We’ll talk diet, exercise, genetics, growth supplements—all that. We’ll then go over how your beard grows, and what to do at each stage of your beard’s growth, and products you can use when it’s coming in. Then, after all that, we’ll talk about something a lot of guys overlook—how to maintain your beard when it’s all grown in and looking dapper.
There are a lot of myths about facial hair out there—and a lot of misinformation, too—but by the end of this post, you should have all the info you need to grow a happy, healthy beard (or not—and we’ll talk about your options if it turns out you can’t grow a beard, as well).
We’ll start at the beginning:
There Are Three Personal Traits that Affect Beard Growth
While it may seem like a mystery who can grow a beard and who can’t, the growth of your beard is actually dependent on three different factors, and three factors only: your health, your genes, and your testosterone.
That’s it—without any outside interventions, those are the elements that determine whether you can grow a beard (and how). The first one is pretty important:
Your Health: “If You Haven’t Got Your Health, You Haven’t Got Anything”
If you want to grow a healthy beard, it helps a lot if you yourself are healthy and taking care of yourself. The more aspects of your physical and mental health that you can control, the more potential you have to grow a great beard.
We’re going to use a tired-yet-accurate metaphor to get the point across: if you want to raise crops, you need fertile farmland. Seeds can’t grow in rough, rocky soil, and if your health is a mess—you’re not getting the nutrients you need from your food, you’re dehydrated because you’re drinking too much fun-but-not-good-for-you-fluids and skipping out on water, and you’re not getting enough sleep and feeling awful all the time—well, you’re not making it easy for your beard to grow.
Eating a balanced diet and getting proper exercise are the obvious considerations, but your mental health and self-care are factors, as well. If you’re not getting enough sleep, or if your stress levels are through the roof, that may affect your ability to grow a long, thick beard—and even if you are able to grow facial during times of stress, there is some research that says growing a beard during periods of high stress can result in a thinner, wispier beard.
So take care of yourself! It’ll be good for your beard, but more importantly, it’ll be good for YOU.
Genetics: “Your Genes Are (or Are Not) Your Destiny”
In terms of your life and how you lead it, you are not your genetics. You are (mostly) free to go where you want and do what you want.
With that said… in terms of your beard’s destiny—well, that’s a different case. Your genetics are absolutely going to determine whether or not you have a beard.
We’ve heard it said that 85% of your beard is directly related to genetics, and maybe it’s a little higher than that and maybe it’s a little lower than that, but the fact is your ability to grow a beard is strongly affected by your genes.
So, until we can change our genetic makeup—and at the time of this post, we cannot—some guys will have an easier time growing beards than other guys. If you’re one of the lucky few, growing a beard will just come naturally for you. But, if you’re not so genetically inclined, it’s going to be harder for you to grow a long beard, and that’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re controlling the aspects of your beard that you have control over, like your health and product routine.
Testosterone: Determined by Genes, But Increased Through Your Efforts
Finally—something that is determined by your genes, but can be stimulated through your own decisions: testosterone.
Testosterone is that magical masculine steroid hormone that stimulates growth, maintains muscle mass, and initiates the sex drive in men. Studies have shown that there’s a direct relationship between your testosterone levels and the thickness and fullness of your beard, so those of you with higher testosterone levels are going to have an easier time growing a full and long beard.
And while the amount of testosterone your body produces is largely out of your control, there are a few natural things you can do increase your natural testosterone levels. You can:
- Exercise, and in particular, lift weights and do strength training;
- Eat right, and consume enough protein (and specifically red meat proteins);
- Keep your cortisol levels low by getting enough sleep and practicing stress reduction techniques like mindfulness meditation (cortisol is a stress hormone, and too much cortisol in the body can negatively affect testosterone levels); and
- Take a Vitamin D supplement, as those have been shown to increase testosterone levels.
Virtually all of these things tie back to your overall health and wellness, which underscores the importance of taking good care of yourself. Keeping yourself fit and healthy is its own reward, but it’s also the best way to create a physical environment for your beard to grow.
Age: Yes, Another Thing You Can’t Change
We said that there were three factors that determine how to grow a beard, but we left out one—and this fourth factor seems obvious but usually gets overlooked: even guys who are genetically capable of growing a beard, who are healthy and strong, and who have normal levels of testosterone—even many of those guys can’t always grow a beard, because they simply haven’t reached the right age yet.
Why? Because men tend to develop the ability to grow beards between the ages of 18 and 30 years old. If you think about that, it’s surprising—a 30-year-old man is well into his physical maturity, and yet, that’s when many guys find they’re able to grow their beards.
Here’s an anecdotal example: the guy who started this website has a nice, big, bushy beard, but he couldn’t grow it out until he was 29. He’s the guy whose beard you see in a lot of the photos on this website—which makes him a beard model!—and he always thought he’d never be able to grow a beard, until he went camping for a few weeks with his girlfriend (now wife), and came back with a handsome-looking crop of facial hair.
If you think about that, it’s a little surprising—you can be a full-grown man, well into your adulthood, and not yet able to grow a beard… and then at the start of your 30s, learn that you can grow a beard with the best of them.
The point is—if you’re still below the age of 30, don’t fret yet. Your body may simply not be there yet, and you may come around.
Things to Keep in Mind as You Start to Grow Your Beard
Alright! Now that we know the factors that affect beard growth, let’s talk about the personal characteristic you’ll need to actually become a bearded man: determination.
You wouldn’t think that it takes persistence to grow a beard, but you’ll come across a lot of guys who start growing a beard, get frustrated, and then shave the whole thing off. We actually get a ton of emails from guys who rage-quit their beards, and have to start from scratch. So, we’ll start with some talk about expectations:
Be Persistent and Be Patient
Here’s the sad truth of it: You’re not going to go from baby-faced to lumberjack overnight.
It’s not going to be a matter of weeks, either. Growing a big healthy beard takes weeks and even months, and it requires some grooming and shaping and care.
In fact, studies have shown that the average growth of the male beard is about a centimeter per month. That’s it! Just under a half-inch of growth.
In other words—not much! If all goes well, you can expect the following at the end of…
Month 1: Just under half-an-inch
Month 2: About three-quarter of an inch
Month 3: A little over an inch
Month 4: About an inch-and-a-half
Month 5: Two inches
Month 6: Just under two-and-a-half inches
And finally, fast forward to the end of…
Month 12: Just under five inches.
That’s right! If you’re capable of growing facial hair and patient enough to see things through, chances are that after a full year of beard growth, you’ll have a beard that’s almost five inches long. You’d think after a full year, you’d have a beard down to your chest, but that’s it—and that’s for guys who can grow beards.
So, hang on to your hat, and get ready for a long, slow ride. If everything goes right, you will start seeing great results after a month or two, but it’s important to remember that every great beard started as a humble heap of stubble. If you’re serious about growing a long beard, you’ll need to prepare yourself for the long haul.
Start a Skin Care Regimen
One of the most common reasons guys shave their beards off without seeing it through is because their beard itches. And, for sure—the first couple weeks of unkept, untamed facial hair can be pretty itchy.
What most guys don’t realize, though, is that beard itch is something you can usually control by taking good care of your skin. Before you get your beard going, you’ll need to do two things:
1) Take time to exfoliate your face as part of your grooming routine. Exfoliation is the process of removing the dead skin cells from the outermost surface of your skin, and it’s very easy to do—just wash your face, take a dollop of exfoliant product (Brickell makes a good one, as does Jack Black), rub the exfoliant over your skin for about 45 seconds, and then wash it off. Wallah! You’ve exfoliated. Do that two or three times per week, and your skin will be fresh, clean, and ready for beard growth. The other thing you need to do is…
2) Apply a light facial moisturizer when you get out of the shower. Exfoliation is good for you and necessary, but it can dry you out and make your skin a little tender, so a moisturizer (even a simple one, like Neutrogena) can replace a lot of the missing hydration in your skin.
And… that’s it! Complete those two grooming tasks as your whiskers come in, and as your beard gets thicker, you can take a facial scrub or exfoliant and work it into your beard so that it can reach your skin, just like you did when you were initially growing your beard.
Get Your Diet in Order
We mentioned this earlier, but we’ll get into a little more detail here.
The saying “you are what you eat” is particularly applicable to growing a healthy beard. It’s obvious that a diet that consists solely of cheeseburgers and wings isn’t going to do your health any favors, but beyond trying to eat a balanced and healthy diet, there are some very specific foods you can incorporate that will help you grow a fuller, longer beard. They include:
- Nuts, and specifically Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts contain selenium, which helps utilize proteins to grow hair, and only a few Brazil nuts a day will help you meet the recommended daily requirement of selenium;
- Eggs, which contain a lot of protein—but also a lot of biotin, which is a vital component of hair and nail production;
- Beef and other red meats that are high in saturated fats—you’ll have to watch your saturated fat intake, but a proper amount can be helpful, as saturated fats are essential for the production testosterone;
- Fish, which is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a component in your skin’s cell membranes, but also a factor in keeping your hair and whiskers hydrated. There’s a broad range of fish you can eat, like salmon, tuna, halibut, and mussels, but if you dislike fish, you can always opt for fish oil supplements (and we like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega pills, because they don’t have any of that fishy aftertaste that some other pills have);
- Kale, because it features a great deal of Vitamin A, which is needed for healthy skin—and as we mentioned earlier, healthy skin is an important part of your potential to grow a beard; and finally
- Orange juice. This one may be a little bit surprising, but sweet, delicious orange juice is great for beard growth. Orange juice has a tremendous amount of Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant the body uses to create collagen, which in turns protects skin and hair. Just be careful with the amounts of orange juice you drink—it’s got a lot of sugar and calories, and you don’t want to overdo it.
And, there you go! A complete list of foods you can eat that are believed to increase the production of facial hair. Most of us like beef, eggs, nuts, and orange juice, and if you don’t like fish you can take supplements, and if you don’t like kale, you can try sweet potatoes or carrots, which are also known to contain a great deal of Vitamin A.
So now that you know the personal traits that determine your beard growth, and what you can do to encourage your beard before it starts to grow, let’s take a look at the actual stages of beard growth, and what you can expect—and how you can hurry things along.
How to Grow a Beard: Stages
Here’s how it goes for most men: your beard will grow in stages, and each stage builds on the last. The first is the most challenging, and it’s the …
Initial Growth of Your Beard
Arguably the most important stage of growing your beard is going to be the initial stage. You’ll see the start of your beard, and your whiskers will grow out in all directions, hopefully gaining thickness and volume.
And here’s the rub: in a lot of cases, you’re going to look like a total lunatic during this phase.
Your whiskers will probably be disorganized, maybe even patchy, and some may even grow in colors and shades that don’t match the hair on your head or body. It’s a wild time, full of weird observations and happenings, and you’ll probably look a little crazy during the initial stages of your beard growth.
And all that is fine, but during this phase, it’s critical that you adhere to what we like to call “The Six Week Rule.”
Or, for some of us who can grow beards more quickly, “The Four Week Rule.”
The four/six-week rule is as follows:
Do not under any circumstances mess with your beard at all for the first six weeks it’s growing. It’s critically important that you remain patient, and just let your beard do its thing, because not only are you growing the facial hair you will later trim down to an organized, well-shaped beard, you’re also getting a “whisker map” of your face, and learning how your whiskers grow in, and where, and with what degree of thickness.
So during this initial stage, don’t trim your neck, shave your cheeks, or cut any of your whiskers. Let it happen, and hang tight—and be patient. Don’t get caught thinking, “This isn’t going well” or “This is how it’s going to look.” You’re building a foundation, and you’ll be shaping it to your liking later on.
One thing you may need to do during this phase is…
Deal with Patchiness
During the initial growth period, you’ll probably notice a patch or two where your whiskers don’t grow in as thick as the rest of your facial hair. Some of us get lucky, and find that they grow nice, thick, uniform whiskers at all the right spots on their face, but that’s kind of uncommon. Most of us will have some patchiness here and there, and that’s something you should keep in mind… well, for the rest of your life, really! We’ve talked with a lot of bearded guys over the years, and almost everyone we’ve spoken with has some sort of complaint about their beards. It’s just how it goes, so if it doesn’t grow in all the places you’d like… well, welcome to the club!
And, more good news—later on in the process, you’ll decide how to handle those less-than-robust-beard-growth spots on your mug.
While we’re talking about patchiness, it’s probably a good time to talk about a somewhat controversial topic:
Beard Growth Supplements: Yes, No, Maybe?
At the end of this stage, you may find that you simply can’t grow a beard. You may find that you can only grow a few strands of hair, or that it grows on your chin but not above your lips, or whatever the case may be. Whatever is happening isn’t enough.
If that’s the case, you may be considering products that claim they can enhance your beard growth.
Before you consider any of that, we’d urge you to take a look at the factors you can change—your health, your diet, and—even though you can’t change it—you age. If you’re under the age of 30, you may just want to wait and let nature take its course, and maybe soon you’ll be growing out the big, beautiful beard you’ve always wanted.
If you’re still considering beard growth supplements, here’s the long and short of it:
With one *possible* exception—which we’ll discuss in a moment—we know of no product available that will force your body to grow beard. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of products that say they can force your body to grow a beard, but as far as we know, there are no proven methods to do so.
There is, however, a lot of anecdotal evidence of men using growth products to grow their beards—and if you go on any beard/facial hair forum, you’ll find a lot of guys who insist that Product XYZ worked for them. Some may be telling the truth, but many of them are probably lying, and of those who actually *do* experience beard growth, many of them are simply using a product—like
We mentioned earlier that there’s one possible exception that may be able to grow your beard hair, and that’s minoxidil, which is a synthetic drug that was original designed as a vasodilator to ease hypertension, but which has been found to promote hair growth in some men. You may be more familiar with the product that’s famous for using minoxidil, which is Rogaine.
BUT! But, but, but—there are two things you need to remember:
1) There isn’t much research into whether it’s safe to use minoxidil as a beard growth product. While the study we linked to above is promising, more research needs to be done, and
2) Minoxidil is approved by the FDA, but ONLY for use on the head. Any usage of minoxidil / Rogaine for beard growth is basically “off-label” usage, and if you use minoxidil for beard growth, you’re basically running experiments on yourself, and you may wind up with some pretty considerable side effects.
What kinds of side effects? Well, that’s what the research will show—and an appropriate amount of research on the beard-growth potential of minoxidil has yet to be done.
So, as we’ve said, there is no evidence—at the time we’re writing this post—that a product can grow your beard, and the only one that may be able to grow your beard, which is minoxidil, needs more research to make sure it’s safe.
So, if we had to boil out advice down, it would be:
> Get your diet right, exercise, and do all the things you can to naturally grow a beard;
> Use products—such as all-natural beard oils, beard balms, and beard butters—that can create a healthy environment on your skin, where beard will have an easier time growing; and
> Talk with your doctor / a licensed medical professional for any other advice.
We apologize that we can’t provide cheerier information, but that’s the truth as of now.
With that in mind, let’s move on to the next bit:
The Middle Phase of Beard Growth
If you’ve adhered to the six-week rule, congratulations! You’ve now made it to the middle(ish) stage of your beard. At this point, it may still be on the short side, but it’ll probably be long enough where you may be able to make some styling decisions and do some shaping.
Have a Style in Mind
This sounds like something you can skip, but it’s actually really important: in order to have a well-shaped and respectable beard, you need to know what your ideal beard will look like, and you need to shape what you’ve got so that your beard grows in the way you want it to.
If you just kind of “back into” your beard, you can end up looking a little silly, and it’s much better to do some shaping now, while your facial hair is still somewhat short, rather than waiting until your beard is very long—and crazy-looking—and trimming it then.
So, which beard style is for you?
There’s a seemingly endless array of beard styles, and chances are that there’s more than a few that you’d be interested in growing, but we’d urge you to keep it simple. Here are some of the most common shapes you’ll find:
Take a close look at each, and notice the differences—in some, the mustache is on its own, or pointing east and west; in others, the lower beard is unkept and flowy; still in others, the beard is close-cropped or pointing downward in a triangle shape. Get an idea of what you want to do—and take a look at the way your beard is growing in, and consider what you’ll be able to do. Not everybody can grow a lumberjack beard, and that’s fine.
We’ve discussed each of these styles at length on this site, and a description of each is a little bit beyond the scope of this post, so jump over to the “Search” bar above and enter the type of beard you’re interested in growing.
When you’ve got an idea of what you want to do…
Dive Into Your First Trim
Alright! Here’s where the rubber hits the road, and you start to look like the bearded rogue you are. Remember to ease into this task, and take your time—you just spent weeks growing your whiskers, and once those are gone, they’re gone!
You’re finally at the big decision: scissors vs. clippers. Here’s how it plays out:
Scissors are great because you can really take it slow. You have a lot of control, and if you mess up, you probably won’t mess up that badly. With that mind…
Clippers are great, and get the job done really quickly, but if you mess it up with them—you tend to do a number on your beard.
That’s why most guys start with scissors and then graduate to clippers when they get the hang of things.
But, you do you. If you’re using scissors, here’s a great video to get you started:
…and if you’re using clippers, here’s another great video to get you started:
Eric Bandholz and Carlos Costa—the guys in the videos—both have a ton of helpful videos, and we recommend them highly.
With those videos in mind, here are some things to remember:
Your neck is a good place to start. Regardless of the style you’re striving for, the neck beard has to go, and you’ll want a straight, crisp beard line that accentuates the beard you have, and makes you look groomed and sleek. If you’re unsure where to put your beard line, a good rule of thumb is to locate your Adam’s apple, and use that as the guide for your lower beard line. Imagine a soft “U” that travels from ear to ear, with your Adam’s Apple as the middle point. Rough the line in with a buzzer, and then, to get it nice and clean and crisp, shave over it so that there are no whiskers left. You can then move on to the whiskers on the side of your face. Look for flyaways and any rogue hairs that may be significantly longer than the rest of your beard. These trims should be quick and easy—make sure both sides are even and symmetrical.
From there, take a look at your mustache. You may be experiencing some pretty serious lip overhang issues, and if that’s the case, a mustache scissor can make quick work of those whiskers draped over you lip. Again, go slow and take your time—whisker work is a “measure twice, cut once”-type of operation.
Finally, you can tackle the bottom line of your beard. This is where you want to be very, very careful—your beard is defined mostly by whiskers on your chin and below it, so time your time here, and make sure you don’t remove more than you want to remove.
After you’re done… congratulations! You just trimmed your beard for the first time! Now your beard can grow in exactly as you want it to. Do some trimming every couple of weeks, just so that you’re not overrun with flyaways and drifters. Your beard will still be growing and getting longer; you’re just touching it up a bit as you go along.
If You’re a Bit Intimidated by the Initial Trim…
Find a professional barber and have him/her do it for you. It’s actually a great idea, and one we recommend for many guys at this stage.
Shaping your beard can be challenging, and if you’re not comfortable taking scissors or buzzer to your face, it can be a great idea to have a barber in your area shape it for you. Tell them the shape you want, watch them work, and ask questions. Doing so will create a “blueprint” for the beard you want, and after your whiskers grow in a little more, you can simply shorten them, instead of trying to shape your beard from scratch.
The Final Stage
After about six months or so, you’ve completed your quest! There are two ways this shook out, and we hope we’re able to say…
Congratulations! You Have a Beard!
Once your beard is about 4” long, you’ve reached the final stage of your beard’s growth, and you can finally shape it the way you want it. Way to be, man! Your patience has paid off, and that’s a fantastic thing, and something you should feel good about. Welcome to life as a bearded man, you beast!
Products for a Long Beard
So now that you have your beard, you have to take care of it… and here’s where things get a little complicated: beard products. There are hundreds of them, and their names rarely describe what they do.
So here’s a very quick rundown of the products you’ll come across. Beard care products play a critical role in every step of your beard’s growth, and they can be especially helpful for styling as your beard gets longer.
Beard Oil. Not only can a good
A Beard Brush. You’ve got your
A Beard and Mustache Comb. A good comb is useful as your beard gets longer, and while it offers all the same benefits of a beard brush, a beard and mustache comb is actually a unique tool that’s meant to do fine-tuning. Your beard brush will get out most of the knots in your beard, and your beard and mustache comb will get all your whiskers in place and make you look civilized.
Mustache Scissors. A good pair of scissors will allow you to trim up flyaways and any unruly hairs in your beard. Using a tight, well-honed pair of scissors can be a joy.
Beard Balm. Similar to but slightly different than
Mustache Wax. Another unique item, mustache wax is a stiff agent that’s similar to a heavy pomade. It’s indispensable if you keep a long mustache, as it makes it much easier for you to keep your ‘stache out of your mouth.
Beard Wax. Like mustache wax, but for your entire beard. Beard wax does the best job at taming flyaways, and it can also help you style a long beard as well.
And there you have it. We’ve reviewed dozens of different products on our site, and you can find our recommended products above.
Maintenance Tips for a Long Beard
Before we wrap up, let’s talk about how you can keep the romance alive and maintain your perfect bushy Viking beard.
Avoid the Mirror
We mentioned this earlier, but we’ll repeat it, because we’ve seen so many guys mess this up: in the first stages of beard growth, the mirror is not your friend. Unless you grow a beard like a movie star, you probably aren’t going to look your best for the first few months of your beard.
If you’re impatient and your whisker growth is slow and looking in the mirror is a frustrating experience, just avoid it. Not totally, obviously—you still need to groom yourself—but spend a little less time admiring yourself. It can make things easier.
Don’t Cave into the Itch
You know what makes itching worse? More itching. The best way to deal with the itch you’ll inevitably face is to resist the urge to itch your face in the first place. A good beard and skin care regimen will also help relieve itching as well.
A Clean Beard = A Happy Beard
Take care of your beard at least as well as you take care of your hair. Shampoo your beard daily to remove any dirt and dead skin. At the same time, don’t overwash your beard, as you’ll be stripping the hair of its natural oils by doing so.
Care for Your Beard Daily
Whether you opt for oil or balm, make sure that you’re giving your beard the moisture and nutrients it needs every day by applying oil or balm. This is true for all stages of your beard growth. Show it you care!
Brush or Comb Each Day
No one’s beard grows perfectly straight. As your beard gets longer, you’ll notice bends, waves, and curls throughout. Combing or brushing your beard will help you train your hair to lay down, which will make for a neater beard.
Do your best to maintain a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and do what you can to eliminate unnecessary stress from your life. Any small changes you can make towards healthier living will positively affect your beard. And—do this anyway, even if you decide a beard isn’t for you!
Document Your Beard
If for no other reason than it’s fun to look back on, snap a pic of your beard each month to track its growth over time. This is also a good way to remind yourself how far you’ve come as your beard grows, and it’ll help you observe any odd growths or patterns.
Don’t Be Afraid to Trim
A lot of guys fall into this trap. You’re going for length, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shape it as you go along—especially as your beard gets longer, regular trimming will help it look its best, and also help maintain the overall health of your beard. Trim flyaways as often as you like, and make it a point to trim off any dead ends you have each month or two.
Judge Your Beard on its Own Merit
Not to get sentimental about it, but your beard is special and unique, and you’ve got no room in your life for beard envy. What you got is fantastic—so enjoy it, man!
Go Out and Adventure, Bearded Man
Alright, that about wraps it up for our “how to grow a beard” post—have fun, be good, and all the best to you!
Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.