So you want to grow a proper beard, but aren’t really sure where to start, what to do, and what to expect?
If so, you landed on the right article.
We have put together a complete guide to growing your first beard as a beginner – and surely, all these tips and tricks work even if this isn’t your first facial hair growing endeavor.
If you want the short version, all you really need to do to grow a beard is to stop shaving.
With that being said, there are dozens of things that you can address during your beard growth journey that will make your life easier, and your beard healthier & stronger.
And these are precisely the things we will be covering in this beard guide. The nitty-gritty details that will make your beard be the best it can be.
Table of Contents
- What Makes The Beard Grow
- Understanding The Different Types of Beard Hairs
- Facial Hair Follicles Explained
- Beard Problems to Expect During your Journey
- Taking Care of The Beard
- How to Trim the Beard
- Beard Growth Timeline (Infographic)
What Makes The Beard Grow
Your best tool in growing the beginner beard is to understand exactly why and how it grows in the first place.
The subheadings below will teach you step-by-step what facial hair growth is all about and why some men can grow beards while others remain smooth-cheeked their whole lives.
Hormones and their Receptors
Facial hair growth is driven by hormones and the receptors that bind them from the circulation.
The two primary ones being testosterone (T) and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which have been proven to prime to follicles for growth and trigger the linear growth of facial hair – so much so that even women who start using synthetic versions of these hormones will see facial hair growth.
But the hormones are just one part of the picture, as you also need to have sensitive enough androgen receptors (AR).
I’m talking about the actual receptor sites all-around your body where T and DHT bind to so that they can enter the cells and DNA.
When testosterone and DHT are picked up by the androgen receptors in your face, your facial hair follicles will be stimulated in response.
Once they’re exposed to the hormones for long enough, the follicle attaches itself to a sebaceous gland and starts sprouting thick beard hairs.
Here’s a simple version…
- Low T and DHT, low AR sensitivity = no beard growth.
- High T and DHT, low AR sensitivity = weak beard growth.
- Low T and DHT, high AR sensitivity = weak beard growth.
- High T and DHT, high AR sensitivity = great beard growth.
In this sense, the hormones are the keys for beard growth, but the androgen receptor is the lock. You need both; good keys and well functioning locks to grow facial hair naturally.
Your Beard Genetics
When someone says that facial hair growth is purely genetic, they are right – in a way.
While there are ways to actually grow your beard faster and even grow a thicker beard naturally, your baseline of testosterone and DHT, as well as, your androgen receptor sensitivity, is determined largely by your genetics.
For some time it was thought that facial hair growth genetics came from your mother’s side of the family, but recently this theory has been debunked and a claim has been made that they can come from either your mother’s or your father’s side.
If your father, your mother’s father, and your mother’s brother have thick full beards, then it’s extremely likely that you can grow one as well.
The strongest indicator still appears to be your maternal grandfather, who you are most likely to inherit your hair and beard genetics from.
There are also populational differences in facial hair genetics. Think about how rare it’s to see native Americans with beards or how Asian men struggle to grow their beards.
Why is that you ask?
Well, it turns out that both the native Americans and Eastern Asian men have increased the amount of androgen receptor copies in their DNA, and more copies mean less sensitivity towards DHT and T.
So despite the fact that in some studies Asian men actually have higher testosterone levels than Caucasians on average, their ability to grow facial hair is still weaker due to their less sensitive androgen receptors.
Various Lifestyle Habits and Factors
It may seem a bit outlandish to say that you can grow a better beard if you exercise, sleep better, limit your alcohol intake, and so forth.
Regardless, it appears to be the case.
Exercise, alcohol consumption, the total amount of sleep, and many other factors can influence your levels of testosterone, which in turn influences your ability to grow a beard.
So if you’re just starting to grow a beard and want to make it as healthy and strong as possible, make sure to do some of the following…
- Sleep close to 8 hours per night.
- Avoid being sedentary for too long.
- Lift heavy weights with multi-joint movements.
- Avoid binge drinking (a few drinks won’t hurt).
- Eat enough calories, don’t omit any key food groups.
- Fat mass can breakdown DHT, so being lean can help.
There are so many other things you could do to optimize your lifestyle habits in a more hormonally favorable way for boosted beard growth – If you want to learn more, I recommend you check out this course.
Beard Nutrients, Vitamins, and Minerals
You are what you eat, and your beard needs all the nutrients and micronutrients it can get, so make sure you’re not on a fitness bunny diet.
You may have seen how badly carbohydrates have been bashed in the media for the last 10 or so years, and before that, it was saturated fat in the cross-hairs.
Guess what appear to be the most important nutrients for facial hair growth?
You guessed it, the carbohydrates and saturated fat; both of which are necessary for optimal production of the beard-growing hormones.
To help you out, I have previously compiled this list of foods that promote beard growth, make sure to include some of them into your own diet.
Of course, we can’t miss out on the vitamins and minerals.
After all, almost all of them are used in a way or another in the process of facial hair growth.
Biotin, zinc, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium are likely the most important ones, but there are still many others you should avoid being deficient in.
To help you out, I have previously written a large guide and review about beard growth vitamins.
Stimulating and Speeding Up The Growth
Have you ever been told that there’s no way to grow a beard any faster, denser, or thicker than it’s genetically programmed to grow?
Or maybe someone has told you the old wives tale that shaving would promote beard growth.
Shaving doesn’t work, but you are not 100% slave to your genetics on this one. In 2019 there are ample amounts of proof and before-afters to back up the fact that beard growth can be stimulated.
I have written about these methods so many times already in this blog that I don’t want to sound like a broken record again here, so just go read about the ways through these articles…
- How Derma Rolling Grows Facial Hair
- How Minoxidil (Rogaine) Promotes Beard Growth
- What Supplements are Proven to Aid Facial Hair Gains
- Do Beard Growth Products Really Work?
I know, I know, it’s a big claim. But just read the articles above, see the cited studies and the before-after pictures and I’m sure you will learn a thing or two about how to get a beard (when you normally can’t).
Understanding The Different Types of Beard Hairs
You might think that you either have beard hairs or you don’t, but the truth is that there are a few different types of hairs that can grow from your face.
In fact, when you grow a beard for the first time, you most likely have all the three types sprouting from your face at the same time.
Below are all the different types explained and what makes them unique.
Thick Terminal Facial Hair
Terminal facial hair is thick with a good diameter. It usually has a dark pigment and can grow several inches in length, averaging about 0.5″ per month.
This type of hair is often called “real beard hair” and that’s accurate since terminal beard hair follicles have been stimulated by androgens (testosterone and DHT) and the sebaceous gland is attached.
The more terminal beard hairs your face has, the thicker, healthier, and fuller your beard will look.
Thin Vellus Facial Hair
Vellus beard hairs are small and unnoticeable hairs with almost no pigment to them at all. Even if you can’t grow a beard, you still probably have a full face of vellus hair.
It’s just that for some reason the androgenic hormones have not been able to stimulate the follicles enough to make the sebaceous gland attach to it and turn the hair into thicker terminal kind.
Vellus hairs rarely grow longer than 2millimeters (mm) in length and are very hard to spot without looking closely in a good light.
Long Vellus Hairs
Sometimes you have a bit of hormonal action going on in your face, so much so that the tiny vellus hairs will start to get some pigment and they will start growing longer.
Yet, there’s still too little androgenic impact that they cannot fully convert to terminal hair and get that much-needed thickness, so they’re stuck in limbo as what can be called “long vellus hairs”.
This type of facial hair fibers can grow long – several inches in fact – but it will not get thick and it tends to curl a lot when you grow it out.
Because of the way long vellus hairs look, many call them with a well-known slang-name; “the pube beard“.
Facial Hair Follicles Explained
The beard follicle (Derma Papila) is what can best be described as the house of your beard hair fibers.
The follicles control many things, such as the beard hair diameter and thickness, the curliness of your facial hair, the rate of growth, and at what stage (anagen-telogen-catagen) each isolated hair is at any given time.
Everyone Has Hair Follicles in The Face
When you think you’re ready to grow a beard for the first time, you may soon be halted by one massive problem.
The beard is not growing.
This can lead you to believe that you just don’t have the follicles in your face to grow a beard, so you can never grow one, right?
The human hair follicles develop when the fetus is just five months old (still in the womb that is). That’s the time when roughly 5-million hair follicles are created all around the body – including of course – the facial hair area.
I got to witness this myself when my first son was born in January. As soon as he came out and into the World, he had a small little mustache and a bit hair on his cheeks.
This type of hair is called “lanugo” and it’s produced only once to prime the follicles for the eventual growth of vellus hairs.
So if you’re thinking you can’t grow a beard because you just don’t have the follicles for it, you would most likely be wrong. You do have the follicles, your follicles just need to be activated by androgenic hormones.
How The Follicle Generates Beard Hairs
The Anagen Growth Phase
This is the “ideal” beard growth stage and it can last anywhere from 2 to 6 years.
During the anagen phase, the beard hair root keeps continuously dividing, which causes the individual hair fiber to grow longer and longer.
The Catagen Transitional Phase
After the anagen phase ends, the follicle moves into the transitional catagen phase.
During the catagen phase, the root is separated from the follicle and attaches into the skin. The hair stops growing and all circulation to it stops.
The catagen phase lasts for 1 to 2 weeks on average, and during it, the hair just chills in the skin and prepares to shed.
The Telogen Resting Phase
In the telogenic phase, the hair fiber is often said to be “resting”. There’s no circulation and the follicle has miniaturized in size.
This resting phase usually lasts from 2 to 4 months during which the beard hair stays attached to the skin.
Return to Anagen
Somewhere during the end of the telogen phase, the actual facial hair follicle will move back into the beginning and start a new anagen growth phase.
Once the new hair fiber is generated in the follicle and it starts to get fresh blood circulating into it, it will inevitably start dividing and growing in length.
It grows out through the same tube as the earlier hair fiber did, and if that hair has not shed yet, the new beard hair fiber in the anagen phase will eventually push it out.
Then, the cycle just keeps repeating itself, day after day, month after month, year after year. Right now, a portion of your follicles will be on anagen phase, some will be on catagen phase, and some in telogen phase.
Beard Problems to Expect During your Journey
Many men who could grow facial hair and pull off impressive full beards, still remain clean-shaven.
One of the key reasons for this is that growing a beard is not easy at all.
You could think it’s as simple as putting down the razor, but in reality, there’s a mounting pile of problems that you will be facing during the early weeks and months of growing facial hair.
Some of them prove to be so difficult that many men give up and succumb to the wishes of Gilette, shaving off their beards completely.
Below are some of the biggest beard issues you are likely to face during your journey to a full face beard.
Beard Growth Requires Patience
Growing out your beard is easy until you suddenly want to shave it because you don’t like the way it looks in the beginning.
As easy as it sounds to just not shave, many men still can’t hold back from a little trim in the first weeks, which turns to a little bit of more trimming, and whoops…
The beard is gone.
There’s something called “the four-week rule” which means that whenever you start growing out your beard, you must give it 4-weeks before you trim, shape, or cut it in any way.
That’s a good rule to follow because let’s face it; there really isn’t much of anything to trim during the first month, and if you end up doing so, you most likely cut off the whole beard in the process.
You may hear demotivating banter from your friends and colleagues, who tell you to “shave off that thing”, and sure, you may actually look a bit unkempt and hobo-ish.
But just ignore the negative comments (they’re probably fueled by beard envy anyway) and power through. The first month is the hardest, but your beard will start looking amazing in no-time.
Dealing with Beard Itch
The first time I heard about beard itch was before I even had grown a beard for the first time.
Back then I immediately thought it had to be just a marketing ploy to fear-monger first-time beard growers into buying beard oil.
And then I grew my first beard…
Just at the 2-week mark (when beard itch is told to happen), my face felt as if it was on fire with a red rash, dry beard skin, and horrible itching.
The itching for the first time was so intense that beard oil didn’t seem to do jack-shit, and I ended up having to use some dexpanthenol creme on my beard for a week or so.
After that, the itchiness just naturally subsided and didn’t really return.
What causes beard itchiness?
I guess it has never been proven what truly causes it, but most experts agree that it goes something like this…
- Your beard is around 0.25″ in length at 2-weeks.
- If it has any tendency to curl, the tips will start doing so.
- Once the hairs curl down, the ends will hit right into your skin.
- Because the fresh growth is usually thick, this will itch a lot.
However, it’s important to remember that beard itch doesn’t happen on every guy (lucky bastards) and it may be explained by the shape of your beard follicles and how likely they are to curl in the early weeks of growth.
Just like the hair on top of your head, the one in your face can also get dandruff.
In most cases, beard dandruff or beardruff for short, doesn’t just magically appear. Instead, it’s a result of weeks and months of lackluster beard care efforts.
At its core, beard dandruff is just flakes of dry dead skin cells (it can also be caused by candida or bacteria, but that’s really rare).
And the way to reverse it is not to rush into the closest supermarket to buy Head&Shoulders, but instead to focus on correcting the moisture-balance of the deep skin layers of your face.
Why coconut oil and jojoba oil?
They both are proven to fight against beardruff, as explained in our previous article “7 Ways to Eliminate Beard Dandruff“.
Coconut oil contains lauric-acid and monolaurin, which hydrate the deep skin layers and prevent bacterial growth, whereas jojoba oil contains natural iodine that is a known antiseptic. Precisely why we used both in our DIY beard oil recipe for dandruff prevention here.
In-Grown Beard Hairs
Perhaps the most painful beard issue of them all – and something most beginner beard growers will eventually face – are the in-grown facial hairs.
Once they get inflamed and produce pimple on top, it will hurt a lot, and for quite a long time (a week or two usually).
Initially, you might be thinking that it would be a great idea to pluck them off, but this wouldn’t be smart, it does really ease the pain and is likely to damage the follicle as well.
Your best solution would be to follow our guide to preventing ingrown facial hairs.
In short, this is what to do:
- Stop shaving (#1 cause of ingrown beard).
- Exfoliate and tease out the hairs (with scrub and brush).
- Moisturize and oil the skin underneath the beard.
- Take aspirin, some vitamin E, and water to ease the inflammation.
Whatever you do, don’t pluck it, at least without the help of a professional. And hey, if you don’t shave all the time and you remember to brush and exfoliate the beard, chances are you never get any ingrown hairs.
When your beard hairs get long and dry, or if they are exposed to elements like cold and humidity, you may eventually get something called the beard split-ends.
Another way of causing them is if you constantly fiddle and play with your beard.
Once enough split-ends fray up in your facial hair, it will start looking dry and rough and feeling wiry (just like split-ends on the head hair do).
So how to get a beard that is free of split-ends?
- If you’re exposed to elements, use beard wax or balm to create a protective layer on top of the whiskers.
- Moisturize and oil up the beard frequently to prevent dryness, which is one of the key causes of brittle beard.
- Maintain a wholesome nutrient-dense diet and drink plenty of water to nourish the hairs from the inside.
- Occasionally trim your beard to length, which removes all of the pre-existing split ends and gives you a “fresh breeding ground”.
If your beard care routine is based around common sense and you don’t do anything stupid like curling up your mustache every fifteen minutes, then you’re likely going to not have a big problem with the split-ends.
Patchy Beard Growth
So you want to learn how to grow facial hair for the first time, you read an article like this, or maybe this one from BeardBrand, and you get to work.
(in other words, you stop shaving and wait).
Months go by, and your beard fills in somewhat, the chin and mustache are growing decently, but the cheeks…
Oh lord, the cheeks are so bad.
It’s a common issue. The androgen receptors of the upper cheeks are less sensitive in general, and there’s weaker circulation around that area of the face.
Which inevitably leads to patchy beard growth and beard bald spots, and in some cases this leads many guys to completely abandon the project of growing the first beard.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. Head on over to one of our first articles ever, the 10 ways to fix a patchy beard, and learn exactly how to fill the bald spots and also make your beard look less patchy with some visual tricks.
Curly Beard Growth
Androgenic hair has a tendency to curl much more so than the scalp-hair.
It’s common knowledge among beardsmen that the shape of the follicle makes the beard hairs either straight or curly.
Oval shape follicles tend to sprout curly hairs and symmetrically round follicles sprout straight hairs. For some reason, the majority of the beardsmen fall into the curly beard category.
It’s perfectly acceptable to rock a curly beard with pride, but still, many men would like to have a straight and well-shaped beard instead.
There are some tips and tricks to make a curly beard straighter naturally, such as the classic one of taking a shower, applying beard oil, and then blow-drying the beard while you comb it down simultaneously.
This works for some guys, but if your beard is thick and coarse, you might need to invest into a real beard straightener (like heat brush or heat press comb).
If you want to grow your beard out as healthy and strong as possible, you should never use those beard relaxing creams that some marketers peddle as the “solution to curly facial hair”.
They’re chock-full of harmful chemicals that will damage the beard and cause protein-loss in the hair fibers, a surefire way to damage your beard.
Dealing with Beard Loss and Shedding
Sometimes, you lose beard hairs. (yes, beard loss is a thing).
It doesn’t always mean that there’s damage or anything wrong with your facial hair. In fact, most often your beard hairs are just shedding naturally as part of the telogen beard growth stage explained above.
It’s estimated that roughly 10% of your beard hairs are in the telogen phase at any given time. Considering that a thick full beard can have as many as 30,000 hairs in it, it’s not unusual to lose 50-150 beard hairs per day.
Surely not all beard loss and damage is due to natural shedding, and things like fiddling with your beard, too aggressive of a beard care routine, poor nutrition habits, lowered hormone levels, and chronic stress can make your beard hairs fall off.
In those cases, the only real solution is to attack the issue from the core. If it’s stress, try to control it. If it’s lowered hormone levels, learn to increase them or talk to a doctor. If it’s caused by fiddling or combing too much, just stop that.
Taking Care of The Beard
If you want to make your life as a beardsman easier, you have to start caring and maintaining the facial hair, at some point at least.
Below are three of the main things you need to learn to make your beard as healthy and well-maintained as it possibly can be.
Clean and Condition
You may have seen those big media headlines about beard bacteria recently.
While beards can legitimately get pretty dirty, click-bait articles like these blew the topic completely out of proportions.
Alas, you probably still want to learn how to keep your beard clean, after all, it’s a big part of growing a good beard.
Most beginner beardsmen assume that it’s just best to wash the facial hair with the same shampoo as you wash your hair with, but this would be a big mistake.
In our article titled beard shampoo vs. generic shampoo, we explain how the harsh detergents and chemicals in most generic shampoos completely strip the natural sebum oils from your face and leave your beard dry as a desert.
(which opens up prime breeding grounds for beard itch, beard dandruff, and split-ends.)
So what’s the better alternative?
The beard conditioner is not absolutely mandatory, but since it’s rich in coconut oil and shea butter, it can deeply nourish the skin layers and even penetrate the facial hair fibers (worth it in my opinion).
NOTE: You don’t have to wash your beard daily, this would just dry it up too much. Most experts agree that the healthiest beard is a 3-day beard. So wash your facial hair 2-3 times per week tops.
Moisturize and Protect
You can make your beard softer and healthier by moisturizing and protecting it properly.
There are two key products formulated specifically for these purposes.
The first is the trusted beard oil, the #1 beard care item ever sold.
The purpose and the main benefits of beard oil are to replace the natural sebum oils that you lose when showering or washing the face.
(Which is why the best time to apply would be right after the shower).
As your beard grows longer, beard oil becomes increasingly important, since the sebaceous glands are finite in size and can only produce finite amounts of natural oils to moisturize the beard.
It will be somewhere around 1.5″ to 2″ of beard length when you should start using beard oil, as this is the cut-off point where your beard gets too long for the sebaceous glands to handle by themselves.
Beard balm, on the other hand, is considered to be a heavy-duty version of beard oil, with similar ingredients but more tropical fats and beeswax in the formula.
The drawback is that balm is thicker in consistency and can block the pores, but the benefits of beard balm likely outweigh it.
You see, beard balm can deeply nourish and hydrate the skin underneath your facial hair, much more so than beard oil can.
And it will also create an ultra-thin lipid layer on top of your beard hairs thanks to the small amount of beeswax in the tin. This helps to protect the beard from the elements and seals in moisture.
In my opinion, most beginners who choose to grow their beards out should experiment with both the balm and the oil, and if you want to compare them, we have a special beard oil vs. beard balm article for you here.
Using a Beard Brush and a Beard Comb
Moving on with our beard care topic, we have arrived at two important tools; the battle of the heavy-hitters.
As with balms and oils, there are some differences between these two products, and which you should use depends on your goals and beard length.
I will quickly summarize you the main points below…
Beard brush can be used to exfoliate the facial hair and redistribute natural oils and beard oils from roots to tips.
Brushing also helps to enhance circulation and naturally stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce sebum oil.
It can be used on all types of beard, but most agree that the brush is the best tool for short to medium-length beards.
You can read more from our best beard brush review.
Beard combs can be used to untangle the facial hair and they are somewhat helpful tools in trimming the beard, especially the mustache area.
Combs are also smaller in size and easier to carry around with you than a brush would be.
You can use a comb on any type of beard, but most experts agree that the tool is best suited for longer beards that get knots more easily.
You can read more from our best beard comb review.
How to Trim the Beard
If you ask any woman what type of beards they love and what type of beards they hate, you will almost always get the same answers…
They hate the beards that look dirty and unkempt, and they love the beards that are well-shaped and sculpted, that just look clean and maintained.
In order to be part of the exclusive group that belongs to the latter category, you will – at some point – need to learn how to properly trim and shape your facial hair.
And that’s what we are going to be covering next.
Find The Right Beard Shape and Style
As many as there are beards, there are also beard styles.
The first thing you should do when learning how to grow a beard is to figure out what type of beard would suit you the best.
This is best done by finding out what your head and face shape is (diamond, square, oval, etc) and then choosing a beard style that fits those proportions.
You should also learn how to find out your beard’s neckline, and what kind of cheekline edges you want to maintain (curve cut, step cut, etc).
To help you along, we have written this big guide on how to shape and sculpt your beard perfectly.
Master The Beard Trimming Routine
You could always go to a barbershop to get your beard trimmed and cut perfectly and by a professional.
But if you’d rather save up some money (a lot of money) and learn to do it yourself, then we are here to help you.
Next, you need to learn how to cut and trim the beard – You could follow along with our beard trimming guide here.
Or if you fancy a video tutorial, below is the best one I’ve ever seen by Dan Beck:
Just remember to take it slow and always cut of less than you intend. This way you will prevent most of the common beard mistakes and don’t need to shave it off due to an accident.
Beard Growth Timeline (Infographic)
I hope this guide taught you everything you needed to know about how to grow a beard.
This behemoth of an article took me a while to write, so I would definitely appreciate all the comments and shares you want to throw our way.
And if you think we missed a beard tip or two, please don’t hesitate to tell us below in the comments.
Thank you for reading and keep on beardin’