10 Tips for Beard Growth From the Experts
Growing a beard may seem easy, but it requires a certain level of dedication focused on maintaining good health for optimal growth. And many men face their own challenges when attempting to grow a longer, thicker beard.
To avoid as much of the unpleasantry as possible that comes with growing out your beard (such as the inevitable awkward grow-out phase and itchy skin), you’re going to want to follow our expertly backed tips and tricks for beard growth. Dr. Beth Goldstein, Founder of the Central Dermatology Center, and Dr. Anna Guanche, Founder and Director of the Bella Skin Institute, guide us through the world of beard growth and give their professional advice for those beard growers dedicated to achieving their best-bearded look yet.
1. Prioritize Balanced Skin
2021 is the year of prioritizing skincare and skin health, which is great news if you’re trying to grow your beard out. “To help your beard grow faster, you need to start taking care of your skin,” says Dr. Guanche. Yes, that means incorporating a whole skincare regimen into your daily routine but don’t worry, it only takes a few steps.
“In order for the follicles to produce a healthy beard environment, the skin needs to be as normal as possible,” she advises. Meaning that your skin isn’t irritated or overly dry. “Making sure that the skin is gently cleansed on a daily basis can help support normal follicle growth and prevent infections that would alter the ability to have the hairs grow out directly and not further inflammation by growing into the skin rather than out through the normal follicle wall,” explains Dr. Goldstein.
And using a gentle cleanser is key, despite the belief you may have on needing to get “squeaky clean” as it only strips the skin. “If your skin is sensitive make sure to avoid soap but rather use a cleanser such as Dove,” says Dr. Goldstein.
2. Get Good Rest
This may be our favorite tip – all you have to do is sleep to get a fuller, longer beard? Well, yes and no. Here’s why. “Believe it or not, sleep matters,” says Dr. Guanche. “Your body temperature decreases during sleep, but blood flow is not being used in the active areas of muscles that we are using all day long. This results in increased blood flow to the hair, skin, and nails during this time of renewal.”
So yes, while getting quality sleep is extremely important for hair growth and rejuvenation, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. “Increasing circulation can help get more nutrients to the hair follicle to promote beard growth,” says Dr. Guanche, but sleep isn’t the only way to do it. Other blood-pumping activities like exercise can also help hair growth by boosting oxygen and blood circulation.
3. Avoid Stress
For optimal health, unnecessary stress is something that we all need to learn to control. Even when it comes to beard growth. “Stress can affect everything and it can even slow down your beard growth,” Dr. Guanche explains. “Beards will grow more quickly when you are relaxed.”
There are many ways to manage and avoid stress, from tuning into mediation to learning how to say no. But even the most basic stress management tools are helpful. “Manage your stress, rest, eat well, and exercise so that your damaged skin cells repair themselves and this promotes healthy beard growth,” says Dr. Guanche.
And, as we mentioned earlier, you really get a double whammy with exercise. “Manage stress by exercising,” she says, and “the improved blood circulation will also promote hair growth.”
4. Don’t Skimp on Beard Oil
To thrive, our skin and hair need moisturization, nutrients, and a little love. In addition to your everyday skin and hair care routine, you can take a bit of beard oil and apply it to the skin. But the best time to do it is right after the shower.
“Apply a wonderful beard oil after the shower,” says Dr. Guanche, “this way the pores open up and maximize the absorption of the oils.” So after you’re done rinsing off, step out of the shower and immediately “towel dry your beard and rub a few drops of oil in your beard.” Plant-based oils are fantastic for promoting beard and hair growth thanks to their nourishing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties.
Some oils do the job better than others. “Some swear by Argan oil or Jojoba oil for brow and beard growth,” says Dr. Guanche. But if oils aren’t your thing, you can always try a beard balm and use it how you would use beard oil. “Beard balms are wonderful too and again – rub it throughout your beard after the shower,” recommends Dr. Guanche.
5. Gentle Exfoliation Is Your Friend
For beard growth, exfoliation is such an important tip that it gets its own dedicated section. When we say exfoliation, we don’t mean using an abrasive face scrub or scrubbing your face with a wet washcloth. We’re talking about gentle exfoliation, often using a mild chemical AHA or BHA exfoliant found in your cleanser, serum, toner, or moisturizer.
Exfoliation is definitely a must if you’re prone to ingrown hairs, clogged pores, and bumpy texture. “If you tend to get ingrown hairs/bumps in your beard area, try using a cleanser with a gentle exfoliating action,” advises Dr. Goldstein. And the emphasis on gentleness!
“You don’t need to use harsh scrubs,” she says, as they most often do more harm than good. Instead, opt for a mild chemical exfoliator that can be found in many cleansers. “Cleansers with these ingredients: salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lipo-hydroxy acid in preventing clogging of the pores as well.”
This is especially necessary if your beard hair is naturally curly. “If your beard hair is curly,” she explains, “you may experience hairs growing into the skin causing red and sometimes painful or pus bumps due to the hairs causing a foreign body reaction. Your skin is reacting to the hair diving back into normal skin.”
This is where (gentle) exfoliation and using the right ingredients come in. “Using moisturizers with glycolic, lactic or lipo-hydroxy acids or even over the counter products such as adapalene or retinol” have been shown to effectively work on treating this inflammatory reaction, says Dr. Goldstein.
But it’s always best to start slow when introducing exfoliating ingredients into your skincare routine. “Retinoids (Vitamin A derived creams such as adapalene and retinol) can be irritating and should be used cautiously at first along with a lightweight moisturizer such as Cerave or Cetaphil lotion,” she advises.
Using only a few times a week until your tolerance begins to build and you can safely avoid irritation. She also notes that fragrance in skincare products can be equally sensitizing and irritating, so keep your eye out for fragrances or perfume.
Once your skin is used to exfoliation, you should be doing it often. “You should exfoliate your skin at least once a week, using a scrub or an exfoliant,” says Dr. Guanche. “This will help to remove all the dead skin cells and will stimulate new hair growth.”
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6. Wait To Trim
Growing a beard has a lot to do with patience. That’s why experts suggest waiting at least two months before trimming or shaping. That’s right, you have to step away from the razor. You might even end up being surprised by how patches fill out and the hair lengthens just by taking the time to let your beard grow out on its own – aka you not doing much of anything.
Like growing out any haircut, there’s an awkward phase. Which, in this case, includes itchy hair that gets more and more uncomfortable as it grows out from stubble. But don’t panic, this phase is just a phase. Like your other awkward haircuts before, this too will soon pass. But in the meantime, you can use a softening beard oil or stubble balm that will help soften the hair and keep your skin underneath moisturized and itch-free.
7. Improve Your Diet
A well-balanced diet is key for optimal beard growth. Our hair is made mainly of protein in the form of keratin, so getting enough complete proteins from chicken, eggs, beef, fish, tofu, or rice and beans can ensure that your beard is getting all of the protein it needs to grow full and long.
But wait, getting in those essential vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients are vital too. A well-balanced diet full of colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds will supply your hair and skin with essentials it needs for growth like vitamins C, E, B5, biotin, and niacin. Plus omega fatty acids, minerals like zinc and selenium, and even water. Taking a multivitamin each day to help fill in any nutritional gaps can also be helpful.
8. Avoid Touching Your Beard
Though it may be tempting at times to touch your beard and see how it’s filling out, experts agree that you should really avoid touching your beard (and face) altogether. “Try to avoid touching or pulling on the beard,” advises Dr. Goldstein. “We encounter many bacteria, dirt, and products that can get trapped in the hair and create problems with skin infections and irritation.”
9. Be Patient, But Know When Help Is Necessary
Like we said earlier, beard growth is all about patience – especially in the beginning. To grow your healthiest, fullest beard, sometimes all you need is time and understanding. But there are moments when a little extra help is necessary.
“People using anabolic steroids to grow beard hair and masculinization during the transition may find that their hair on their chin will grow faster than on the cheeks,” says Dr. Goldstein. Depending on genetics and responsiveness of an individual’s follicles, the hair growth may come in a few months, typically it may be a year or more for a full beard or require a transplantation of hair into the beard region if desired,” she explains. “One should only use testosterone or anabolic steroids under a healthcare provider (physician, PA or NP) due to risks of stroke and other potential negative health effects of too much of these medications.”
Other hair-growth medications and treatments are popular too, though they are not guaranteed beard growth solutions. “There are conflicting results about the use of topical minoxidil to help improve beard hair growth,” explains Dr. Goldstein. “It is not unreasonable to try this treatment if there is no irritation or concerns due to other health concerns. It is recommended that this be used in supervision with your health care provider.”
But the results are varied, and this isn’t a guaranteed solution. “Recently very low dose oral minoxidil is being increasingly reported to help androgenetic alopecia in men for the scalp. [But] there is not enough evidence at this time to recommend this for beard growth,” says Dr. Goldstein.
Before taking anything for beard growth, or if you’ve been seriously struggling to grow facial hair, it’s best that you first consult your doctor or dermatologist. “If your hair growth seems to be stunted it can be due to various infections or autoimmune diseases,” warns Dr. Guanche. “See your dermatologist for an evaluation to make sure there aren’t any underlying conditions that can impede hair growth, especially if there are distinct patches of hair loss or a rash in the thinning areas.”
10. Ignore the Myth That Shaving Makes Your Beard Grow Faster and Thicker
We’ve all heard it before: shaving makes your hair come back faster, thicker, and darker, but experts say that this is just not the case. “Shaving will not make [hair] come in faster,” says Dr. Goldstein. There is just no evidence for it. Shaving will only remove your beard (or soon-to-be beard), not make it come back thicker and faster. In fact, the myth was busted back in 1928, but it continues to live on to this day.
So, where did this myth come from? We’re not so sure on this one, but whoever started it got a whole bunch of people to believe it. After you shave and the hair begins to grow back, what you’re seeing is the hair closest to the root, which is darker and coarser than it is on the end.
The recent shave will also give the hair a blunted tip as it grows back, making it appear that the hair is thicker or fuller, but it’s just a temporary optical illusion. Besides, shaving removes the dead portion of hair, not the part that’s living and growing, so shaving is really not going to affect growth rate or hair quality.
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