Over the last decade, beards have made a big comeback and more and more men are sporting them. You may have tried to grow one yourself, but been frustrated that it hasn’t come in faster or fuller.
Unfortunately, there’s no secret tonic that will make your hair grow quicker and/or thicker. If it’s not in the genes, it’s just not going to happen. Just as your hair color is determined by your DNA, so are your facial hair growing propensities and patterns. You hair won’t magically change colors overnight, and neither will a beard suddenly sprout if you’re 35 and haven’t seen much hair on that chinny chin chin yet. That’s just the way it is.
There are, however, a few things you can do to slightly accelerate hair growth, and promote the health of your facial hair as well, which will help give it the nice luxurious look you’re going for and give you the best beard possible. What you’re really trying to do is maximize your body’s potential for facial hair growth. Most men are likely living with habits that hinder growth, so heed the tips below to ensure you end up with the mane you were meant to have.
(Note: AoM originally first published ‘how to grow a beard’ in 2008. This is the updated version. But if you want to see the original version, click here).
1. First and Foremost: Just Be Patient
Everyone’s facial hair grows in at different speeds, thicknesses, and ranges (all over your face, or perhaps just in the goatee area). There just isn’t a whole lot you can do to change this.
The good news is that with a little patience (okay, sometimes a lot), most men can rock some style of facial hair. For some it’ll be a full beard, and for others it might just be a light goatee. Whichever style you go with (or settle for), achieving it might take a month, or it might take a year — it’s all about patience.
When growing a beard, especially for the first time, just don’t touch the dang thing for at least a few weeks. It will likely be itchy and uneven, but that’s okay. You can deal with it for awhile.
Whatever you do, don’t buy into the myth that regular shaving will make it grow back quicker. That urban legend has been dead for years, so if you still believe it, you’re just a nincompoop.
2. Sleep Well, Eat Right, Exercise
Hair growth is promoted by a few things that relate to your general health and well-being.
First, most of your hair-growing happens overnight, when cellular turnover is at its peak. If you aren’t resting and re-charging properly, your hair isn’t growing as well as it could. Another byproduct of not being rested is decreased blood flow, which means less nutrients reaching their destination (your hair follicles). Less nutrients = comprised health and growth of facial hair. Get your 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and your budding beard will thank you.
In addition to getting plenty of zzzz’s, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet of proteins, veggies, whole grains, fats, etc. will also enhance your hair’s growth rate and health.
Taking care of your physical health will not only increase the blood flow and nutrients your hair needs to thrive, it will also boost your testosterone, a hormone related to hair growth. Testosterone acts to prime the hair follicle for growth, and then DHT (which is a hormone that’s converted from T) promotes the actual growth of the hair. So, generally speaking, more testosterone = more facial hair and better growth. Read up on naturally boosting your T here, and possibly have a better beard because of it.
That said, boosting your T won’t overcome poor facial hair genetics and bring you from baby-bottom-smooth to world-class-lumberjack. What happens is that optimizing your T will optimize your beard genetics. So, if you’re destined to have a baby-bottom-smooth face, you might see a small increase in facial hair growth, making your beard thicker and less patchy, but it won’t magically give you the kind of beard that would make a Viking proud.
4. Take Care of the Skin Underneath
Happy hair comes most heartily and speedily out of well-cared-for skin underneath it. You probably don’t associate the male set with good skin care, but adopt a routine of washing your face well each morning and night, exfoliating 1-2 times per week (Lather & Wood is nice, but so is the much cheaper Dove Men’s Scrub), and regularly using a moisturizer (your favorite lotion will do) to keep your skin hydrated. Not only will it encourage facial hair growth, but your complexion will improve too! Win win!
Once the beard starts coming in you can start...
5. Pick a Beard Style
After about a month of growth, you should have a good idea if your beard is going too be thick and full or patchy and sparse. If your beard is patchy and sparse, you should consider keeping your beard shorter. If it's thicker, you'll have more options.
When choosing a beard style, you want to pick a beard style that suits your face shape.
- Oval Face. If you have an oval face, your beard options are limitless. Short beards, long beards, and full beards will all look good on you.
- Round Face. If you have a round-shaped face, you want to pick a beard and hairstyle that will give some length to your face. A longer beard will do just the trick.
- Oblong/Rectangle Face. You want to avoid hairstyles and beard styles that make your head look longer and skinnier — i.e., the Beaker effect. To that end, those with rectangular faces should choose shorter beards. Don’t let it go too far below your chin. If you have a really thick full beard, feel free to let your beard grow out (not in terms of vertical length, but literally out); the thickness will give some needed width to your face and make it look more oval.
- Square Face. You want to avoid beard styles that make your face look wider. You can’t go wrong with keeping their beard and hairstyle closely cropped. Think Jason Statham: buzz cut and stubble.
- Diamond Face. Men with a diamond-shaped face have wide cheekbones but narrow jaw and brow lines. A nice full beard can expand the skinny jawline on a diamond-shaped face. Combine that with a haircut that adds some width to your forehead, and your diamond-shaped face is starting to look more like that ideal oval.
- Triangle Face. Triangular faces start with a wide jawline, narrow a bit at the cheekbones, and then narrow even more at the forehead. It's recommended that men with triangle-shaped faces avoid beards altogether because a beard will just make your already wide jaw look wider and make your forehead look even more narrow and pointy. If you want facial hair, just go with some stubble.
If you want a fancy beard style, just show a barber a picture of what you're going for. It's the easiest way to do it.
For more tips, be sure to read our in-depth article on how to choose a beard style.
6. Use the Right Beard Care Products
No, I’m going to tell you need to buy fancy beard shampoos or expensive oils. That said, you should be shampooing your facial hair just as you do the mop on top of your head. Whatever you’re normally using is fine, just take special care that your beard gets fully rinsed. You don’t want leftover product in there drying things out or mucking up your luxurious man mane. Shampooing will keep both the skin and hair itself clean so that follicles don’t get plugged up. Cleanliness = beardliness.
Also, you should indeed be using beard oil to keep your facial hair moisturized, but don’t buy it unless you really want to. You can make your own for a fraction of the cost. If you do insist on buying it, my favorites are MIG Soap’s Man Face and anything from Beardbrand. Oil will keep your skin and hair hydrated, which again promotes healthy growth.
For a deep dive, check out our in-depth article on beard oils. We go deep with it.
7. Maintain Your Beard
Once you have your beard the way you like it, maintain it with a regular beard grooming routine. Master barber, Thad Forrester recommends the following routine
- Wash it 2-3 times a week.
- Moisturize your beard with a beard oil after getting out of the shower
- Brush and shape beard daily
- Trim 1-3 times a week. Look for stray long hairs and keep things looking clean.
Be sure to check out our detailed article on how to maintain your beard.
Growing a beard is really a very simple thing. Let it grow, keep it clean, have a healthy lifestyle. Don’t buy (either literally or metaphorically) any snake oil sales pitches about needing a regimen or supplements or one silver bullet to promote beard growth. Want your silver bullet? Wait for it to come in. That’s about it.
Now that you've grown a beard, learn how to care for your beard with our in-depth guide on beard grooming routines and products.