Beard Growth. We’ve spoken a lot on this blog about how to grow a beard, how to care for your beard and which products you need to keep your mane in peak condition, but we’ve never talked about beard growth. As in the actual growth of a beard — how the hair grows and the different stages you’ll go through as it does.
So let’s do it. Let’s talk about the beard hair growth cycle and what you’ll encounter as your facial hair transforms from stubble to full beard. Starting with the science.
The beard hair growth cycle
Before we get into the actual cycle, we should address why it is that men grow facial hair but women and children don’t. And why are some men able to grow facial hair easier than others.
It’s to do with testosterone. Hair follicles respond aggressively to testosterone and men naturally produce more testosterone than women and children. Some men also produce more testosterone than others.
It’s possible to boost testosterone production with high-intensity exercise, eating protein, fat and carbs, sleeping well and taking vitamin D. There are also supplements that can help. But it’s mostly down to genetics. Some men can grow facial without any effort, others have to really put the work in.
When testosterone is doing its thing and the beard is growing, the hair itself goes through three cycles: anagen, catagen and telogen. Whenever you look at your beard in the mirror, one of these things is happening.
- Anagen is the growing phase, where hair grows at approximately 1cm a month for anywhere between two and seven years. This phase determines how long your beard will grow. Men who feel like their beard doesn’t grow past a certain length have a shorter anagen phase than those who’s beards grow longer. Over time, the anagen phase decreases and affects the strength of the hair, which is why it's important that you give your beard the nutrients it needs through lifestyle and proper grooming.
- Catagen is the transitional phase and lasts two to three weeks. At this point, the hair is happy with the progress its made and has downed tools to admire its work. Now that it’s no longer growing, the hair undergoes a process that cuts it off from the blood supply, ready for the telogen phase.
- Telogen the resting phase and lasts around three months. The hair follicle is now completely inactive and waiting to be replaced by the new kid on the block — fresh hair in the anagen phase. Around 6% to 8% of the hairs in your beard will be in the telogen phase at any given time, which is why you’ll see hairs dropping out when combing or scratching.
So that’s how hair grows. But how does that play out in the trenches?
The 4 Beard growth stages
From the start of your beard growth journey when the anagen phase is in full swing to the end when hair growth has brought riches in the form of a full beard, you’ll go through four stages.
Stage 1: Awkward
There’s no better word to describe the early days of beard growth than awkward.
Growing a beard can be strange at first. You’re all for it and enjoying the ride, but you’re still adjusting to life without the razor and how your face looks with stubble. People will be adjusting to your new look too.
However, it’s at around 2-3 weeks of uninterrupted growth that the real awkwardness kicks in: beard itch.
Beard itch is a big problem. So much so that we wrote a blog post on how to deal with it.
It arises from years of shaving sharpening the hair and making it coarse like sandpaper. When that hair breaks through, it irritates the skin, causing dryness and inflammation. These things bring about the itchiness.
When it the itch comes, it’ll test you. Some get it so bad that they give up on the idea of growing a beard. But by keeping your beard clean with beard wash and hydrating the skin every day with beard oil, you’ll be able to ease the irritation enough get through it.
Stage 2: The 1-inch+ club
Stage 2 is four to six weeks in. Itchiness will still be an issue (it always will be) but you’ll have a handle on it.
A bigger problem at this stage is patchiness. You’ll have a noticeable beard, with some parts that are less luscious than others. Again, this is a lot to do with genetics. Although you’ll be able to help your cause with some lifestyle changes — exercising, sleeping better, eating right, etc.
If your beard is patchy, it’s tempting to trim the rest to make it less noticeable.
Don’t do it.
There are ways to mask patches without throwing away a month’s worth of growth.
Keep hydrating your beard with beard oil. Use beard balm to add natural volume to your beard to make it look thicker. And brush regularly to cover up patches.
Another issue to contend with is the moustache. At this stage, you’ll notice that hair is rapidly making its way towards your mouth. Deal with this by combing the hair outwards either side from the centre point of your top lip. Do this several times a day to train your ‘tache to grow away from your mouth. If certain hairs don’t fall in line, snip them away with a good pair of beard scissors.
Stage 3: Trim time
Stage 3 is eight to 10 weeks in. The anagen is doing you proud and you’re sporting a full beard. Lack of trimming means it won’t be the most stylish of manes, but regular brushing, washing and oiling will have kept it presentable and free of dirt and dandruff.
At 10 weeks, you should seek out a good barber for a tidy up. Have them shape your cheeks, define your neckline and rid your beard of stray hairs. From there, pay them a visit ever three or four weeks to keep your beard in top condition.
Stage 4: Full beardsman
You’re now four to five months in. Your beard is nicely trimmed, itchiness is under control and keeping the beard clean and hydrated is as much a part of your weekly grooming routine as shaving was.
You’ll notice more hairs falling out at this stage. That’s simply due to the fact more hairs are in the telogen phase. It also means that new hair is on its way, making your beard even stronger.
And a strong beard is exactly what you have. You’re a true beardsman now.
Which means you’re free to style and shape your beard to suit your face shape. You can find out which style of beard best suits your face in our 4-step guide for growing the ultimate beard.
Along with the beard wash, oil and balm you’re already using, you can welcome products like beard butter and moustache wax to your collection. These products help to tame and manage the hair so your beard is always on point.
Beard growth tips
You can’t help genetics but you can do things to help hair grow healthier and thicker.
- Follow the Mo Bro’s 5-Step Process to better beard care: wash it, condition it, hydrate it, style it, comb it. Here’s that process in depth.
- Eat protein-rich foods like chicken and turkey, eggs, beans, yoghurt, soy products, seeds and nuts.
- Take vitamins B9, A, E, B5, B3, and C. You can get these as supplements or find them in foods like chicken, fish, citrus fruits and vegetables.
- Sleep well. At least eight hours a night.
- Do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise every day. Moderate exercise can be things like jogging, cycling, swimming or brisk walking. Intense exercise is an activity that really get the blood pumping — things like weightlifting, cross training, sprinting, squash and five-a-side football.
- Be patient. The hair growth cycle takes time. Look after your beard and let it grow. Play the long game. By stage 4 of your beard growth journey, you’ll be happy you did.
For more information on the things you can do to stimulate beard growth, as well as tips for styling and maintaining your mane, check out the rest of our Blog Posts.
Picture courtesy of @bantersnaps