illustration of vellus hair on beard

The truth is that every one of us has the facial hair follicles to grow a full beard.

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Those developed while you were a 5-month old fetus. In fact, you likely have a full beard of tiny vellus hair growing from those follicles right now.

You just really can’t see that without high-quality magnification.

In some cases, you do see the thin vellus hairs growing on your facial hair area, but they’re not thick and dark terminal hairs yet, and closer to what is well-known as; the peach fuzz.

Regardless, today you are going to learn how to naturally convert the light vellus beard into a thicker beard.

Let’s get at it. ↓

The Difference Between Vellus and Terminal Facial Hair

vellus vs terminal hair closeup

The above image shows a clear difference between really small unnoticeable vellus hairs, a bit more noticeable long vellus hairs. On the right, you can see a microscopic closeup of the thick terminal hairs.

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There can really be three different types of hair spewing out of your facial hair follicles.

  • Small, light, vellus hairs, these are almost impossible to see when looking into the mirror but tend to cover nearly all of the skin surfaces of your body with active hair follicles. Vellus hair tends to grow only to ~2mm in length
  • Larger more prominent vellus hair often called “peach fuzz” or the “pube beard“. You can spot these if you look close enough. This type of hair is light, extremely thin, and it isn’t connected to the sebaceous gland. Although thin, the length can reach up to 4cm.
  • Thicker, darker, terminal hair. This is typically the stuff you need in order to grow a “real” beard. Terminal beard hair grows about a ½ inch (~1cm) per month and doesn’t stop until it falls out within 2-6 years and is replaced by a new hair in its anagen growth phase.

What Makes Vellus Hair Convert to Terminal Hair?

androgen effects on hair follicleVarious factors impact the conversion from thin peach fuzz into terminal beard, but the biggest and most important of them are the androgens; the male hormones testosterone & DHT.

When the hormones bind to the androgen receptors, then DHT and testosterone have entry to the DNA of the cell, and through there, they promote masculinizing effects.

And when the hormones bind to the receptors in your facial hair area, the masculinizing effect is the conversion from the vellus beard into the terminal beard.

This is the reason why experts agree that testosterone stimulates the beard growth, and also one of the reasons why beard growth is touted to be 100% driven by genetics (although there are methods to naturally manipulate your hormone levels).

Through androgenic stimulation, the beard follicle connects to the sebaceous gland and starts spewing out thicker and darker hair.

This means that it has entered the anagen beard growth stage, and simply pushes the old thin hair strand out.

This usually begins in puberty and continues through the life of a man thereafter.

Depending on your levels of androgens, as well as, the sensitivity of your androgen receptors, you will either see beard growth or continue to see only thin vellus hair on your face.

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If you are at the later stages of your puberty, or even close to your 30’s or 40’s without a beard yet, then I have some good news…

You can promote the transition from vellus to terminal hair, and you can do so naturally.

7 Ways to Boost Vellus to Terminal Beard Conversion

1. Vitamin D3

vitamin d capsules in a spoonIt has been long known that vitamin D plays a role in the production of the male hormone testosterone, which makes it likely the most important of the beard growth vitamins.

Here’s a quick recap:

  • Men taking 3332 IU of a vitamin D supplements daily for a year, saw a 25.2% increase in their testosterone levels1.
  • Older men supplementing with vitamin D + calcium are more likely to have higher testosterone levels2.
  • In an Australian study, lower vitamin D levels were associated with lower testosterone production3.
  • In a study of 1362 men, a positive correlation was noted with blood vitamin D levels and testosterone levels, all the way up to 80nmol/L4.

On top of all the evidence in terms of testosterone, there are also some studies which have shown that the vitamin D receptor plays a role in the maturation of the hair follicle5,6.

If your vitamin D levels fall short (low sun exposure, poor diet), your facial hair follicles may have a harder time to spew out androgenic-hair.

Personally I noticed much stronger facial hair growth after I started taking high dose vitamin D supplement (10000 IU 3 times per week during winter), but this might be due to the fact that I live in Finland, and there’s rarely any sun out here in the winter months as I’m so close to the North-pole.

“For most men living in Scandinavia and other low-light areas, vitamin D supplementation is important. For someone living in Florida and spending much of their day outside, it’s likely not going to bring about similar benefits.”

Ultimately though, the best way to find out is to have your vitamin D levels checked at a lab and adjust supplementation accordingly if necessary.

If you’re looking for quality Vit. D supplement, this is the one I’m taking.

2. L-Carnitine L-Tartrate

opened supplement capsule

Many men have high enough levels of testosterone and DHT to grow facial hair, yet the beard is still not growing and there’s only vellus hair on the face.

What’s the issue?

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Most likely desensitized androgen receptors. The very receptor sites that bind testosterone from the blood and allow them to enter DNA.

One example of this is the Asian men who can’t grow beards, as the Eastern Asian genetics tend to have more copies of the human androgen receptors, resulting in less sensitivity overall.

So can you enhance the sensitivity then?

One thing that is proven to help in activating dormant androgen receptors, is an amino acid supplement known by the name of L-Carnitine L-tartrate.

In my opinion, it might be one of the best beard growth supplements around.

In two human studies, it has been shown that 2g/day of carnitine, resulted in significantly better density and sensitivity of the androgen receptors, in both sedentary and exercising subjects.

The results were even proven by actual muscle biopsies7,8.

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Since the androgen receptor is essentially the “gate-keeper” in your facial hair follicles that lets the androgenic hormones (testosterone & DHT) in, increasing their sensitivity and sensitivity through carnitine supplementation could help to convert more of the beard vellus hairs to terminal hair.

Another interesting benefit of carnitine is its ability to shuttle more fatty acids to the mitochondria of the hair follicle cells, which in turn improves its energy production and eventually leads to thicker and faster growth of facial hair.

This effect was demonstrated in a study by Foizik et al. and even though they tested carnitine on scalp-hair, similar effects should extend to your facial hair follicles as well.

foizik et al carnitine hair growth study graphs

This is the carnitine supplement I’ve used for quite some time.

3. Minoxidil 5% Liquid Solution

man with thick dark beardChances are you might already be using minoxidil if you’re reading this, as in the beginning, it causes increased growth of the vellus hair.

And one of the most common questions I’ve seen from guys using Rogaine for their face is something like this:

I’m seeing lots of new long vellus hair on the face, when will these turn terminal?

The answer is; usually in 3-12 months. And once they’ve turned terminal, they’re permanent as well.

But let’s take a step back real quick here.

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If you don’t know what minoxidil is and how to use it for your facial hair, know that it’s a scalp hair-loss drug (prescription-free) that has been both anecdotally and scientifically proven to grow facial hair.

graphs from minoxidil beard study

It’s not completely side-effect free, but safe enough for the FDA to have ruled it available over-the-counter.

If you want to learn everything about minoxidil for facial hair, click that highlighted link.

If you want the quick-and-dirty facts, check out our minoxidil FAQ and get yourself a bottle of 5% Kirkland Minoxidil. Then just apply that to your beard area twice per day at 1-2ml dose.

It will take mere months and you will have grown significant amounts of new beard hairs, and over time, these will convert from vellus to terminal.

4. Mucuna Pruriens

mucuna pruriensMucuna is a relatively unknown herbal extract that has quite an array of evidence backing up its effects as a possible beard growth-stimulating supplement.

The way it works is two-fold:

  • Firstly, Mucuna has been shown to increase testosterone levels in various animals and humans9–12.
  • Secondly, the L-Dopa compound in the herb has been identified as human androgen receptor co-activator protein13,14.

Due to its cheap price and research-backed benefits, Mucuna Pruriens is one of my all-time favorite supplements and likely helps to convert more vellus beard hairs into a real beard.

You can get a cheap, yet quality, standardized extract from Amazon.

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5. Fix your Diet

potatoes on a basketNutrition is one of the most important factors when it comes to growing facial hair and boosting the hormones involved in converting your vellus beard into that thick terminal androgenic mane.

In our earlier article about methods to fix patchy facial hair, I outlined some nutrition tips for optimal beard growth (protein, carb, fat ratios, etc).

I also have a specific post about the foods that can help with facial hair growth on this website, which contains references to all of the claims made below.

But as a snippet, these couple bullet-points shall do for this article:

  • Don’t eat a fitness-bunny diet. Men on low-calorie diets tend to have lower androgens. The Catch-22 is that fat men also have lower androgens.
  • Eat enough carbs, testosterone and DHT production rely partly on glucose, and so does your thyroid hormones T3 and T4 (these are important for facial hair growth).
  • Eat medium fat, but make sure to limit polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and include more monounsaturated fats and saturated fats in their place.
  • Get some protein but not too much, protein malnutrition is bad for T & DHT, but so is protein excess.

I know some people are vegans, some are keto, some follow the latest hype; the carnivore diet, but for what it’s worth; research shows that for androgen optimization and therefore beard growth, the optimal macronutrient ratios are something close to this:

~20% protein, ~25% fats, ~55% carbohydrate.

6. Derma Roller

derma rollerUtilizing one of the most effective beard growth products available called the “Derma Roller” can help stimulate circulation and increase the delivery of fresh blood – rich in nutrients and hormones – to the facial hair area.

So what is a Derma Roller?

It’s a handle with a wheel that is filled with tiny needles. You roll it around your face, causing small puncture wounds to the surface of the skin.

The punctures are harmless (as long as you make sure to keep the Derma Roller clean), and they prompt the body to repair the damage.

This repairing process is what forces nutrients and hormones to the area, and increases the production of collagen and keratin in your cheeks as a result.

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This is the purported mechanism of action on how microneedle therapy boosts beard growth.

Currently, there are no studies which directly look at micro-needling the beard.

The only evidence we have is a 2013 study which found that micro-needling the scalp resulted in the new growth of hair.

Using a Derma Roller on the scalp was so effective that it even beat minoxidil in hair growth stimulation, which is impressive, to say the least.

microneedling hair growth study results

The researchers conclude15:

Microneedling works by stimulation of stem cells and inducing activation of growth factors.

There are dozens of Derma Rollers to choose from, but I’ve always liked this one.

7. Patience and your Age

little boy getting a shaveAs I have written in my previous article about “teenager beard growth“, you need to have some patience if you’re still under your 20’s.

Even though facial hair growth usually starts during puberty, most men actually see the biggest increases in their 20’s and 30’s.

If you’re well beyond puberty by now, consider using all the six steps above to increase the conversion from thin vellus hair beard into thick terminal hairs…

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…But if you’re still in your teens, relax and don’t rush it. Take some time and see if you’re able to pull off a full beard naturally in the future before stressing about stuff like this.

Conclusion

I hope these seven steps helped you out and you can finally turn that peach fuzz beard into thicker darker hairs.

Some years ago I was desperately seeking information on this topic online, only to find that nobody really writes or seems to know anything about it. There was also a lot of misinformation on various forums about some men claiming to “not having the follicles” etc.

So hopefully this post answered some of your burning questions and helps you convert that vellus beard into a terminal kind, it sure took quite some time to write and compile.

As always, thanks for reading and keep on beardin’,

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References
1.
Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011;43(3):223-225.
2.
Bischoff-Ferrari H, Orav E, Dawson-Hughes B. Additive benefit of higher testosterone levels and vitamin D plus calcium supplementation in regard to fall risk reduction among older men and women. Osteoporos Int. 2008;19(9):1307-1314.
3.
Diamond T, Smerdely P, Kormas N, Sekel R, Vu T, Day P. Hip fracture in elderly men: the importance of subclinical vitamin D deficiency and hypogonadism. Med J Aust. 1998;169(3):138-141.
4.
Nimptsch K, Platz E, Willett W, Giovannucci E. Association between plasma 25-OH vitamin D and testosterone levels in men. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2012;77(1):106-112.
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Amor K, Rashid R, Mirmirani P. Does D matter? The role of vitamin D in hair disorders and hair follicle cycling. Dermatol Online J. 2010;16(2):3.
6.
Aoi N, Inoue K, Chikanishi T, et al. 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 modulates the hair-inductive capacity of dermal papilla cells: therapeutic potential for hair regeneration. Stem Cells Transl Med. 2012;1(8):615-626.
7.
Kraemer W, Spiering B, Volek J, et al. Androgenic responses to resistance exercise: effects of feeding and L-carnitine. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38(7):1288-1296.
8.
Kraemer W, Volek J, French D, et al. The effects of L-carnitine L-tartrate supplementation on hormonal responses to resistance exercise and recovery. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(3):455-462.
9.
Yamada T, Nakamura J, Murakami M, et al. Effect of chronic L-dopa administration on serum luteinizing hormone levels in male rats. Toxicology. 1995;97(1-3):173-182.
10.
Gupta A, Mahdi A, Ahmad M, et al. A proton NMR study of the effect of Mucuna pruriens on seminal plasma metabolites of infertile males. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2011;55(5):1060-1066.
11.
Shukla K, Mahdi A, Ahmad M, Shankhwar S, Rajender S, Jaiswar S. Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility by its action on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis. Fertil Steril. 2009;92(6):1934-1940.
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Prasad S, Qureshi T, Qureshi S. Mucuna pruriens seed powder feeding influences reproductive conditions and development in Japanese quail  Coturnix coturnix japonica. Animal. 2009;3(2):261-268.
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Wafa L, Palmer J, Fazli L, et al. Comprehensive expression analysis of L-dopa decarboxylase. Hum Pathol. 2007;38(1):161-170.
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Margiotti K, Wafa L, Cheng H, Novelli G, Nelson C, Rennie P. Androgen-regulated genes differentially modulated by the androgen receptor coactivator L-dopa decarboxylase. 2007;6:38.
15.
Dhurat R, Sukesh M, Avhad G, Dandale A, Pal A, Pund P. A randomized evaluator blinded study of effect of microneedling in androgenetic alopecia: a pilot study. Int J Trichology. 2013;5(1):6-11.
Ali is a published author and a beard grooming expert from Finland. To this date, his articles have been read more than 15-million times on various sites, and he has helped thousands of men make their beards look better and grow thicker. His work has been featured and cited in Seeker, Wikihow, GQ, TED, and Buzzfeed.

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