Can’t Grow a Full Beard? There’s an Explanation for That
Learn why some men can’t grow a full beard, what medical conditions affect beard growth and three things to help with beard fullness.
From trendy stubble to neatly trimmed goatee to a lumberjack-worthy beard, the facial hair craze doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But if your beard is more wispy than robust, you might be wondering, “What gives?”
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“Just like there are differences in the shape and texture of the hair on men’s heads, the same is true of their beards,” says dermatologist John Anthony, MD. Here’s why.
Your genes are one of the main factors in how thick or thin your facial hair is. “Men have hairs on their face that are programmed to respond to testosterone, and when they get that signal around puberty, they transition from fine hair to thicker hair,” Dr. Anthony explains. “But how thick it is depends on genetics.”
Genetics also affect where facial hair grows and when your beard reaches its full potential.
“From ages 18 to 30, most beards continue to develop in thickness and coarseness,” he says. “So if you’re 18 and wondering why you don’t have a full beard yet, it just may not be time.”
Ethnicity can also play a role. Dr. Anthony notes that people from Mediterranean countries, for example, tend to grow thicker beards.
If you’d describe your beard as patchy, it could be more than genes.
Alopecia areata is a condition where hair falls out in round patches. The hair loss can happen both on your scalp and your beard. It occurs when your immune system thinks your hair follicles are the enemy. Doctors aren’t sure exactly why it happens, but stress could be a factor.
While not dangerous, alopecia areata can worsen. “It’s not predictable,” Dr. Anthony says. “It could spontaneously resolve, or it could spread if you don’t get treatment.”
There are lots of treatment options, but finding an effective one may take some trial and error. A dermatologist might recommend:
Dr. Anthony’s rule of thumb? “If a change in your beard is new, unusual or asymmetrical, talk to your doctor. Start with your primary care doctor, but if there isn’t an obvious answer, see a dermatologist.”
For those beards that are more tie-dye than uniform in color (think: reddish patches when you have brown hair), it could be:
What isn’t responsible for a thin beard is your testosterone levels. “If you have sufficient testosterone to go through puberty and develop secondary hair in other places, then your testosterone levels are normal,” Dr. Anthony says.
While there is little research on proven ways to increase the fullness of your beard, Dr. Anthony suggests a few things that might help: