First I want to say that a new beard balm should not be grainy!
I have so far reviewed 157 balms, these have range from ridiculously grainy to “Oh my god this is so creamy smooth” like the Mariner Jack balm in the featured photo.
I have often heard people saying “it’s okay you just have to work it a bit longer”, but sorry no, my opinion is that a fresh balm that you have just purchased should not be grainy, it just isn’t acceptable.
Hand made, small batch beard care isn’t cheap but it is worth it as long as those products are of a good quality and a grainy balm is, let’s face it not good or top quality.
Now sometimes I think it is okay to accept a very, very slight graininess but only very slightly.
So why is my beard balm grainy?
Yep it is most usually the shea butter that causes graininess in beard balm.
What is Shea Butter?
Basically it is the fat that is extracted from the nut of the Shea Tree.
So why does it cause graininess in beard balms?
Shea butter extract is a complex fat that in addition to many nonsaponifiable components (substances that cannot be fully converted into soap by treatment with alkali) contains the following fatty acids: oleic acid (40–60%), stearic acid (20–50%), linoleic acid (3–11%), palmitic acid (2–9%), linolenic acid (<1%) and arachidic acid (<1%).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shea_butter
These components contained within the Shea Butter all have different melting points and so will also solidify at a different rate as well and so cooling the balm containing Shea at a slow during production rate causes crystalisation which is the grainy texture we feel.
It could also be caused by the way the Shea is stored by the brand owner or supplier, even melting and cooling during shipping.
It will also occur if you keep your balm in a warm place and it then solidifies slowly.
Some brand owners have said they work the Shea in a certain way before using it, but I have been told this is a method they would like kept secret.
A couple of things that can help to remedy this problem is using a double the double pot method to melt rather than in a pan with direct heat. Also rapid cooling is crucial when working with Shea Butter.
Gareth Daniel who owns the brand ‘Old Faithful’ said this
On the skincare for formulating course I took we were encouraged to experiment with different ratios of shea in formulas and cooling at different speeds. What I found was that rapid cooling or freezing would create quite a stable balm but it would set harder and have a different consistency. The course tutors recommended gradual cooling and constant stirring until trace (like custard). The continuous stirring helps the different fatty acids cool down at the same rate. The Beard Balm above looks like it has a good ratio of coconut oil. Coconut oil will always help achieve a buttery texture in balms due to its natural state.
It is of course more in depth than this, this post is very basic in describing the make up of Shea Butter, but it is just an insight into why this happens.