December 15, 2022

Q: What causes facial hair to grow?
A: Testosterone.

That’s the super simplified answer, anyway. Whether you have a thick or threadbare beard, it’s the result of the testosterone levels in your body.

The caveat? Not every guy gets the same amount of this magic stuff.
  • If you have above average testosterone levels, your beard grows thicker.
  • If you have below average testosterone levels, your beard grows thinner and more sparse.
  • If you have the average level of testosterone, your beard grows just fine.
  • If you have very low testosterone levels, you don’t grow proper facial hair at all.

Actually, the relationship between beard growth and testosterone is a little more detailed than that - and a whole lot more interesting. Let’s dig in…

First, What Even is Testosterone?

It’s a word that we hear and use pretty regularly. But what actually is it?

Testosterone is a hormone, which is a chemical substance made inside your body to help and control the way cells and organs go about their work.

Testosterone is a sex hormone and is typically associated with masculinity. When a dude reaches puberty, testosterone production ramps up and everything gets bigger - height, muscles, vocal folds (making a deeper voice) and of course sexual organs.

Not just men have testosterone. Women naturally produce it also, but in smaller quantities - hence the reason women typically don’t grow beards.

Fun fact: testosterone sends signals about sexual desire to your testes, but does the same to a woman’s ovaries.

Testosterone governs not just sex drive and sperm, but muscle size and strength, bone density, fat levels, red blood cells, and of course… facial hair and body hair.

Beard Thickness Is In Your Genes

There’s a steroid in testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This stuff has specific control over how hair grows all over you. How much or little DHT you have inside you is programmed into your genetic blueprint.

What’s also programmed is how your skin and follicles respond to DHT’s effects. So a thin beard isn’t necessarily a sign of low testosterone.

So if your beard grows thickly/sparsely, you can thank/blame your family predecessors. Your ethnic genetic background has a lot to do with this as well. For example, many Asian men don’t grow heavy beards or much body hair, while some from a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean background grow whiskers and body hair like the thickest broom.

We know that for some guys, the wait for a beard to grow in full and meaty can feel like an eternity. But, alas, nobody can do anything about time and genes.

The good news is that for most guys, over time the speed of facial hair growth evens out to roughly a half inch per month. So in 6 months it’s possible to have a good 3 inches of growth, which can be enough to fill the gaps in some patchy-looking beards.

DHT Can Be Good and Bad

Have you ever seen a dude wearing a t-shirt with an arrow pointing up to his head and the words “It’s not a bald patch - it’s a solar panel for a love machine”? It’s funny, but there’s a tiny grain of truth in it.

That’s because DHT is a double-edged sword. Loads of testosterone enhances strength, speed, aggression, a strong sex drive and thick facial hair. But a build-up of DHT also frequently causes a receding hairline and baldness.

This is why bald guys can grow big honking beards. The more DHT, the thicker a beard may grow (but not necessarily longer).

Age Has its Advantages

From adolescence, some guys might develop a thin, fluffy hint of a mustache along with a few stray chin hairs.

In their early 20s, some with higher testosterone levels might develop full beards. Others might have to wait a bit longer for their full forest to flourish.

But from their 30s to 50s, pretty much every man is at their beard-growing peak. As we said above, testosterone levels and genetics determine just how much of a beard grows.

How to Increase Testosterone Levels

While you can’t change your genetics, your lifestyle and general health can play an important role in keeping your beard as thick, healthy and lustrous as it can be.

  • Sleep well. Sleep deprivation can make T levels fall. Science has shown that men who sleep like four hours a night have much less testosterone. The body does its heaviest production during REM sleep, so get a good 7.5 hours plus. And ensure it’s quality sleep. If you have sleep apnea, see your doctor about it.
  • Eat well. Eat enough calories, but don’t overdo the protein. If your diet consists of 25% protein, that’s just fine – but more is not necessarily better for a beard. Plus eat the good fats (from fish, nuts and avocados) and avoid the bad fats like trans fats found in deep fried fast food. Obesity can lower your testosterone considerably.
  • Exercise. Strength training is especially helpful for stimulating testosterone production, but be sure to not just do weights and balance out your workouts. All exercise that raises your heart rate sends better blood flow to beard hair follicles.

What About Testosterone Supplements?

If you have clinically low T, your doctor might prescribe supplements. (You can’t get them over the counter.) But there’s no guarantee a supplement will help boost your body’s production of DHT, which controls your beard hairs.

A Big NO to Steroids

Sure, anabolic steroids can boost testosterone and promote hair and muscle growth. But they have huge health risks and nasty side-effects – high blood pressure, heart attack risk, blood clots, artery damage, ‘roid rage, acne, shrunken testes, reduced sperm and so on. Steroids also interfere with your body’s natural production processes, making you become dependent on the drug for getting testosterone flowing at all.

Don’t Shave!

It’s a total myth that shaving will make your beard grow out again faster or thicker. Here's more info on that: Does Shaving Your Beard Really Make it Grow Faster?

What About Rogaine (Minoxidil)?

We blogged about this. The jury is out because it’s designed for head hair, not facial hair. Besides, you have to keep using it, which gets expensive. As soon as you stop, the effects reverse themselves.

Testosterone Doesn’t Make Your Beard Longer

Science has shown that there is no link at all between testosterone levels and beard length.

In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t make anything else longer either 😎

Good Beard Grooming Can Help Appearance

Even if you can’t do much about your testosterone and your beard’s thickness, chin up! Because a healthy and well-groomed beard looks thicker. So, look after your whiskers and your skin:

Whatever your testosterone situation, my man, you can still grow and maintain a beard worthy of renown. Look after it well. Look after yourself well. And shape it and trim it to a style that truly brings out your rugged best!

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