While natural is sometimes best, there may be no advantage to you in choosing a natural beard dye. For the best performance and consistent results, you may prefer to use a commercially available product from one of the big-name companies that have spent years developing and perfecting their beard coloring.

Let’s take a moment to explore your options for coloring your beard and see if any of them start to sound best for you.

Test Everything For Irritation

No matter what you’re considering applying to your beard, you need to test it first for irritation. While commercial dyes are somewhat more likely to irritate than natural products, you need to test whatever you’re considering.

Here’s how to do it: do a patch test. Place a small amount of the dye — perhaps a half-teaspoon — on a sensitive but inconspicuous patch of skin you can cover with the clothing. The smooth area of your arm near the elbow has thin, reactive skin that works well for this. Leave the beard dye there for a full 48 hours and then wash away as well as possible.

If you experience any itching, redness or irritation of any kind in this area, the product isn’t something you want to smear on your face. Try something else. Wash the dye away before the 48 hours is up if you see even the first signs of irritation so that you can prevent a nasty rash or infection that could develop if you’re seriously allergic to the beard dye.

The Only Real Natural Beard Dye

While some beard coloring may claim to be natural, the only truly effective natural beard dye is henna, and it won’t work for you unless your natural color is a good match for it. Henna is made from plants and very few people are allergic to it, but test for irritation anyway.

Then, give it a try. It doesn’t cover grey nearly as well as commercial products, but some consider it safer, and it isn’t likely to cause irritation. The advantage of henna is that is softens rather than dries and makes hair seem thicker, both pluses.

Application is tricky though. You must first use petroleum jelly to mask off the parts of your face you don’t want to dye since it will stain skin. Mix the henna powder with water to make a paste that’s about two parts henna and one part water. Cover your beard with this paste in a thick layer — then wait an hour.

That’s right: you need to commit a full hour to henna dying your beard if you want acceptable results.

Reconsidering Commercial Beard Coloring

Millions of men use beard dye without an issue, so if you pass the irritation test, the simplest and most effective option for you might be to go with a commercial product. The most proven and widely tested is Just For Men, but there are others as well. Just For Men has gained such a wide reputation in the industry because it works well and is available in a much wider array of colors than natural beard dyes. Plus, it really works and some so-called natural products simply don’t.

If you’re concerned about whether you’ll like the benefits of beard coloring or want to use something that’s temporary, there are even brush-in products similar to mascara that you can use only when you want to cover the grey for an event or to have your photo taken. It’s a different kind of beard coloring that involves less commitment and carries no risk of staining and little risk of irritation.

Of course, you can just enjoy your natural color or the grey and forget about beard dye altogether. But if you want to get involved in beard coloring, understand that there’s more than one viable option — and the big-name commercial products may just be the best choice for some guys.