Let me first start by making the critical distinction that will make you easily understand which is the right one for you then I'll go into detail about each and the pro's/con's. Simply put, beard wax should only be used if you are trying to pull off a look that demands an incredible hold, I'm talking the level of a beard competition (I'll post a picture below of a crazy beard competition where they use beard wax). Beard balm gives you the ability to create a more textured look with your beard without the drawbacks of a gunky wax.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying waxes are bad but I don't think they have a place in everyday beard care. Unless you're trying to enter a competition and you need to work on your beard art daily or you've joined some goth beard club at school. I think your best bet is always to stick to a balm, it's going to cause less damage to your hair and give you a smoother overall look. If you're here by mistake and you're actually looking for beard oil then check out my post on the best beard oils.
To give you a specific relation if you've never used a wax before (I don't know when you would unless you went through that dreadlocks phase during the grunge years) it's creates the hold of a extra strong hair spray. Although there is a better consistency than dumping a half gallon of hair spray on your face, there is a gunkyness that comes along with any wax.
It's available in different scents like most beard products but it's got less of a punch to it as compared to beard oils. The carrier oil/agent in these products will vary for the most part but you'll find a lot of them are made with beeswax. I've heard a lot of people talk about how great it is for protection against the rain and harsh weather but at one point during a blizzard do you give a crap about what your beard looks like...
Ahh beard balm the beautiful crossbreeding of beard wax & oil, it's basically the donkey of the beard kingdom. I say that in a very positive way (I probably should of said unicorn instead but..). This is my favorite type of product when my beard gets to a certain point, when it reaches the length that it starts to get a mind of it's own then this is great for getting it to shape exactly how you want.
They usually go light with the beeswax which is also typically found in a balm and still retain most of the effects. Now you wont be able to walk on stage at a beard competition with just using a beard balm but you can get the serious hold without the gunky mess.
How To Apply Beard Wax or Balm
Now here's the trick of it all, don't you dare try to just slap this on the outside of your beard and try to finger it through, you're not going to get the full effects. You're going to need a great beard comb or brush, if you have no idea what I'm talking about then visit my post to understand what the best beard brush is for you.
Here's a quick rundown on how I apply it:
Step 1 - Get a thumbnail size amount in your palm.
Step 2 - Massage into the outside of your beard.
Step 3 - Dip your comb or brush into your balm thereby coating the tips.
Step 4 - Bush your beard out.
Do I really Ever Need A Wax?
I think they are great for really making a statement or Halloween parties but unless you have an incredible beard that people would pay money to see then probably not. On the other hand it gives you something to shoot for, I mean who doesn't want to look like the guy from 300 (He uses a beard wax to get that look).