Look, I’m sure you’ve read six, ten, twenty articles by now on how to grow a beard. I know why you’re still searching for the perfect answer: Because no article states an answer that satisfies you. Never has a question seemed so simple and remained so mysterious. It’s okay. I’m here to help.
There’s a short answer and a long answer. I cover both. The short one I can give you right now.
On average, a beard requires six months to grow.
But that’s an average. You’re not an average. You’re a unique human being wading on a planet with nearly 8 billion people. No way will the average meet your specific answer.
The truth is, you won’t achieve a soft and manly beard with a simple answer like “6 months.”
A great beard results from a combination of factors, some you can’t control and others you can control. Continue reading to learn how long it really takes to grow a full beard.
What Kind of Hair is Beard Hair?
First off, let’s understand the difference between beard hair and scalp hair. The reason your beard hair feels different from the hair on your scalp is simple: they’re not the same.
The scientific name for facial hair is androgenic hair. Biology classifies facial hair in the same category as the hair on your legs and pubic area.
Androgenic hair grows slower than head hair. You gain roughly 1/2 inch of facial hair every month, on average. With a quick mental calculation, I can estimate your beard will reach six inches after a year. For a full beard, you want at least three inches of growth, hence six months.
Regardless of what you call your beard hair, it’s still hair, which means it goes through the hair life cycle. Here’s how it works.
The Life Cycle (of Your Beard Hair)
Understanding the stages of beard growth really helps you understand what is happening to your hair. It demystifies the process behind your beard, and your new awareness will open your eyes to your beard’s full potential.
This is where the magic happens. In the first stage, the hair follicle feeds your hair, and it grows.
Anagen phase lasts anywhere from three months to six years, depending on the hair. For beard hair, the average growth phase is three years. However, some people grow beard hair for upwards of ten, twelves years.
Depending on genetics, you could be the lucky owner of a long, thick beard. Or, on the other side of the genetic pool, you could have a beard than stops its anagen phase within six months. Only by growing out your beard can you know for certain.
Also, your scalp’s growth cycle is not the same as your beard’s cycle. So you can’t look to your head of hair to asses how long your beard will grow.
In the catagen phase, hair ceases to grow because the follicle severs the hair’s blood supply. All told the phase lasts anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. The result is a “club hair.” These hairs no longer receive any support from the follicle.
Once the club hair forms, the telogen phase begins. Otherwise known as the resting phase, the hair remains in the follicle but no longer has access to the cells that would create new growth. At this stage the hair has reached its terminal growth.
Many online sources state there are only three hair growth phases. They lump the shedding phase into the telogen phase. This is inaccurate. Over a decade ago, scientists discovered a fourth phase of the hair cycle: exogen.
Of the four phases, we know the least about exogen. We dub exogen the “shedding phase.” Genetics is the largest determination for how many beard hairs you shed per day.
We lose on average about 20-30 beard hairs a day, but health and stress factors can play a role in exogen, too. Don’t fret, even if you’re under stress and losing more hair than usual, we have upwards of 15,000 beard hairs. Plus, new ones are growing every day.
The Terminal Length
So, we know once a hair enters the telogen phase it has reached its terminal length. Each hair follicle has a different terminal length, too. Over the millennia, the human body has learned what the adequate length of every hair should be.
Different parts of your body require different lengths of hair. These genetic factors come from both of your parents. In the tango that is your genetic code, your beard hair received a predetermined terminal length. Our beard terminal lengths are all different because everyone’s genetic code is unique.
Some men have very long terminal lengths. Other men feel lucky if they reach six inches.
That does not mean your beard stops growing. Rather, the Catagen and Telogen cycles activate once your beard hair reaches a specific length. Since every hair on your body has its own timing, your beard grows constantly. However, it won’t grow passed a certain length.
Your genetically determined terminal length isn’t clear until your beard grows for a while. By 12 months of growth, you’ll notice your beard thin out as it grows longer. That’s because many of your beard hairs stopped growing. Most men trim their beard before they reach terminal length, so don’t worry about it too much.
The Big Three Factors: Age, Genetics, and Lifestyle
When you grow a beard, you expect certain results. You’re human; you compare yourself to others. Today, beard popularity continues to soar. More men rock a beard today than any other period in human history. You probably see dozens of striking, lush, sweet smelling beards whenever you walk into Starbucks.
While it’s natural to compare, you need to realize your beard has limits. Three factors determine what you can expect from your beard.
You don’t control two of them: age and genetics. But I’d argue they balance out with the third, lifestyle, which you control completely.
Your age affects how long it will take to grow a beard. I’ve segmented ages into three groups, puberty, adulthood, and old age.
Beards grow from puberty onward. Puberty is the most volatile of the three age groups. From the ages of 12-16, you’ll have a hard time growing a beard. It’s impossible to tell what the genetic lottery handed you until you’re through puberty. But here’s a little sage advice: a pathetic beard at fourteen could be a wicked beard at 20. So relax and enjoy whatever kids do these days.
The perfect beard cycle starts at 20 and runs until 35. Your testosterone peaks in this age range. If you fit in here, you have the potential to grow the best beard of your life. Congrats.
Into your 40s and onwards beards are still a viable choice, but you’ll encounter more difficulties. That’s because your body switches gears; you’re cursed with a faster Catagen phase. That means beard hair stop growing earlier than they did before. You’ll notice more brittle or broken hairs as your beard grows, too.
The other problem? Hair rates decrease with age. Many older men grow fantastic beards though, so don’t lose hope.
Because of your genetic makeup, some styles will be impossible to grow. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but someone has to.
Be realistic with your choice of beard style. For example, some men cannot under any circumstances grow a full mustache. That’s okay. But it means you must stick to a beard style that doesn’t involve upper lip hair.
When you’re growing your beard, know that a “full beard” for you may not be a “full beard” for someone else. To understand your genetics, check old family photos. See what beards the men grew on your mother’s and father’s side. You’ll enjoy your beard growing experience more if your goals are practical.
I’m sorry, but you can’t sport a beard like your favorite athlete when you eat cheeseburgers every day. Your facial hair reflects what you eat and what you do. Diet plays a crucial role in hair growth and lushness.
The upside? You hold the key to your lifestyle. Be critical of yourself and ask important questions. For example, are you exercising enough? A healthy male needs an average of 75 minutes of rigorous physical activity a week.
Your body is a complicated system. In an article about beard growth, I can only surmise possible health improvements. So here it goes:
- Educate yourself on healthy living.
- Drink more water.
- Eat less processed foods.
- Eat more vegetables and home-cooked meals.
I mean, a lot of this stuff amounts to moderation and common sense.
A healthier lifestyle will help your facial hair grow in fuller. Not only that, you’ll be more confident in your appearance and live longer.
Looking Beyond the Science: Hands Off
Aside from eating, exercising and watching your beard grow for six months in a mirror, what else can you do?
Well, first step – stop trimming and doting over your burgeoning beard. This is the single biggest mistake I see people make with their beard.
Don’t shape your beard for at least six months. Don’t even trim the ornery hairs that stick out from your face like angry little fingers. Remember: a stray hair today could be a long, lustrous hair tomorrow.
A full, shiny beard isn’t just genetics, age, and lifestyle; you must be the vanguard of your beard. Protect it. Safeguard every hair you can. Any hair you cut or trim recovers slowly, and you want to give each one of those beauties a chance.
Listen. You’ve made the choice to grow a full beard. So accept that that means you must experience the ugly bits, too. In the middle stages of beard growth, you will look unpleasant. But don’t worry, you’ll end up with a fantastic beard.
If you’re aiming for six inches of growth, allow up to seven inches before you wield a trimmer near your beard. Beard hair grows about 1/2 inch a month. So once you reach your perfect length, grow the beard out for another two months. Then you can trim your beard.
Great Beard Care = Fullness and Confidence
While I recommend you not trim your beard as it grows, you should pamper those hairs like the beautiful babies that they are.
Rare is the man who doesn’t groom their beard. I’m serious. Like the hair on your head, beard hair requires maintenance. Stop using your moms old hairbrush and get yourself a killer beard comb. Beard hair requires combing whenever you comb your hair.
Speaking of hair. After a shower, use a hair dryer on your beard. My beard looks scraggly whenever I walk out of the house without a combination of beard comb and hair dryer to shape my beard.
Fullness isn’t an accident. Sure, some men have a natural, luxuriant beard. But many, like myself, spend time and money to achieve a full beard.
Lastly, I use beard oils, otherwise it can look patchy. If you have dry skin or dry beard hair, do not wash your beard every day. Instead, wash it every other day, or every other other day. And use beard shampoo.
Diligent maintenance trumps waiting for magic beard growth every time. If you treat your beard well, it’ll treat you well, too.
Foster a Respectable Relationship with Your Beard
I have a bad habit of stroking my beard. Maybe it’s the wizened cartoon characters I looked up to as a kid, or maybe it’s because I like the way my beard feels. I learned the hard way that excessive touching destroys beard hair.
Although your beard gives you a manly look, the hair is fragile.
Over time, the unconscious ticks we develop with our beard damage what could be an incredible example of manliness. It helps me to think of my beard as a friend, a confidant. A partner in crime against a world of clean-shaven men. Don’t touch it, respect it.
A stroked, plucked, or licked beard will stop growing prematurely. Not because of terminal length, but your negligence, bad habits, and lack of care. Beards get split ends, for example, just like your head hair.
A Day at a Time
Here we are, back at our original question: How long does it take to grow a full beard?
By now, you realize that the answer isn’t so simple. I can predict six months, but that’s an estimate. The real answer comes down to how much effort you’re willing to spare, and what a beard means to you.
For me, a beard imbues me with a confidence I can’t get from anywhere else. It’s a revolving relationship. My beard changes with me, day by day.
The real answer? Growing a beard never stops. It’s a commitment to maintenance, health, and respect. Ultimately, taking care of your beard means taking care of yourself.
A full beard is different for everyone. Take your beard experience a day at a time. As your beard grows, look after it. Sooner than you think, you’ll have the perfect beard.