Why Some Men Just Can't Grow a Beard? And What Can You Do About It
Beards are in.
Even after the initial wave of hipster beards rocked mainstream culture in the early 2000's, full facial hair seems to have ended its century-long hiatus as a symbol of masculinity and male sexuality.
But of course, life isn't fair, and there are many unfortunate men out there who just can't get the beard to take for on their face.
If you're one of these men, you may be wondering:
"Why me? Why can't I grow a beard?"
Rest assured there are reasons why, and there might be something you can do about it.
Why Has the Beard Forsaken Me?
Two main factors determine how bushy and full your beard is, and they aren't much different from other parts of your body.
Why are my muscles the size they are?
Why can I hold my breath for a long time?
The answers are the same: Nature and nurture, genetics and habits.
Your genes are the most important factors affecting your beard growth, but like with holding your breath and gaining muscle mass, there are things you can do to encourage your body on its way.
Let's see what really can affect your beard growth:
Genetics come into play mainly in the presence of androgen receptors. Androgens are a group of hormones, including testosterone, which regulates sexual development and determines male secondary sex characteristics. These are characteristics that relate to sex but aren't involved in reproduction such as the prostate, deeper voices, aggression, sex drive and, you guessed it, facial and body hair.
Now, it's important to understand that testosterone levels alone do not account for hair growth. Your genetics do determine your testosterone production, but whether or not your facial hair grows and how much is determined by the number of androgen receptors in your hair follicles and skin. The more androgen receptors you have, the more testosterone makes it into the hair and stimulates growth. You can have high levels of testosterone, but without sufficient androgen receptors, it has nowhere to go.
Unfortunately, androgen receptor numbers are determined by genetics. Some men and even women have more than others, so their testosterone (yes, women make it too) more easily reaches the hair and in greater amounts. The result, of course, being facial hair, and lots of it. So, if your dad and your mom's dad have baby faces, it's more than likely that you will, too. Unfortunately, at this time there is little that you can do about the genetic factors. However, DNA isn't the only force at work on your beard.
As stated above, testosterone levels alone don't determine facial hair growth, but androgen receptors do.
This fact does not mean that testosterone doesn't have a part to play, though. Maybe your skin has enough androgen receptors for a respectable beard. Great, but the hair follicles still need that testosterone to reach their maximum potential, and if there isn't enough floating in your bloodstream, you may be stuck with a smooth chin.
The main hormone attributed to facial hair growth is a type of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. DHT is like a super potent version of testosterone. It is essential for the development of sexual organs and those male secondary sex characteristics we talked about before. About ten percent of your testosterone gets converted to DHT, but not everyone is the same. Maybe your testosterone level, in general, is low due to age, genetics or health issue. Or, perhaps it's just your DHT that's lacking. Either way, it is possible to find out with a doctor administered hormone level test.
There is some good news for those men lacking in DHT, however. Sensitivity to DHT may increase facial hair growth, but it is also one of the leading causes of male pattern baldness.
That is not to say that men with higher testosterone go bald, but if the genetically predisposed sensitivity to DHT is there and there are enough androgen receptors and DHT in the scalp, the head hairs shrink and eventually fall dormant. So what's good for the face may be bad for the scalp. You may not have a full face of hair, but you can content yourself with the knowledge that you will likely have a full head of hair for some time to come.
Several medical issues can result in hair loss or patches of baldness on the face or head. These skin conditions can be painful and damaging to your hair, but luckily they are mostly treatable.
If you suspect you have any of the following skin conditions, see a dermatologist as soon as you can for treatment options.
Alopecia simply means any kind of hair loss, but there are several kinds of alopecia.
One of the most common types is alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that attacks your hair follicles, preventing their growth. This skin condition is a likely culprit if you are experiencing round bald patches on your head, body or face.
The damage, though, is not permanent and with treatment, the hair can grow back and remain. Alopecia is not contagious and can occur in otherwise healthy people. Treatment may involve topical creams, ointments, oral medication or a combination of these procedures.
Your thyroid gland is a vital part of the body located near the base of the skull.
It regulates all sorts of body functions by releasing thyroid hormones into your body for your organs to use. If your thyroid doesn't produce enough of these hormones, your body functions begin to slow down, and you can develop health issues. This reduced thyroid function is called hypothyroidism.
Your body just doesn't have what it needs to perform its duties, such as growing hair. Hypothyroidism is a serious but treatable condition, and you should see a doctor immediately if you suspect you may have a thyroid problem.
Iron deficiency anemia is, as the name suggests, a condition brought on by a lack of iron in the diet. The result is a lack of healthy red blood cells in your blood which can be mild to severe.
Symptoms include extreme fatigue, weakness, pale skin, chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath, headache, dizziness or lightheadedness, cold hands and feet, inflammation or soreness of your tongue, brittle nails, poor appetite and thinning hair or balding.
You may experience one or several of these symptoms in varying degrees of severity. Treatment involves medication or diet adjustments.
Time & Age - Give Your Body a Chance
I talked earlier about DHT and its effects on sexual development. During puberty, DHT activates a lot of the processes that turn a boy into a man.
There’s a long list of things it does like lowering your voice, increasing your muscle mass and height, and activating your sex drive. All the way at the bottom of the list is facial hair. Activating the follicles of your facial hair is one of the last things that DHT does.
Society deems you an adult at the age of 18, but your body continues to develop to reach its full adult potential well into your 20s. And, like with everything else, everyone is different, and they grow at different rates.
If you're still in your 20s and wondering where your beard is, it may just not have shown up yet. For some men, it can take until up to age 30 before all of their facial follicles get activated, and that bushy beard finally comes in.
So Is There Anything I Can Do?
With all this talk of genetics, it may seem like all is lost. It's NOT.
Genetics is the primary deciding factor in the presence and fullness of a beard, and without the right DNA, you might be out of luck. But don't despair just yet. With lifestyle changes and perhaps some treatments, you can push your scraggly or patchy beard into full facial wholeness, or maybe, just maybe, you can coax your inner beard to the surface.
Healthy Habits Can Change Your Beard's Life
What you do and what you eat have a significant impact on your testosterone levels.
I mentioned before that not just testosterone determines facial hair growth, but it is still a vital piece of the puzzle.
There's a lot of safe and natural ways you can increase your testosterone levels to help promote beard growth. There’s also changes you can make for an overall healthier body, which is much better at producing hair than a couch potato’s body. Here's some of them:
Exercise Often: Resistance training only bulks up your muscles, but it increases testosterone as well. And, let’s face it, you should be doing it anyway for all of the other health benefits it provides.
Improve Your Diet: A diet high in protein, leafy green vegetables, fiber and folic acid promotes healthier skin and hair.
Reduce Stress: Getting so stressed that your hair falls out isn't just a cliché. Stress can weaken your body, and that includes your skin and hair. Meditation, exercise, medication, therapy, vacations and simple lifestyle changes can help reduce your overall stress and keep your hair where it should be; on you.
Get More Sleep: Testosterone production is at its highest during REM sleep. The more sleep you get, the more testosterone you produce. Not only that but sleeping longer can reduce your stress and help you lose weight, two things that can negatively impact your hair growth.
What Not To Do
If you suffer from low testosterone, there are therapies you can get to get your levels back on track. However, if you are looking to jack up your testosterone in the hopes of growing a better beard, don't. The risks of excessive testosterone in the system are too severe to warrant getting a beard, and your results won’t be worth it.
If you don’t have the genes for a beard, all the testosterone in the world won’t help you. Your health is more important than even the sweetest facial hair.