Beard Hair Loss – Causes, Remedies & Prevention
For men losing hair is one of the most depressing thing in the world. It doesn't matter where the hair falls off from. We DON'T like it.
In this post I'll talk about beard hair loss, causes, what is normal and when to freak out. I'll also look at prevention methods to help keep your beard full and thick.
What's Normal Beard Hair Loss?
Losing beard hair is normal, so don't freak out.
Beard hair, like the hair on your head, has a natural life cycle. Finding hairs on your pillow or your brush is common. The longer your beard is, the more you will notice. The main life cycle of your hair follows the same pattern.
The average life cycle of all hair, is two to seven years. There are four stages in the hair life cycle:
Each phase has it’s own job to keep hair thick and growing.
All of this is just a fancy way of saying “hey, your hair will grow, then it will stop and eventually fall out before a new hair is grown.” It is normal, natural and nothing to worry about.
On average we lose 50 to 100 hairs every day. Most of these come from the tops of our heads, but having five to ten hairs from your beard fall out per day is not uncommon.
The anagen stage is the growth stage. This is when the hair breaks the skin and grows to its full length (or is cut and styled). During this stage, the root of the hair forms the bulb, divides and adds to the hair shaft.
On average, new growth and shorter hairs grow about half an inch per month. Longer and older hairs grow about a quarter of an inch per month.
Once the hair reaches maximum length for the follicle and hair root, the anagen cycle is complete. Beard hairs can reach between 18 and 30 inches on average. The anagen cycle lasts for up to five years.
Once the anagen cycle completes, the hair moves to the catagen phase. During the two to three weeks of the catagen phase, the blood supply to the hair root is cut off. Once the hair no longer has the blood supply, it becomes what is known as a club hair.
A club hair maintains its position in the follicle and can be cut, styled or have products applied to it. Club hairs no longer grow, though. After the blood supply has been cut off and the hair becomes a club, the catagen cycle is complete.
The telogen cycle was, until recently, considered the final stage of the hair life cycle. The telogen phase is more for the hair follicle than it is for the hair. Each follicle works independently of one another (otherwise all of our hair would fall out at one time and regrow at the same rate).
The follicle needs time to rest, resize and allow the blood flow from the follicle papilla to restart. This takes about three months. During this time the hair follicle isn’t ready to start growing a new hair. Once the follicle is ready, it enters the exogen phase.
The exogen phase is a relatively new phase discovered and identified as the stage when the hair follicle sheds it’s previous hair and starts the process of creating a new hair, returning to the anagen phase once again.
The exogen phase is short, lasting a day or two. During which the hair in the follicle shrinks at the bulb and falls out of the follicle. The delicate hair will fall out on its own or can be forced out by combing, brushing, washing or even light contact such as pulling a shirt over your head.
What is Not Normal Beard Hair Loss?
There are cases of hair loss that aren’t considered normal. One of the most well-known causes is called alopecia barbae. It is a form of alopecia areata, but instead of being on the top of the head, it is specific to the beard area.
Alopecia barbae is an autoimmune reaction where the body actually attacks the hair follicles, seeing them as a threat to our overall health. This produces circular areas of hair in the beard to fall out and stop producing hairs.
It does take time and you may not notice right away. However, once the hairs fall out, the follicles are too swollen to regrow hair and patches of bare skin shine through.
Alopecia areata (AA) is a condition that affects the hair on the top of the head, causing circular areas of baldness. Alopecia barbae affects only the beard. However, there are other forms of alopecia.
Alopecia totalis is when all of the hairs of the head fall out. If all the hairs of the scalp, the face (including eyebrows and eyelashes), as well as all body hair, fall out, this is known as alopecia universalis.
The problem with alopecia (aside from the obvious) is that there is generally no warning, no skin irritation, redness, swelling or pain. To top it off, the hair loss associated with alopecia can happen in just a single day or two.
When checking for hair loss, you should make an effort to note what is causing the hair to fall out. If it happens when you are brushing or combing or running your hands through the beard, it may not be an abnormal condition.
However, if you notice hairs falling out, on your clothes, in the sink or shower and without physical provocation, it may be time to see a dermatologist.
Should You Freak Out?
Despite autoimmune and genetic reasons, there is never a time to freak out about beard hair loss. In most cases, hair will regrow, even if eventually. Raising stress levels though can actually cause the regrowth to slow, or come to a stop altogether.
Freaking out about the hair loss, while not easy to ignore, isn’t required. If hair loss is due to abnormal conditions, most of them can be reversed and the hair will begin to regrow.
However, if you have spent a great deal of time growing, maintaining and styling your beard, it may be natural to freak out when it starts to fall out or thin.
If you are ever worried about the beard not growing properly, or thinning too much you can speak to a medical professional who can examine and test your hair follicles to see if there is an underlying condition.
Causes For Beard Hair Loss
Environmental reasons are the most common attributes to hair loss. Let’s take a look at what can cause beard hair to fall out that isn’t due to genetics or alopecia barbae.
1. Aggressive Drying
Drying your beard is important, hairs are most vulnerable when they're wet. Make sure you're not rubbing your beard with towel too hard.
Excessive drying with a towel can pull the hairs out manually, often in great numbers, as the constant tugging and back and forth wiping weaken the hair at the skin line where the hairs fall or break off.
2. Low Quality / Not for Beards Products
Applying low quality products, especially products that contain chemicals can harm your beard.
Using hair shampoo for example, which may contain chemicals that are not suitable for your skin and can dry it out and strip its natural oils, this may lead to weak, dry facial hair that can fall off. Use a beard shampoo or a beard soap.
Avoid using products with silicone as well, this is common in low quality beard oils. Always buy natural products, although its more expensive it'll be worth it.
3. Excessive Brushing / Low Quality Combs
Brushing or combing feels great and has some great benefits as well. That said, there's such a thing as excessive combing or brushing which can damage your beard. There's no reason to brush your beard more than 3 times a day (Usually 1-2 is enough).
Low quality combs or brushes can also cause hair loss, poorly built combs can snag your hairs hair and do more harm than good. Buy quality combs.
4. Health and Stress
Your overall health can also affect hair loss. Specifically, your health levels have some adverse effects on the hair follicles. If your body is spending time fighting off disease, improper nutrition or otherwise has a compromised immune system, your hair could suffer.
While a vast majority of these instances are temporary, they can cause stress, which in turn causes more hair to fall out, which causes more stress, you see the cycle.
Finding the underlying cause of the hair loss is crucial, and the ability to limit the stress levels will go a long way to a faster recovery.
The two largest health issues that affect hair loss are thyroid disease and iron deficiency or anemia. Thyroid disease must be correctly diagnosed by a medical professional and by the time hair loss has set in, it is difficult to reverse. However, with proper medications and treatments, the hair, in an otherwise healthy state, can regrow.
Iron deficiency can be overcome by adding iron supplements to your diet, eating better, more balanced foods, and increasing your intake of vitamin C for better iron absorption.
Iron deficiency should still be diagnosed, checked and monitored by a medical professional.
5. Blow Drying & Ironing
If you blow dry your beard the right way, it won't harm your beard. Using too much heat will weaken your beard hairs and might cause them to fall.
Ironing is another common thing, usually done to straighten the hairs either to make them look longer or just make them straight can also harm your beard, due to the extreme heat that is applied to the hairs.
6. Sudden Weight Loss
Your new regimen of hitting the gym is doing wonders for your masculine figure. However, if you are shedding pounds too quickly, you could be doing damage to your beard.
You can keep pumping the iron though, hair loss and weight loss tend to go hand in hand. It seems that the weight loss (and accompanying new or lack of diet) shock the body and as a result, the hair falls out.
However, your body will right itself and get accustomed to the new weight and the shock will wear off. Usually within six months. If you are losing weight for medical or personal reasons, you can keep going (please do it safely), and your hair will begin to flourish once again soon.
7. Pulling on Your Beard
Pulling on your beard is one the worst habits. I know it's fun and we all do it.
When it comes a routine, or when done unconsciously you can really cause some damage to your beard. It will weaken your hair and can even make holes in your beard.
8. Bad Diet
It is no secret that hair growth is dependent on certain vitamins and minerals. Ensuring you have the proper amount of these essential nutrients is critical for hair growth, including (and especially) the beard.
Biotin, niacin and Vitamin C are crucial building blocks for hair growth. Along with iron and zinc, the vitamin intake and absorption can mean the difference between a full, thick face mane, or a thin, scraggly beard.
Eating the right foods, in the right amounts is essential to maintaining a healthy body as well as a healthy beard. Following the recommended daily allowances is usually enough. However, more Vitamin C and iron (within reason, as you can ingest too much) will go a long way to helping prevent hair loss.
Drinking plenty of water and having fewer cups of coffee or soda will also help. A proper diet, including supplements, should be followed daily, not only for the health of your beard but of the rest of your body as well.
9. No Grooming Routine
This is true for those with at least 2-3 months of growth. If you won't take proper care of your beard don't be surprised when things go sour. Brittle and dry hairs and split ends are only some of the symptoms.
Lack of grooming will weaken your facial hair and may result in hairs falling out. Make sure to have a grooming routine, proper maintenance is a MUST. Applying beard oils or balms. Combing or brushing and washing must become part of your routine.
Beard Hair Loss Prevention
Not every cause of hair loss is preventable, unfortunately. Sometimes the follicles will just stop producing new hairs, shrink up and die off. It isn’t ideal by any means, but it does happen, more and more as we age.
While we can’t stop our bodies from getting older, we may be able to prolong the life of hair follicles.
Can You Prevent It?
You can prevent premature hair loss. The first step is always to figure out what is causing the hair loss and how the hairs are coming out.
Stress, diet and over styling are the biggest, non-medical, reasons for the loss. You will notice more than the usual number of hairs, though the loss won’t come in clumps as it will with chemotherapy, alopecia or thyroid disease.
Determining the actual cause of the hair loss can be difficult and you may need to take some time to really study what is going on.
How to Prevent Beard Hair Loss
The keys to prevention are in acceptance, moderation and determination.
If stress or anxiety are causing your hair loss, then you need to accept it. Acceptance is the first step of reversal and if you stress too much, more hair will fall out. Find ways to unwind and stress less.
Getting a new hobby can help with that, meditation, yoga, going camping, fishing or just finding a quiet spot and reading a book.
If the cause is from over styling, then you need to work on moderation. Your beard should only be washed every other day, or every third day (unless you just get extremely dirty daily.). Daily washing will remove the oils and make the hairs weaker.
Likewise, if you dry to vigorously, comb or brush too often or constantly rub, tug and pull on your beard, you need to moderate. You should brush your beards once or twice a day at most. When you dry your beard, do so with a towel, pat it dry and never scrub or rub it.
Tugging on your beard is just something that is going to happen. Beards are alluring and you as well as others, will want to pull on it. Try to resist. You will cause damage to the hairs, breaking them or yanking them right out of the follicles.
Products can be overused and you may not be ingesting enough vitamins. This is where the determination will come in to play. Ensure you are eating healthy. Make a determined effort to note your intake of biotin, niacin and Vitamin C as well as iron and zinc.
Use beard oils to help keep your beard manageable and lubricated, longer beards more importantly. Just don’t overdo it with the products. Less is more, and the less you cause your hair loss, the more beard you will have.