You’ve probably heard it all your life, “Shaving makes your beard grow thicker.” I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it’s just not true. Similarly, cutting your hair doesn’t make it grow faster. If shaving made people hairy, bikini models would look like ‘Cousin It’ from the Addams Family. That doesn’t mean shaving is useless, but it won’t change your genetics. I took a more in-depth look at shaving and all the things that can affect having a full bushy beard.
The Shaving Myth: Hint, It Doesn’t Make Beard Hair Grow
The idea that removing hair can effect it isn’t entirely baseless. Waxing and depilatory cremes can reduce your hair growth by damaging the follicles. Plucking can do the same. However, shaving the hair off at skin level doesn’t affect the base of the hair at all. Under your skin, the same hair is growing in the same color, at the same speed as it always has.
Why do Men with Thick Beards Shave More Often
There is a direct correlation between shaving and being extra hairy. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what’s really happening. It may seem like the facial hair is a result of the shaving, but it’s actually just the opposite. Men who grow hair faster or thicker tend to spend more time shaving or trimming. It’s a result of genetics and desire to keep those beards tamed and looking good.
For centuries men have been making the same mistake by assuming that it is shaving that causes the hair. Most likely, this is the result of a lack of information. The current understanding of genetics and how hair follicles work is a very recent phenomenon for humans. In the past, all we saw was that extra hairy men shaved more. Equating the two things was inevitable.
Your beard is the same as lightning. Most people think the flash comes down from the sky and lands on the ground because that’s what the eye sees. However, when you slow down the video of a lightning strike, you can see easily that it’s an optical illusion. We couldn’t know the information was wrong until the technology caught up to the perception.
Lightning is generated at ground level just as hair is generated biologically. Unfortunately, the only way razors on the skin can change hair growth is by scarring you and obliterating the follicle. Be careful shaving, and your razor will only affect your beard by removing it.
If you’re especially beardy and your hair grows faster than most, then you need a great way to shave. I suggest you consider getting the Braun Multi Grooming Kit MGK3980. Not only does it come with a carrying case, but it also comes with everything you need to shave or trim your beard, nose hair, and handle all your manscaping needs in one kit. Check it out here.
Natural Progression of Beard Growth
There are two types of beard growth, whether you shave, trim, or let it grow out. First, there are four distinct stages that a beard you already have goes through over time. Secondly, there’s the growth that results from hormones as you reach puberty and beyond. Both of these phases are natural to all men who grow facial hair.
The Four Stages of Every Beard
Hair doesn’t grow at a standard rate. In fact, sometimes, it’s not growing at all. From the day you’re born, or even before, your hair is in a constant state of change. It develops, rests, stops, and falls out only to start all over again. Young or old, if you grow a beard, or any hair on your body, it goes through these stages.
1. Anagen Means Beard Growth
The science behind hair growth is not what you might expect. Cells at the root of your hair are dividing rapidly while your beard (and other) hair is in the anagen phase. This division causes the hair to grow at a rate of approximately a centimeter per month. However, this varies significantly from person to person.
People who complain that their hair doesn’t grow out long most likely have a shorter anagen cycle than most. Typically the anagen cycle is two to seven years long. Shaving during this phase may be extra frustrating because your hair is growing out faster.
The rate of hair growth during anagen also fluctuates with light. Hair grows faster in the daytime and slower at night. Moreover, the hair also tends to grow faster during warmer months and slower in winter. This is because hair is photosensitive. Your beard reacts to light. If it’s not growing, you may want to get out in the sun more often.
2. Catagen Means Beard Hairs in Regression or Transition
Hair in the Catagen phase is going through what’s called regression or transition. Please don’t mistake ‘regression’ for ‘recession.’ Receding hairlines and patchy beards have nothing to do with the Catagen phase.
Shaving at this stage is neither harder nor easier. Around three percent of your beard and other hair is in the Catagen phase at any one time. It has stopped growing, and the sheath around the root shrinks, eventually attaching itself to the hair. Sometimes this is called a “club hair.”
3. Telogen is a Beard at Rest
The Telogen phase has no activity at all. Your beard isn’t growing, and the sheath isn’t shrinking. Mostly your hair is just sitting there doing nothing and minding its own business in this phase.
During this phase, it may seem like hair isn’t growing at all because it’s not. That’s good news if you don’t like to shave, but sadly it’s not going to happen to all your hair at once. An average of six to eight percent of your hair is in the telogen stage at any moment. It lasts about a hundred days on your scalp, but your face may vary.
4. Exogen Means Your Beard is Shedding
Shedding is perfectly normal. Most people lose sixty to a hundred hairs per day regardless of whether they shave or not. Exogen is just a fancy scientific term for those hairs falling out. Unless you’re experiencing hair loss or you have follicle trauma like waxing or electrolysis, then the hair will grow back just fine when that follicle goes back to the anagen stage.
Growing Up Means Your Beard Comes In Without Shaving
The anagen phase is most noticeable when you’re a teen. Growing more of a mustache or beard makes young men shave more often, but the hair would grow anyhow. Generally, most boys start getting their first signs of a beard, the mustache hairs at the outer corners of the lips, between the ages of 11 and 15.
Puberty means a lot of things, but androgenic hair, or body hair and your beard, as they’re commonly known is one of the most noticeable. As men grow, the upswing in testosterone causes the first beard hairs to start (if you’re going to grow one at all) around age sixteen to eighteen in most.
How much and how fast your facial hair comes in at that stage is due to genetic predisposition. You can help it along by making good hygiene and diet choices, but beyond that, there’s not much you can do until you’re old enough to know what you’re working with.
Regardless of shaving, many men can see their full beard growth between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. However, individual biology varies wildly. You might not see your beard come in entirely until you’re much older. There’s nothing you can do to speed up the bodies’ natural processes. Unfortunately, that means you’ll just have to be patient.
Looking at your relatives on both sides can help give you an idea of what your beard will look like, but it’s not a guarantee. While it was once thought that people get a 50/50 blend of their mother and father’s genes, we now know that’s not true.
Even twins can have vastly different genetic profiles. You could get any proportion of any of the genes carried by your parents. The only guarantee is that there will be some of each parent in there. Because relatives can have such different genetics, you can’t even count on having the same beard density as your brother or father.
Younger men with their first beard coming in usually have different skin from their older counterparts. Hormones may cause more breakouts, especially if you’re shaving because a razor picks up and spreads germs and bacteria along your face. Always make sure you wash your face and facial hair before you shave to help prevent zits.
If you plan to shave, then be sure you pick the right equipment. I suggest starting with an all-inclusive kit that has a safety razor. The Rapid Beard Wet Shave Kit is a classy and cost-effective way to get started. Check it out here.
In your lifetime, you’ll spend as much as four months worth of time shaving your beard. Take your time and learn to do it right from the get-go. Your skin and beard will thank you for it later.
Some Men Don’t Need to Shave
While most men will eventually grow and shave, some form of beard, not everyone can. It might seem a little unfair that there are women who have to shave when some guys don’t, but life isn’t fair.
Sometimes having little to no beard to shave has everything to do with where your ancestors come from. Among Native Americans and Asian cultures, there are more men who have no, or almost no ability to grow a beard. If you come from a family with hairless men, you likely won’t need to shave.
The good news for beardless men is that there may be a significant bonus tradeoff. Often men who don’t grow beards or chest hair are less prone to male pattern baldness. You may not rock the mountain man face mane, but it’s more likely your lovely tresses will remain intact after beardier men start to thin on top. Of course, there’s no guarantee, but it’s still nice to know you can relax a little.
What Does Your Testosterone Level Have to Do With Your Beard
Another commonly misunderstood beard and shaving related myth is that men who have less of a beard have low testosterone. Testosterone plays a huge part in growing a beard, but most men have about the same amount regardless of how much face fur they’re working with. Moreover, it’s pretty rare for a guy to have testosterone-related beard issues.
So what gives? If you need testosterone to grow a beard, it seems like having more would make you hairy. The secret isn’t the amount, but rather how sensitive you are to the testosterone in our body. The hair follicles will either accept the hormones and make you hairy or not.
Estrogen’s Role in Shaving
You may not know this, but both men and women have testosterone and estrogen in their bodies. You already know that testosterone sensitivity can make your beard hulk-out, but did you know estrogen can affect it as well?
Hormonally sensitive skin can react to estrogen in the body by growing less hair. While it’s helpful if you don’t need to shave, sometimes, being aware of this is also useful. Serious hormonal imbalances aren’t all that common, but they can happen. If you can’t grow any hair on your face, but your whole family does, talk to your doctor and ask about your hormonal balance.
If you worry that too much estrogen will lower your testosterone, don’t. The two naturally occurring hormones don’t oppose or cancel each other out. Your body needs both, and having more or less of either doesn’t cause the other one to take over.
Some foods can throw your hormones out of wack and change the way you shave. If you want to avoid beard problems, then there are some food facts you should be aware of. Soy, including edamame beans and soy sauce, is not necessarily healthy for you.
A little now and then is fine, but soy contains exceptionally high amounts of phytoestrogens. Though it’s not conclusive, early research indicates that these phytoestrogens can affect your estrogen production. Kicking your hormones into artificial overdrive is a terrible plan. However, they may also lower your estrogen levels by replacing natural estrogen with the weaker phytoestrogen.
Other Foods That Might Change the Way You Shave
You typically have to go overboard to change your beard and shaving pattern just because of your diet. Nevertheless, all of these foods are potential sources of estrogen and testosterone inhibitors or producers. Keep in mind that regular servings or small and infrequent portions should be just fine.
- Cruciferous Vegetables like cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli, and cabbage have higher levels of isoflavones. Unfortunately, that’s just a scientific term for a type of estrogen.
- Some Mushrooms like portabellos and white buttons are suspected of raising testosterone while lowering estrogen.
- Tumeric and Curcumin have lowered estrogen in cells outside the body, and they increased testosterone in lab rats.
- Alcohol may increase estrogen and the likelihood of breast cancer in both genders. Yes, men can get breast cancer since it refers to cancer in the breast area, not just in women’s more noticeable mammaries. That’s the last thing you need if you’re already struggling to grow in an epic beard.
- Some Milk and Meat are treated with additional hormones, especially estrogen. Find out where your food is coming from and make sure the farmers aren’t doing this to their cows and your body.
Ways To Help Your Beard Grow Naturally
If you’ve been shaving daily in the hope that your beard will come in fuller, don’t lose hope just because that’s a myth. There are some things you can do to help it along. With a little TLC, you can still have the best possible beard that your genetics will allow.
Before we can start looking at how to make the most of your beard, you need to have one. That’s right, put down the razor. There’s nothing wrong with a little trim. I suggest you get a high-quality beard trimmer like the Remington MB6850 Vacuum Stubble and Beard Trimmer I got from Amazon. I like the vacuum function because it sucks up those annoyingly pokey little hairs. Check the prices and grab one while they’re in stock here.
Have some patience and give your beard time to grow. Four to six weeks is enough to get a fair idea of what it looks like when you let it bush out. Feel free to keep the edges clean with your trimmer, and by all means, shave your neck. Leave the rest alone.
Clean but Not Shaven
We’re sure you heard this from your parents or a health class teacher, but you need to wash your face and beard. Use a nice mild soap and make sure you really get in there, all the way to the skin. Don’t be afraid to get in there. Your beard will not fall out because you practice good hygiene. Quite the opposite, your skin and beard will be in better shape because of your efforts.
Dead skin cells can block your pores and follicles. Blocking the hair off makes it much harder for them to grow normally. Plus, you’re more likely to get acne and ingrown hairs if you don’t scrub through the hair and make sure you get the surface of your skin clean too.
Treat Your Beard & Your Face
Use a good beard oil starting around week two of growing your beard. The oil keeps the hair and skin softer and more comfortable. My favorite is Viking Revolution Beard Oil because the bearded guys who invented it only put the best into their products. You can grab a bottle here.
Once you have your oil, don’t just drizzle it in. Take a few drops at a time and massage it into your growing beard. Make sure you go all the way to the roots. Sure, rubbing your face might feel a little funny at first, but it’s also relaxing. Both relaxation and proper hair care lead to better beards.
Though it may sound odd, a facial massage may also help. The rubbing helps bring blood flow to the surface of your skin. That means dead cells are getting removed more efficiently internally, and all the oxygen and other nutrients you need for a fantastic beard and healthy skin are flowing right there under your fingertips.
Whether you DIY or go to a pro, rubbing that beard and all the muscles in your face is one way to help your beard come in full. Genetics will limit what you can do, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to have the best beard possible.
Shaving clean edges and using a good beard oil aren’t the only things you should be doing for your beard. The foods you eat can impact your hormones, but there are other vitamins you can use to help your hair.
- Vitamin A and Beta A Carotene
It may seem strange to take a vitamin so your beard will grow, but Vitamin A and Beta A Carotene help your skin repair itself. Better skin on the surface means better skin underneath where the base of the follicles live.
- Vitamins B6, B12, Biotin & Protein
All these B Vitamins are helpful for regenerating cells. Better skin, fingernails, and hair aren’t a guarantee, but there are plenty of people who swear by the B’s for better beards. Biotin especially seems to promote hair growth. What they’re doing is helping your body synthesize the protein you eat.
You need protein to make the cells in your body work. Whether you prefer a bloody steak or a nice vegan salad, getting the energy to fuel every essential process in your body is necessary. Without protein, those cells we mentioned, that need to multiply and prosper down in the follicles for your beard to go through its androgen phase, can’t do their job.
- Vitamin C and E
Vitamins C and E boost sebum production. Men have more sebum than women to begin with, and it plays a crucial role in keeping hair healthy and moisturized even before you add an excellent beard oil to boost the effect.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
If you don’t want a dry, brittle beard, then adding some omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Omega-3s protect cell membranes to help keep hair growing strong. Fat isn’t a bad word, especially fatty acids like this that help keep your whole body healthy.
Other Beard Enhancement Options
Natural options like vitamins aren’t the only option. Shaving your beard to make it grow is one of the longest-lived misunderstandings in human history, but there are solutions that work. If you’ve truly exhausted all other options or you prefer to cut to the chase, there are a couple of different ways to thicken up your beard.
Also known as Rogaine, Minoxidil is about as far from shaving as you can get. It certainly helps grow new hair on your head, so it’s no shocker that men have tried it for their beards. Though it’s not approved for facial applications, plenty of men swear by Minoxidil for patchy beards. You have to use it at your own risk.
Before you run out and grab a box of Kirkland Signature Minoxidil, which you can get from Amazon, if you click here, there are some other things you should know. First off, it can cause dry skin. In addition to beard oil, you’ll need a good moisturizer. There’s no reason to settle for an itchy beard. It doesn’t matter how full it is if you want to shave it off as soon as it grows.
Secondly, you should be aware that the effect on your face isn’t the same as it would be on top of your head. Applied to the scalp, Rogaine causes new hair to grow. Facially it typically only causes the existing follicles to kick into high gear. Extra shedding is normal at first as some of the older hair gets pushed out by new growth.
Another essential thing to know about Minoxidil is that it was initially used to lower blood pressure. If you suffer low blood pressure, then don’t use it at all. However, even if you don’t have blood pressure issues, you need to be aware that it can cause problems. Using it on a different part of the body doesn’t make it stop working.
If you do happen to have one of those rare hormone imbalances, then there’s a straightforward solution. You can talk to your doctor about hormone therapy. Thyroid disorder can wreck your beard, just like testosterone and estrogen.
Skin conditions and iron deficiencies can also contribute to a patchy beard. Rather than shaving it off, make sure the problem isn’t medical. After all, rare doesn’t mean impossible. Always see a professional if you think your patchy beard might be related to other symptoms. The good news is that if you have no other symptoms, it’s probably just genetics, and there are other options.
For men who can’t get their beard to grow in the way you want, hair implants are an option. The procedure takes a few hours and is considered outpatient. The doctor who puts in the new hair will use a topical numbing agent, but you don’t need to be sedated.
The process is relatively simple. Real pieces of your hair, from your head, are removed, with the roots intact. Those hairs get implanted into the beard area to help fill it out. You might be a little sore afterward, but it’s worth it if you dream of a full beard you can’t grow.
Beard implants are not cheap. You can expect to spend two to seven thousand dollars to have a professional create a new beard out of your hair. If the hair on your head is thinning, then having a full beard implanted might be problematic. Additionally, the hairs the doctor implants will fall out after a while, but don’t fret over it. The roots will remain, and more hair will grow to fill out your beard. You’ll be shaving in no time.
Unfortunately, growing a plush and fill face-mane isn’t as easy as stopping at the barbershop. Humans would all be like Rapunzel or the wolfman if hair grew when you cut or shaved it. Genetics and health play a huge part in how your beard will grow in. Hormone sensitivity makes up the rest.
Like eating right, the best thing you can do for a healthy beard is to be kind to your body. Lower your stress level. Not only will it mess with your beard, but it can also cause premature grey. Make sure you get the rest and relaxation you and your beard both deserve. Also, take the time to exercise. Better health means a better beard.
Skip the extra, unnecessary, shaving. You won’t get a better beard by removing yours.