The kind of beard you grow is explicitly tied to your genes. In fact, it’s the single most significant factor for why your beard does what it does (or doesn’t do). While you may not grow the exact same beard as your father, grandfather, or great great great grandfather, the genes that determine the coarseness, color (or colors), and terminal length of your beard are coming from your ancestors.
Your age helps determine the rate of your beard’s growth. Males begin to develop facial hair around age 13. Sure, there’s always that one kid in middle school who has a full beard, but typically, the most abundant and fastest hair growth occurs between the ages of 25 and 35. That rate of growth tends to slow down as men age.
Higher levels of testosterone lead to a better chance of growing abundant facial and body hair. The flip side, however, is that men with higher levels of testosterone are often more prone to baldness because of dihydrotestosterone. If you wonder why so many men with long beards are also bald, DHT is the likely culprit. The science isn’t exactly clear on what causes low levels of testosterone with some research indicating that it’s genetic, and some research showing that a child’s environment factors into it.
Exercise—weight-training specifically—helps to boost testosterone levels. Big, functional, compound movements that recruit multiple muscle groups are the most effective. Pushups, pull-ups, squats, deadlifts, rows, and chest and overhead presses are all great. If you’re new to weightlifting, spend some time with a trainer or coach. Bad form will slow your results and lead to injuries. If you’ve been sedentary, consult with a doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.
A well-rounded diet that’s full of protein, vitamins, and minerals helps sustain your beard while enabling it to maximize its growth potential. Hair consists of protein, so ensuring that you get enough in your diet is essential. A lack of protein can make whisker strands brittle and weak. B, C, and D vitamins, as well as zinc and iron, also help keep your beard healthy and growing steadily.
Getting a full eight hours of sleep each night improves the quality of your beard, as well as the growth rate. The body’s temperature lowers during sleep, which leads to increased blood circulation—including circulation to hair follicles and their roots. The more nutrients that can reach the hair follicle and their roots, the better.
It’s not necessarily a joke when someone says stress has caused their hair to fall out. Stress can, indeed, change the growth rate of both beard and scalp hair because it weakens the immune system—and a weakened immune system means less hair growth.
The health hazards of tobacco are abundant, but one risk you may not have heard of is that smoking may lead to hair loss—beard hair included. It’s just another good reason to put down the cigarettes for good.