Beard, according to a large number of individuals, is a symbol of masculinity. In certain cultures, grown up men maintain a thick beard to stress their political and personal beliefs. Growing beard is a popular fashion statement. In 2014, a leading international producer of razors and shaving accessories had claimed that the sale of shaving products had plummeted in the recent years as the number of men growing facial hair is increasing steadily. (1) Regardless of the reason for growing beard, it cannot be denied that a large number of men love their facial hair.
Facial hairs appear during puberty. Their quality and quantity are usually determined by the genes. The hormonal activity plays an important role in stimulating beard growth. The hormonal changes that ensue in the early teens leading to growth of facial hair usually stabilize in the early twenties, and in some cases beard growth reaches its full capacity in the 30s. Major hormonal problem inhibits beard growth and some men fail to develop heavy beard. (2)
How Long Does It Take To Grow A Beard?
In adult men, the beard area contains 6000 to 25000 hair fibers. The beard is a combination of fine, non-pigmented vellus hair fibers and coarser terminal hair fibers. Compared with the scalp hairs, beard hairs are thicker. While the scalp hair contains 5 to 7 cuticle layers, the beard hair comprises of 10 to 13 cuticle layers. (3) Although the exact rate of beard growth varies from men to men, usually the beard grows by 0.3 to 0.4 mm per day or approximately 14 cm per year. (4)
The facial hairs first appear on the upper lip area. They are soft and thin initially and become dark and coarse over time. After the growth of mustache, facial hair develops on the cheeks and sideburns and some below the lip. It grows last on the chin. You have a full grown beard when you allow your chin hairs to reach their full length. (5) In adults, usually chin hair grows by 0.38 mm per day. (6) Chin hair follows the same growth sequence as rest of the facial hair.
Beard growth is not a continuous process. Nor is it synchronized. Though each beard hair goes throw the growth cycle comprising of three stages, anagen or the active growth phase, catagen or the transitional phase and telogen or the rest period, each hair strand is in its own stage of development unaffected by the stage of development of its neighbors. Approximately, 70% of the beard and mustache hairs are in the anagen state. The anagen phase usually lasts for a year for the beard hair and 4 to 14 weeks for the hairs of the mustache area. 30% of the hair follicles on the beard area are in the telogen phase. The last phase of the hair growth cycle usually lasts for 2 to 3 months. The old beard hair falls off naturally or when pushed out by the new hair that had entered the anogen phase. (7) The androgens or the male hormones stimulate growth of the facial hairs. The first facial hair tends to develop two years after the appearance of the public hair. Facial hair growth increases with age and usually stabilizes by the age of 35. The speed of beard growth is usually determined by the activity of the male hormones. They affect the anagen phase of hair growth. The hormones are capable of increasing the length of the anagen phase that makes the fully formed facial hair longer. (8)
How To Grow Beard Faster And Thicker Naturally
The hairs on the beard area are the fastest growing hairs on the human body. (9) Nevertheless, a number of men desirous of sporting thick lustrous beard are troubled by slow beard growth. Fortunately, beard growth can be accelerated in different ways.
1. Moisturize Your Beard
(i) Beard Oil
Just as the scalp hair needs specialized hair care products to stimulate faster hair growth, the beard too needs oil to stay conditioned and healthy and grow faster. Essential oils diluted in carrier oil are found to be effective in stimulating beard growth during the growth phase of the hair growth cycle. For already grown hair, beard oil acts as a good conditioning agent. Rosemary, sandalwood, lavender, lemon, cedarwood and cypress essential oils are considered best for stimulating beard growth. The conditioning oils used in beard oils are jojoba oil, argan oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil and safflower oil. (10)
The skin tends to become dry as the beard lengthens. It is normal to experience itchiness and flaking of the skin in the first few weeks of beard growth. To alleviate the flaking, moisturize the beard area with the beard oil. In addition to promoting beard growth, beard oil forms a protective barrier on the facial hair, thereby protecting the beard from the harsh weather elements such as wind, heat, cold and hard water that damage the hairs, making them vulnerable to breakage. (11)
The following beard oil blends recipes can help in promoting healthy beard growth.
A. Lavender, Sandalwood and Rosemary
5 drops of lavender essential oil
5 drops of sandalwood essential oil
3 drops of rosemary essential oil
1 teaspoon of argan oil
Blend the essential oils. Add two drops of the essential oil blend to the argan oil and mix well. Once a day, apply the oil mixture to the beard area. Massage the oil into the skin. Wipe off the excess oil. Apply this oil mixture daily when growing the beard. (12)
B. Jojoba, Coconut, Argan And Almond Oils
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon jojoba oil
1 tablespoon sweet almond oil
1 tablespoon argan oil
3 drops of lemongrass essential oil
3 drops of cedarwood essential oil
Blend the carrier oils. Add the essential oils and mix well. Take a small amount of the beard oil and rub it into the palms. Rub the oil on the beard and massage it into the skin. (13)
C. Frankincense And Vetiver
7 drops of vetiver essential oil
7 drops of frankincense essential oil
2 drops of rosemary essential oil
4 drops of sandalwood essential oil
5 drops of West Indian bay essential oil
3 drops of cedar wood essential oil
1 teaspoon sweet almond oil
2 teaspoons argan oil
1 tablespoon jojoba oil
Mix the carrier oils. Add the frankincense and vetiver essential oils and blend well. Add the other essential oils and blend thoroughly. Store the oil mixture in a bottle. Shake the bottle before use. Apply the desired amount of oil to the beard and the skin of the beard area. (14)
D. Peppermint And Tea Tree Oil
3 drops of peppermint essential oil
5 drops of tea tree oil
¼ oz sweet almond oil
¾ oz jojoba oil
Add the oils in a one ounce bottle. Shake the bottle to mix the oils. After shower, when the skin and beard is fresh and clean, rub a small amount of the beard oil on the facial hair. (15)
2. Beard Balm
Beard balm is thicker than beard oil. It is more moisturizing than the beard oil and is usually used as leave-in conditioner. Beard balm usually contains beeswax that seals moisture into the facial hair. It provides light to medium hold and is good for styling the beard. (16) Beard balms with natural ingredients are best for moisturizing and conditioning the beard hair. They are known to reduce split ends and hair loss. They come with various fragrances that keep your beard smelling great. (17)
3. Exfoliate The Skin
The dead cells collect on the surface of the skin and tend to clog the hair follicles, thereby slowing down hair growth. It is one of the main causes of in-grown hairs that cause irritation and itch. Exfoliating the facial skin sloughs off the dead skin and unclogs the hair follicles. Unclogging the follicles allows the facial hairs to grow freely, and it speeds up beard growth. Use a cream or lotion containing an exfoliating ingredient such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid. By removing the dead skin layer, it softens the skin. (18) Furthermore, exfoliating the skin involves massaging the beard area that helps stimulate circulation. It increases supply of oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the hair follicles that support beard growth. (19)
Do not ignore the importance of diet in beard growth. As the hormonal activity plays the vital role in promoting growth of the facial hair, consuming foods that help in maintaining the healthy balance of hormones is essential for growing beard. To boost the testosterone level and balance the testosterone and estrogen hormones, make sure that you are consuming foods rich in zinc. Oysters, red meat, poultry, dairy, nuts and beans are good source of zinc. (20) Furthermore, foods rich in nutrients that are needed for healthy hair growth should be added to the daily diet. Protein intake is necessary for the development of the facial hair. Good sources of protein are lean meat, chicken, eggs and vegetable proteins such as legumes.
A low calorie diet slows down beard growth. You will need sufficient calories to ensure healthy growth of the facial hair. Whole wheat breads, fruits and vegetables are sources of healthy carbohydrates for meeting your calorie requirement. For maintaining the health of your skin and body hair you need essential fatty acids such as omega-3 fats found in fish oil. Micronutrients such as biotin, vitamin C and iron are also important for healthy beard growth. A balanced diet provides these important nutrients. (21) Remember to add foods that contain selenium and vitamin A to your diet. The trace mineral selenium helps in reducing hair loss and loss of pigmentation. Vitamin A supports normal development of the hair follicles. (22)
Certain dietary supplements seem to help in beard growth. MSM is one such supplement that supports growth of the facial hair. (23) Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a sulfur based product. Sulfur is an important component in the chain of amino acids that constitute the hair protein. It is needed for the synthesis of keratin protein and collagen that make the hair strong and healthy.
Sulfur works with biotin in maintaining the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. (24) Vitamin D is known to encourage testosterone production that helps in making the beard thicker. As this vitamin is present in small quantities in foods such as fish and meat, a supplement can help in meeting the optimal requirement of vitamin D. (25) Furthermore, vitamin D is known to stimulate the hair follicles. (26) A multivitamin supplement can provide the important micronutrients that are missing in your diet.
6. Skin And Beard Care
Keeping the skin of the beard area healthy is prerequisite for healthy beard growth. Growing beard is not easy. Beard dandruff is a common problem that most men encounter while growing facial hair. To get rid of the beard dandruff, wash your beard with your regular anti-dandruff shampoo. Dilute it slightly before using it for washing your facial hair. Take a small amount of shampoo and massage it on your beard. Work up good lather to remove the flakes and oil from the facial skin and hair. Thoroughly rinse to remove all traces of the shampoo. Apply conditioner to soften the beard. (27) The best way to condition the facial hair is to apply beard oil. It is best suited for keeping the beard dandruff free. It hydrates and strengthens the facial hair and stimulates healthy facial growth. (28)
7. Trim Your Beard
To maintain healthy beard growth, shape it from the beginning. To enable your beard to grow naturally, do not shave for 4 to 6 weeks. The itching that you experience at the initial stage of beard growth can be reduced by applying moisturizer, baby oil or beard oil. Wash and condition your beard as it grows freely. To avert mishaps, seek professional help for your first trim.
A stylist or barber will shave your neckline and boundaries of your new beard. (29) Once the initial trimming is complete, depending upon the speed of your beard growth, you can trim the beard twice a week. Trimming apart from helping in maintaining the shape of your beard, eliminates split ends, thereby helping in healthy growth of the facial hair. Trim when the facial hair is dry. Comb and untangle it to ensure proper trimming. (30)
Can Shaving Help Grow Beard?
Shaving stimulates beard growth is a popular myth. Shaving cannot speed up growth of facial hair. Nevertheless, you may notice your facial hair growing back in a short time after shaving and it usually appears thicker and darker. However, this positive effect of shaving ceases in a few hours. Shaving exfoliates the surface skin and exposes the darker and coarser facial hair at the root. Hence, the beard appears heavier initially. (31)
How Asians Can Grow Beard?
Though facial hair growth is normal for men, the quality of beard varies according to ethnicity. Caucasians have more facial hair than the Asians and Blacks. Among Asians, Far East Asians have little facial hair. Hence, it is a challenge for the people of Far East Asian origin to grow full beard. (32) Nevertheless, by following the aforementioned steps for beard growth, Asian men can expect better result.
Do Beard Growth Products Work?
There is no magic potion to speed up beard growth and make it thick. Your genes determine the quality of your beard. Beard growth products such as beard oils and balms work only when there are sufficient active follicles in the beard area. Beard oils are best known to promote beard growth. Moisturizing the beard area assists beard growth in challenging climates. (33)