Growing facial hair doesn't have to wait for no-shave November. Many men struggle and find it challenging to grow facial hair or a full beard. Growing a beard is a complex process that requires patience and dedication. It can lead to questions on whether it is an issue with hormones or poor grooming techniques. Whether starting from zero or improving the look of an existing beard, this article shares some tips on growing a healthy beard.
Growing a beard requires patience and dedication.
Facial hair varies by genetics, hormones, ethnicity, and environmental factors.
A healthy beard starts with a healthy skincare routine involving cleansing, moisturizing, and grooming.
Shaving does not make a beard grow faster or thicker.
The science behind facial hair
There are three stages of hair growth. The anagen phase (growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (rest). The beginning stage, known as the anagen phase, is the growing phase, where hair follicles divide and grow. The average daily growth rate is between 0.3–0.5 millimeters. The growth rate also varies with genetics and environmental factors.
Androgens, also known as sex hormones, are essential to hair growth. In puberty, increasing levels of androgen hormones replace the small and thin hairs with thicker and darker hairs, such as a beard. Beard hairs are thick, stiff, dense, oval, and vary in angles. Their diameter is twice the size of scalp hairs. In addition, the skin surface of the neck is rougher than the skin on the cheek. The rough surface inhibits the hair follicle from angling itself, increasing the likelihood of ingrown hairs.
Reasons men struggle to grow a beard
Facial hair differs for each individual in its shape, form, and growth patterns. Some people can grow a thick and full beard. The advantage comes from good old genetics.
Ethnicity also contributes to the pattern of hair growth. For instance, a study that evaluated hair growth by country states that there is eight times more facial hair mass in Caucasian men than in Japanese men. In addition, men from Mediterranean countries produce the most facial hair.
Is it an issue with testosterone levels?
Maybe. Testosterone levels do affect beard growth. During puberty, the body converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an enzyme that contributes to hair growth within the hair follicles. However, some studies argue too much DHT connects to male-pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia. In addition, low testosterone can reduce the volume of body and facial hair. Other symptoms of testosterone deficiency include:
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Low sex drive
- Mood changes
- Hot flashes
There is limited research on the relationship between testosterone levels and facial hair growth after puberty. A doctor can check and address concerns regarding testosterone levels.
Tips for growing a beard
While we can't change our genes or ethnic backgrounds, there are plenty of tips and strategies for growing a more impressive beard from skincare to supplements and lifestyle changes.
Skincare before hair care
Healthy facial hair relies on a solid foundation that involves a healthy skincare routine. Dermatologists suggest a three-step skin routine beneficial for developing or maintaining a healthy beard.
Cleanse facial skin and beard
We know that washing the face removes dirt, germs, and oils on the skin's surface. The same goes for facial hair. Experts suggest washing with a skin-type specific cleanser — generic soap is not recommended as it can dry out the skin.
Moisturizing helps to prevent dry, flaky, and itchy skin causing facial hair to feel prickly. Just like with the facial cleanser, moisturizers are skin-type specific. During the stubble phase — the first phase of beard growth with little to no visible facial hair — exfoliate once or twice a week to prevent ingrown hairs. Once the beard has grown in, it's time to switch to a beard conditioner or oil. A beard conditioner is recommended for acne-prone skin, while works best for people with normal to dry skin.
Proper grooming is key
Once the necessary skincare steps are complete, it's time to address hair care needs — it's time to groom. During the stubble phase, let facial hair grow freely. Experts suggest it's best not to trim or style a beard for at least four to six weeks. This is because even though people with beards want them to look good, they often cut too much hair than they should when trimming or styling before the beard has had time to fill in sufficiently.
Does shaving help with beard growth?
No, shaving does not make a beard grow faster or thicker. When shaving, hair stiffness levels rise. After all, the hair follicle is a sensory receptor, and it is resistant to mechanical stimulation, such as a blade. Shaving affects the hair strands but does not alter the root of the hair follicles.
Remember that hair growth requires patience and a time commitment. Of course, snipping away strands on the face that get in the way is fine. After four weeks, a beard is typically ready for shaping, and the neck and cheek lines can be defined. Use a comb and brush to spread hair products on the beard evenly. Grooming is an essential part of creating a healthy beard.
Vitamins and supplements
Incorporating vitamins and supplements into a daily routine to improve the growth and health of a beard may help.
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, gained popularity for its hair and nail health benefits. More specifically, it's keratin production. Keratin is a protein that aids in forming skin, nails, and hair tissues. Vitamins such as vitamins A to E help with strengthening hair, building collagen production, preventing hair loss, and sebum production to retain natural moisture.
Lifestyle changes for a healthier beard
A healthy and attractive beard may require making a few lifestyle changes to help facilitate healthier beard growth.
- Stress-free. Manage stress levels, as stress can lead to hair loss conditions such as telogen effluvium or alopecia areata. Studies state that low cortisol levels are beneficial in promoting hair growth.
- Eat well. Eat a balanced diet is beneficial; research shows low testosterone levels in obesity.
- Sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that not only plays a role in initiating sleep but can also help to regulate hair growth.
- Exercise. Exercise contributes to many health benefits. One of those benefits includes improving blood flow throughout the body, including the hair follicles, to promote hair growth.
Growing a beard takes time, patience, and dedication. Keeping a beard clean, nourished, and trimmed is essential to promote healthy growth. Lastly, be proud of your beard and wear it with confidence. With these tips, you'll be on your way to a full and flourishing beard.
- International Journal of Cosmetic Science. The male beard hair and facial skin - challenges for shaving.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. A dermatologist's top tips for a healthy beard.
- Cleveland Clinic. Will Shaving Make Your Hair Grow Back Thicker?
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Hormonal Effects on Hair Follicles.