Beards do not just happen by themselves, they take commitment and regular upkeep. From day one when the decision is made to grow a beard, whether it’s a tight cropped beard close to the face, or a massive two foot masterpiece, the process begins. But many men would like to speed up the process or even out a patchy beard. Do beard growth products really work? Or is a rich, full beard just genetic luck?
If you search online, you'll find a thousand beard growth products and techniques promising to increase beard growth — but do they really? I asked the experts for their take on whether it's possible to coax thicker beard growth faster and the best beard growth products to help men achieve the lush beard they want.
There's been a lot of controversy on whether you can do much of anything to affect your beard growth at all. Some men stop shaving for a week and end up with a beard, for the rest of us, it's a slower, more itchy and daunting process. In the end it's mostly genetics and hormones that will determine your natural beard growth. That said, here are some insights and beard growth products that might help you grow a luscious beard.
How do you get past the initial growth phase?
The first hurdle in growing a beard is just getting started. While it seems like a natural process that shouldn't require special effort, most men hit a high itch factor a few days in. Ange Picone, National Director of Education at 18|8 Fine Men’s Salons advises, “the first level of commitment begins as you impatiently wait to get past the “itchy” stage. This stage lasts about two weeks to three weeks and is where most men give up the dream and shave it off. Just know it does get better and easier with time. Regular shampooing of your beard will help keep it clean by removing any dirt and bacteria, and use of a beard oil or beard balm will keep it tame and softened. Then it’s time to just let it grow.” If you're in your first weeks of beard growth, don't give up. Keep your beard clean and well-oiled with the right products, and things will get better.
Pro Tip: The initial beard growth phase takes 2-3 weeks. Keep the beard growth products basic. Patience, regular shampooing and beard oil will help get you through this period.
What hormones affect men's beard growth?
There are two key factors that play into men's innate ability to grow a beard. Dr. Jennifer Stagg explains, “testosterone and DHT have different actions on beard growth. Testosterone is responsible for priming the hair follicle which affects density of the beard while DHT promotes the linear rate of hair growth—how fast it grows out.” If you're dealing with a beard that's not growing out in the way you imagined, it might be worth considering whether the problem is slow growth or a lack of density, then focus on that issue specifically. Beard growth products aren't the only thing that affect your budding beard - but they can help if the hormones aren't there.
Pro Tip: Testosterone affects beard density while DHT speeds the beard's growth.
Can you increase beard growth with supplements?
If key to a thick, bushy beard is a matter of hormones, can a guy improve his hormone levels through supplements? Dr. Stagg explains, “while there are no controlled studies that examine actual nutrients in the diet and beard growth, we can only theorize about dietary factors that can impact testosterone and DHT levels which would then potentially affect facial hair growth. For example, zinc is a mineral required for testosterone production, so making sure the diet includes foods rich in zinc like nuts, beans and shellfish may be helpful.”
Some men have indeed found success through beard growth products like supplements. I spoke with Hammer Stern, Stern Healing who explained, “I tested the more popular compounds like silica, l-methionone, and a multivitamin with extra biotin. Instead of buying the pre-made formulas, I bought all the ingredients individually and dosed them for maximum efficacy (high doses) for three weeks.” However despite the rigorousness of his test, he admit, “the results were... disappointing. Nothing changed at all except I grew tired of taking all those pills every day!”
Eventually he did find a method that worked, he explains, “the good news is that I eventually was able to find success in DHEA. DHEA is a complex hormone that is a precursor to testosterone. By combining DHEA and DIM, a compound that lowers estrogen and therefore, by a process involving complicated sciencey stuff, increases free testosterone.”
However for anyone who has stumbled upon the hordes of websites hawking dubious beard supplements and other beard growth products, buyer beware. Pedro Moorecraft, founder of Fols For Men warns “the gist of beard growth is that testosterone runs the party. You can increase testosterone with supplements, but plain old exercise and diet can also go a long way. 90% of supplements out there are mostly placebo.” Sterling agrees that nourishing a beard should come from a healthy diet rather than supplements, “if your blood is healthy and full of nutrients from your healthy diet, you're doing a great job feeding your beard the food it needs to grow.”
Pro Tip: While no supplements have been proven effective for beard growth, there is some anecdotal support for zinc or DHEA and DIM. And exercise and a better diet certainly won't hurt.
Can beard oils and masks help stimulate beard growth?
There are numerous beard oils on the market that promise thicker, more impressive beards. But can a beard oil actually help? Sterling explains how beard oils promote growth, “products like beard oil won't cause a hair follicle to develop and push out new beard strands. However, beard oil contains essential oils and some types of essential oils have follicle stimulating properties (e.g., Peppermint Oil). Stimulation is just the act of drawing blood to the follicle. So, if you already have a hair follicle but it is maybe thinner or weaker, a beard oil with peppermint oil could enhance its appearance.”
If you're considering using oil products for beard growth, Caleb Sanders of Maple Holistics warns that it's a long-term commitment. He advises, “while it may be true that certain natural products such as Jojoba oil, Tea Tree oil and Clove oil all have particularly good benefits for your hair health and quality, they do not have an immediate effect on promoting hair growth. They may passively contribute towards healthier hair, but they will not instantly make you sprout more hairs.”
Pro Tip: Beard oils can stimulate existing hair follicle to improve the appearance of existing hairs, but expect to be in for the long-haul.
What are additional ways to stimulate the hair follicles?
Beyond oils, you might also consider other ways to increase blood flow to your beard. Beard growth products that help with brushing or masking are a good start.
Eliss Halina of Saul's Beauty Shop reports, “in terms of topical products we've had clients see results from regular use of a boars hair brush or Eminence Organic's stimulating masks as they both increase blood flow, which helps deliver yummy boosting nutrients to your follicles, giving you stronger and faster growth.”
These should be used in conjunction with regular beard oil and not as a stand-alone beard growth product solution.
Pro Tip: If you want to further stimulate blood flow to your beard, consider using a boar brush or masking.
Can acupuncture help with beard growth?
A less conventional approach, and one that does not require a beard growth 'product', is acupuncture. Halina explains, “our Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner is an interesting, not often thought of, option. With these modalities you can target stress balding (so a new occurring alopecia spot within your beard growth) and hormonal.” However she also warns, “obviously it has the limitations of your genes. If strong beard growth has never been anywhere in your family genes, you're not going to see Viking results, but you can see some increase in quality.”
Pro Tip: Acupuncture can potentially help boost the appearance of a beard through stress and hormonal regulation.
Can Beard Growth Products Like Minoxidil or Rogaine help me grow my beard?
There are specialized topical beard growth products to consider as well, though they aren't without their own set of drawn-backs. Chandler Sterling of California Beard Company is knee deep in all things beard related. He admits to a lot of beard research on Reddit, explaining, “from what I've seen monitoring the /r/beards subreddit community is that internal beard-growth products (e.g., supplements) don't really work in the long term. Other products like Minoxidil (basically rogaine for beards) may cause your beard to come in more fully, but once you stop using it, you likely lose all those beard gains.”
Sanders agrees stating, “some have turned to chemically enhanced topical creams and foams (such as Rogaine) to help stimulate hair growth. Rogaine in specific is a very popular drug known to help stimulate hair growth in men — but it comes with the downside of causing irritation and inflammation on the skin when used regularly.”
Topical creams are probably the closest to a guaranteed beard booster. However come with their own draw-backs. They may be a good fit for the man who is truly committed to growing a beard or a guy who wants to boost his beard for a special occasion like an upcoming wedding.
Pro Tip: If you're dealing with a patchy beard, a topical solution like Rogaine or Minoxidil may help it fill-in, but only as long as you stay consistent with usage with the beard growth product you choose.
Should I trim my beard to help with beard growth?
In your newly-bearded excitement, you might be tempted to grab out the trimmers and get to work shaping it immediately. However Picone advises, “one mistake most men make is that they try to trim and shape their beard themselves. It is best not to try and shape your beard until you have one to two inches of growth.” Beyond that, she also generally advises against shaping and trimming your beard yourself, “shaping and trimming your beard is not a task I recommend taking on yourself as mistakes can take months to repair. Instead, seek the advice and help of a trained professional.”
Pro Tip: Wait until you have 1-2 inches of beard growth, then go to the professionals for a trim.
When is it time to give up filling-in a patchy beard?
Sometimes you can get a beard to grow but it ends up being scraggly and far from the thick, lush viking beard you envisioned. Picone advises, “it is important to know that not all guys can grow a beard, it is based primarily on genetics, and if after a few months of growing you notice your beard is patchy and not filling in properly, chances are it’s not going to get any better.” Keep these words of wisdom in mind before you spend months coaxing along perpetually thin beard.
Pro Tip: If your beard is still thin and patchy after 3-4 months, it's not likely to fill in.
In conclusion, there's unfortunately scant evidence of what products or supplements can improve your beard's appearance. However there are some key takeaways: Genetics play a big role so be patient if you're not seeing the quick growth you want to. Start off simple with diet and exercise, then experiment with supplements, topical solutions, or other simple beard growth products. With a bit of luck, you'll find what works and grow the lush, manly beard you want. And if not, remember, styles change constantly and in a few years everyone will be eagerly going clean shaven again.