 monthsStudy: Oxidation of sunflower oil during storage
Castor oilColdpressed – five years normal – one yearIt will turn dark brown if it has expired.  
Sweet AlmondSix months to one year.Study: Evaluation of oxidative stability of sweet and bitter almond oils under accelerated storage conditions

Most of the oils have varying shelf lives depending on how they were processed, and unrefined oils result in a reduction in the lifetime of the oil.

Alongside carrier oils, essential oils are often used to provide some therapeutic properties and enhance the smell of the product. They can be classified as long life through to short shelf life oils.

  • Long-life oils will last for 6 to 8 years, and Sandalwood is a common essential oil that smells great and lasts a very long time
  • medium life oils will last between three and five years and include tea tree, peppermint, vanilla, lemongrass, and many other oils.
  • Short shelf life oils last less than two years and are often derived from citrus fruits. This includes lemon, mandarin, lime and orange.

If you want to know more about when different components expire, you should check out my other article – when does beard oil expire?

When does beard oil expire

This article breaks down all beard oil components and exactly what you can do to work out how long your beard oil will last.

Dead skin cells

One of the roles of brushing your beard is to mechanically and physically remove dead skin cells and grime from the hair’s surface.

A deep comb with a wide-tooth wooden or plastic comb can help remove the dead skin cells at the base of your beard hairs and sitting on the surface of your skin.

A combination of brushing will bring these dead skin cells to the surface, where they can end up in your beard brush.

The accumulation of dead skin cells on your beard brush can be the perfect food for bacteria to grow and multiply.

Keeping your beard brush in a warm, humid environment is the perfect recipe for a bacterial explosion.

Removing the dead skin cells with a brush cleaner such as the ZilberHaar Brush Cleaner will help remove the dead skin cells from deep within the brush and has been designed to be gentle on the bristles and tough on the dirt and grime built up in the depths of the bristles.

Fungus

The most common fungus found in men’s beards is called tinea barbae. It is very rare and is passed from animals to humans.

The most common sources are cows and horses. It often affects farmers who have direct contact with horses and cows.

Luckily, it is very rarely passed from one person to another through things like skin contact or kissing.

Beard ringworm appears mainly in adult men and older teens but has been seen in women with dark facial hair. It is also seen more commonly in warmer and humid climates.

Beard ringworm may affect the skin’s outer surface or affect the deep portion of the skin through the shaft to the hair follicle.

The fungus can be transferred from your beard to the beard brush.

If you think your beard has a fungal infection, you should consider using different medications and reaching out to your health professional for treatment.

If you want to know more about what beard fungus looks like, check out my other article that shows you everything you need to know.

what does beard fungus looked like

Bacteria

Your beard is likely to contain bacteria, including Enterococcus faecalis and Staphylococcus aureus.

As you use your beard brush, the bacteria from the surface of your beard gets incorporated into the beard brush fibres. Common gut bacteria are often present in normal amounts on your beard and don’t cause any health issues whatsoever.

It’s only after the conditions in the beard brush become perfect for the bacteria to grow and reproduce that it becomes a stinky problem.

If you want to know more about beard bacteria, check out my other article that goes through all of the nasties that are lurking in your beard.

Humidity or dampness

Lastly, if your beard brush is constantly stored in a mid or damp environment, it may end up smelling due to the conditions allowing the growth of mould and mildew.

Ensuring that your beard brush is cleaned regularly and allowed to dry fully in between uses is the most important way of ensuring it remains smell free and safe, and sanitary for use.

Musty smells can easily thrive in the dark wet conditions of a brush kept in a shower room or near a water source.

You can remove mould and mildew from your brush by completely removing the moisture from the beard brush.

You can eliminate humidity or dampness musty smells by:

If you find that these are not enough to remove the musty smell from your beard brush, here are some other ways you can clean your beard brush to eliminate the smell.

How to clean your beard brush

Cleaning your beard brush to remove smells is a very simple procedure and can be performed every few weeks if you find your beard brush is smelling.

Ultimately, if you can identify the exact reason your beard brush is smelling, you may eliminate that issue. Sometimes this is easier said than done, and using the approaches below maybe your best option.

Beard brush cleaner tool

Consider using a natural hair brush cleaner tool.

Buy the best one here – click here!

These tools consist of a wooden handle with a metal break consisting of long fingers, which you drag through the hairs of the natural bristle brush to remove the dead skin cells and buildup of product from deep within the hair fibre mass.

A good hairbrush gets hairs, dandruff, and other debris built up right at the base, and a steel break is designed to get to the bottom of the brush to remove the offending contaminants without breaking the bristles.

Consider getting one for your beard brush today!

Use a wide-tooth comb

A budget version of the beard brush cleaner tool uses a wide-toothed comb on your natural beard brush.

This option is something that I do regularly with my natural hairbrush, and I find it works particularly well.

Firstly I comb over the entire brush until dust and hair come to the surface. Then I use the brush to dig into the bristles like a spade lifting out the hair and dust that has collected towards the surface of the bristles.

Most bearded people have a wide-tooth comb that they use for their beard alongside a natural bristle brush, and using them on each other can keep both of them clean.

Make sure that you clean off the plastic or wooden wide-tooth comb after cleaning your bristle brush; otherwise, you’ll be simply passing the bacteria and fungus between the two tools.

Clean with your beard shampoo

beard shampoo has been specifically formulated to remove the oils built up on your beard. These oils can invariably end up in the bristles of the natural hairbrush, which makes them perfect for cleaning your brush and your beard.

Regularly clean your beard brush with your beard shampoo. I recommend cleaning it every couple of months or when you notice that your beard brush is getting a little bit stinky.

Leave in the sunlight

it would help if you considered leaving your beard brush in direct sunlight to kill the fungus and bacteria.

High energy UV rays from the sun can easily kill any nasties lurking in the depths of your beard.

Just after you have cleaned your beard brush with a beard shampoo, leave it to dry outside in a well-ventilated area with direct sunlight. The combination of ventilation and high-intensity light will ensure that your beard bounces back from any stinky problem that you encounter.

Use a beard comb instead of a brush

If you notice that your beard brush is particularly stinky most of the time, you could use a beard comb instead of a brush. The material makes a big difference in how easy beard tools are to clean, and buying plastic or wooden replacement for your beard brush will help keep it sanitary and stink-free.

Summary

This article has been over the six reasons your beard brush smells. It could be due to bacteria, fungus, humidity, the brush itself, and many different issues. Luckily there are tools available for keeping your beard brush clean, and you should jump on the problem as soon as possible as it is much easier to solve in the early stages.

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 trialing different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!