These days, having a full beard is in style. While a clean-shaven face is still technically the norm, bearded men are far more common today than in decades past (at least, since the 20th century).
Personally, I’ve always had a goatee since I could grow hair, but a beard has always felt just out of reach. It doesn’t help that I can’t seem to grow thick hair on the sides of my face, so my beards always look uneven and disheveled.
Now that I’m in my 30s, growing a full beard is a bit easier, but it still requires maintenance and upkeep. In this article, I’m going to illustrate the best methods for growing a full beard for yourself. Whether you’re used to facial hair or want to stop shaving every day, here is what you need to know.
Beard Basics: Myths and Facts
With so many men choosing to grow a beard these days, many find that the process is a lot slower or troublesome than they might imagine. For some guys, they have to work hard to keep their beards from growing out of control.
For others, it could take months to get a wispy patch of facial hair. Since there is so much disparity among men, it’s natural for there to be various myths surrounding beards and how they work. Let’s dispel some of these, as well as illustrate the science behind one’s beard.
Myth: Shaving Regularly Causes Hair to Grow
This myth goes way back, and I remember hearing it as a budding teenager. The thinking goes that, like other parts of your body, your hair will respond to outside stimuli, such as shaving. The more you shave, the more your hair grows back in response.
If you never shaved, then your beard would never be too thick or dark. This myth is so prevalent that Seinfeld did an episode on it.
The reality, though, is that hair grows on its own, regardless of what you do it. Since the cells aren’t alive, how can they respond to stimuli? This myth likely persists because young men start shaving, and then they notice that their beards grow thicker as they get older.
However, this happens naturally, not as a direct result of shaving every day. That being said, if your facial hair is thin and wispy no matter how long you let it grow, cutting it off might help you look more refined and trustworthy.
Myth: Testosterone Causes Hair Growth
Here is another myth that sounds plausible once you hear it. After all, men are the ones who grow beards, so it must be something to do with the male hormone, right? This belief is so persistent that studies have shown that men with beards are rated as more aggressive and dominant, regardless of their actual personality.
Technically speaking, there is some truth to this myth, although not in the way you might assume. Since most men have similar testosterone levels, disparities between beards can’t be attributed to the hormone. However, those with low testosterone might have even more trouble growing a beard. So, if you’re struggling to get some facial hair, that could be to blame.
Fact: Genetics Influence Your Beard
While some several vitamins and supplements might help stimulate facial hair (more on that later), the fact is that genetics will affect your beard more than anything else. If your father and grandfather were able to grow beards quickly, you’d likely be able to do the same.
Conversely, if they couldn’t get a beard to save their lives, you’ll be struggling like them. Genetics from both parents can influence your beard, so if one grandpa is rocking massive facial hair while the other isn’t, you could wind up in either boat.
Myth: Beards Continue to Grow Forever
If you’ve ever paid attention to beard-growing competitions, you’ve seen guys with facial hair that reaches the floor. So, it’s natural to assume that, left unchecked, your beard could make you look like a member of ZZ Top or help put you into the Guinness Book of World Records.
For those trying to set a new record, the reality might be disheartening. For everyone else, it may be better to know that you don’t have to control your mane, lest it takes over your body.
Instead, everyone has a maximum length that their beards can grow. Again, this is determined by genetics, so you have little say in the matter. Beard growth happens in multiple phases: anagen (growing), catagen (hibernation), and telogen (hair loss).
These stages exist for both beards and regular hair, which is why men go bald. Typically, once your beard reaches a certain length, it enters the catagen phase, meaning that growth will slow way down. So, if you’re trying to go full ZZ, it might take decades to achieve that look.
Top Tips for Growing a Beard
Now that we know what’s fact and fiction, let’s dive into the best methods for growing a beard from scratch. If you currently have facial hair, you should shave it off immediately before you get started.
The reason for this is so that your beard will come in evenly around the face. It can look odd when your hair is patchy and disheveled, and it can make you seem unkempt or “wild.” Considering that you still have to be a part of polite society, this appearance likely won’t be appreciated by your peers.
Once you have a clean-shaven face, here’s how to get a full, luscious beard (assuming your genes allow it).
Let It Grow Naturally at First
Have you ever cooked steak the “proper” way? If so, you know to let the meat sizzle on the grill for at least five minutes or more before flipping it. All too often, inexperienced cooks will turn the steak too early, creating an uneven heat and delaying the cooking process.
Growing a beard is similar in that it’s best to leave the hair alone for about a month or two before you start messing around with it. While you can take vitamins and supplements to stimulate growth, you shouldn’t worry about trimming or shaping your beard yet. Once it’s filled in and starting to look like the real deal, you can begin styling it.
Pay Attention to Your Skin
One problem that many men experience when growing a beard is that the skin starts to itch during the first month or so. While this is natural, scratching the follicles can create a worsening condition. Instead, it’s better to moisturize your skin underneath so that it stays hydrated and refreshed.
There are many products out there that address this issue, but one of the most reliable is coconut oil. Simply rub some on your beard, work it into the skin, and then wash it out. Best of all, your beard will smell amazing afterward.
Plan Your Beard Shape
Another reason to let the hair grow in for a couple of months is so that you can see how it fills in naturally. This way, you can figure out which beard shape will work best for your face and growth potential. For example, if you’re like me, you might decide that a thick goatee is the best option since your sides aren’t filling in correctly.
In other cases, you might determine that a full beard that tapers out around the chin works best for you. Once you have a beard shape in mind, you can buy the right tools and accessories to make a reality. Otherwise, you could risk cutting off too much hair by accident, forcing you to start over from scratch.
Eat Foods That Promote Beard Growth
Although genetics will make the most difference, you can influence growth by eating certain foods and improving your diet. Here are some of my top recommendations for getting a fuller, thicker beard.
- Oysters – These contain a lot of zinc, which helps strengthen hair cells. Also, oysters are high in protein, which can stimulate your testosterone levels.
- Sweet Potatoes – Beta-carotene is an essential element of hair follicles, and sweet potatoes are chock full of it. Beta-carotene also turns to vitamin A, which stimulates growth.
- Spinach – Dark, leafy greens have tons of vitamins and minerals. Spinach, in particular, helps strengthen your beard hair and ensures that your body chemistry is well regulated.
- Eggs – Multiple studies have shown that biotin can help grow hair, and eggs are a decent source. Also, they’re full of protein and minerals.
- Red Meat – Not only is the image of a bearded man chowing on a steak appealing, but the protein and vitamins found in red meat can help stimulate testosterone production.
- Beard Supplements – Some products have many of these elements to help your beard grow a little faster. Look for supplements with protein, B vitamins, biotin, and beta-carotene. Again, these pills won’t create a beard, but they will ensure a smoother transition to a thicker, fuller one.
Finally, if you want to make sure that your beard comes in evenly, you want to improve the blood flow to the face. One of the best ways to do this is by exercising and lifting weights. The more in-shape you get, the easier it will be for your beard hair to grow and fill in naturally. Plus, exercise offers plenty of other health benefits, so even if you decide to forgo the beard, you should still be hitting the gym regularly.
Tips for Maintaining a Beard
Once you’ve gotten your beard to grow out significantly, you need to keep it looking fresh and stylish. Rarely is an unkempt beard an attractive look, so you want to avoid creating the appearance of a mountain man who hasn’t been in society in years. Here are my top tips for maintaining your new, mesmerizing facial hair.
Trim and Style Your Beard Consistently
Typically, a beard looks disheveled when it’s allowed to grow naturally. Since all of the hairs are bunched up, they start pushing each other in all directions, creating a messy line, both on your face and in silhouette. To alleviate this problem, you need to invest in trimmers that allow you to cut the wild hairs without going too deep. I recommend a buzzer with thick attachments so that you can shape your beard however you like.
On the face, use a trimmer to create sharp lines where the beard meets the skin. While you don’t necessarily have to be anal about this process, it helps your beard look planned, rather than a side effect of avoiding contact with others.
Brush and Oil Your Beard
Another way to help your facial hair look well-managed is to brush it daily. Women have always known that the secret to eliminating frizzy hair is to brush, and the same rule applies here. Fortunately, beard combs and brushes are easy to find, so you can get one that works best for your hair.
Beard oil can also help control your follicles and keep them from getting too wild. When using oil, the best method is to apply several drops to your comb and then brush it through the beard. Since there are so many beard oils on the market, feel free to mix and match. Not all oils work best for your needs, so if one isn’t working, don’t hesitate to replace it. Just be sure to wash your beard daily so that you don’t have a bunch of oil sitting on your face, clogging your pores.
Wash Your Beard Thoroughly
These days, beards are becoming more attractive, but there can still be a stigma surrounding their cleanliness. It doesn’t help if you don’t wash your beard regularly, as it can start to look unkempt and possibly dirty. When showering, be sure to clean your beard just as you would your hair. While you probably don’t need to shampoo your face, you should work soap and water into the beard to wash out any sweat and residue accumulated throughout the day.
Invest In High-Quality Beard Products
If you’re serious about growing a beard, you need to be prepared. Thankfully, there are tons of products out there that can help you in your quest. While it’s impossible to list them all here, I’ve curated my top picks. Again, feel free to mix and match different products, and don’t keep using something if it causes an adverse reaction. Your beard and your skin are unique, so there won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution.
- Beard Growth Supplement – Make sure that it contains the right blend of vitamins and minerals. Use it for a few weeks and see if you can notice a difference. If not, you can toss it.
- Beard Comb – Most combs have two sides: one for taking out tangles and one for smoothing the overall shape. I highly recommend finding a scented wood comb, as it will both smell good and make your beard even more attractive.
- Beard Wash – Usually, soap and water work for relatively thin beards. However, if you’re growing a full mane, a beard wash might be necessary. These washes both cleanse and exfoliate the skin underneath, creating an even better experience.
- Beard Shampoo and Conditioner – Again, if your beard is relatively small, don’t worry about these products. Instead, they’re designed for men with a luscious mane that has to be domesticated. Conditioners will help soften the hairs for a smoother feel. Your partner will appreciate that, trust me.
- Beard Oil – While shampoos clean your facial hair, beard oil keeps it soft and, in some cases, shiny. Different oils are designed for different effects, so determine what you want to get from it before buying.
- Beard Trimmer – You’ll need something that allows you to trim the outer edges and where the hair meets the skin. In most cases, this will be two different devices. Also, for fuller beards, I recommend buying hair scissors to have more control over the shape.
- Beard Wax – For those who want to have fun with their beards and mustaches, waxes enable you to create funky shapes. I don’t recommend doing this for everyday use, but it can help you stand out at a swanky party or ball.