6 dermatologist-approved tips to grow a healthy, full beard

6 dermatologist-approved tips to grow a healthy, full beard
Beard growth largely depends on your genetics, but you can improve the facial hair you do have.Thomas Barwick/ Getty Images
  • To grow a beard try grooming your beard regularly, using facial moisturizer, and avoid touching your face.
  • To make your existing beard more full, try to reduce stress, eat healthily, and invest in a topical treatment or beard transplant.
  • Ultimately, facial hair differs from person to person and depends largely on genetics and hormones.

Everyone has different amounts of facial hair. The fullness, growth pattern, and texture of a person's facial hair often differs from person to person. Compared to the hair on the scalp, beard hair tends to be thicker, coarser, and curlier.

"The biggest factor for beard growth is genetics. External hormones, like testosterone or other anabolic steroids, can sometimes make people grow thicker beards than they otherwise would," says Jay Vary, MD, PhD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Washington.

Important: If you don't have a full beard, that could largely be due to genetics. Therefore, if basic changes to diet and stress management don't help, and having a full beard is important to you, topical treatments and beard transplants may do the trick. It's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle because diet, stress levels, and exercise also influence beard growth. Here's what you need to know about growing a beard.
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Can everyone grow a beard?

No, not everyone can grow a beard. "Beard growth is mainly genetically predisposed," says Anthony Rossi, MD, attending dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. "It is under genetic and hormonal control."

Therefore, facial hair growth will vary depending on your ethnicity, says Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology.

In general, for those with testes, beard growth starts during puberty as testosterone levels increase. Testosterone is key for beard growth because its byproduct, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), triggers hair follicles to grow longer and thicker hairs. For transgender men, the growth of facial hair typically begins a year or more after starting their testosterone intake.
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How to grow a healthy beard

Though beard growth depends heavily on your genetics, there are some things you can do to improve the facial hair you do have and encourage it to grow.

Here are six tips from the American Academy of Dermatology Association for growing a healthy beard:
  1. Wash your face: Dirt and germs can build up on the beard and irritate your skin, so wash your face and beard with a gentle cleanser every day.
  2. Don't touch your face: Refrain from touching and stroking your beard to prevent spreading the dirt and germs from your hands.
  3. Use topical creams and oils: Use a shaving oil, cream, or gel before shaving to avoid skin irritation.
  4. Moisturize: Apply a moisturizer immediately after washing or shaving to protect your hair and prevent dry, flaky skin beneath the beard.
  5. Apply sunscreen: During the stubble phase, use a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays.
  6. Keep a comb handy: Use a beard comb to detangle and style your beard. You can also use it to spread the moisturizer evenly or comb out the hair when trimming with scissors.
Moreover, it's important to keep the skin in the beard area as healthy as possible to avoid acne and dandruff.
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How long does it take to grow a beard?

It varies among different people as some grow fuller beards faster than others, says Rossi.

"Beard hair can grow at a rate of half an inch per month. It is possible to begin to grow a beard in two weeks as it is thought that facial hair grows faster than scalp hair, but it can take up to two to four months to grow a full beard," says Garshick.

According to Vary, most beards continue to grow thicker as people age into their 20s and 30s. However, if you've tried and haven't developed a thick, full beard by age 30, then it's less likely to see a big difference because that's when testosterone levels start to decrease with age, says Garshick.
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Tips for growing a beard faster

You may not be able to grow a beard instantaneously, but certain practices can help stimulate hair growth, such as:

  • Shaving: "There is some evidence that trauma or plucking hair follicles may result in stimulation of growth," says Rossi. Most of the time, however, shaving hair generally doesn't change its thickness or rate of growth.
  • Grooming: Exfoliating with a gentle scrub might avoid the growth of ingrown hairs. "Using moisturizers and remembering to cleanse the beard can help it appear clean and thicker," says Garshick. Some individuals also dye their beard to give it a thicker appearance.
  • Reducing stress: Chronic stress can potentially slow growth because it can trigger follicles' resting phrase, which halts the production of new hair strands. Manage stress by doing activities that help you relax and identifying and dealing with your triggers.
  • Having a healthy diet and exercising: "Really, nothing is going to stimulate beard growth other than a normal healthy lifestyle. Adequate nutrition, reasonable stress levels, and normal exercise that make the rest of your body healthy will make your beard healthy and grow as well," Vary says.
  • Taking medications: "For patients with sparse hair growth of the beard, using products such as topical or oral minoxidil may help improve some hair on the beard," says Rossi. Some people may take the supplement biotin however recent government warnings recommend using caution when taking it. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that biotin interferes with blood tests and may cause incorrect results.
  • Masculinizing hormone therapy: Transgender men can be administered testosterone during masculinizing hormone therapy to enable them to grow a beard. There is a risk of the blood becoming too thick and causing a stroke or heart attack, but a physician can prevent this by maintaining an appropriate dose for your body's metabolism.

"Depending on how much it bothers you, there is such a thing as a beard transplant to actually take hairs from the back of your scalp and place them in your beard area," says Garshick.

What's the cost: Before you consider undergoing a beard transplant, know that they can be expensive. Beard transplants can cost between $1,500 and $7,000 US dollars. You don't have to undergo this procedure unless you find your facial hair to be a major cosmetic concern.
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Insider's takeaway

One of the biggest factors for beard growth is genetics, but testosterone levels, diet, exercise, and stress levels can also influence it. Beard hair grows about half an inch per month, and it will take you about two to four months to grow a full beard from having a clean-shaven face.

Shaving generally doesn't make hair grow thicker, but you can encourage beard growth by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Proper grooming, such as cleansing and moisturizing the beard area, is important to have a healthy-looking beard.

"If someone is trying to grow a beard, patience and genetics need to be on their side," says Vary. "Some people were born to grow thick beards and others were born to grow thinner beards or none at all."
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