HAIR ∙ 5 minute read

Can’t grow a beard? Here’s what you need to do.

By Kirsty Mason | Medically reviewed by Dr Luke Pratsides

As beards become increasingly popular, you might find the inability to attain luscious chin locks is a growing concern (quite literally). For those that aren’t blessed with the genes of Gandalf, here’s what you need to do.

With facial hair increasing ratings of health, social status, and age, it’s no wonder that those without the beard gene are desperately chasing the elusive chin carpet. Although studies on the attractiveness of facial hair are conflicting, with culture a major influence on perception, men with beards are generally seen as more masculine - a view that’s more pronounced in women who are in the fertile stage of their menstrual cycle (Darwin, please explain?).

Many men aren’t able to grow a beard or may have a few stranded hairs dotted around their face and neck. Although this isn’t uncommon, the reason why it occurs varies. If you’re struggling to grow a beard, fear not - treatments are available.

But first, the question is, why can’t some men grow a beard? Let’s dive in.

Why can’t I grow a beard?

There are several reasons why you might not be spouting Rapunzel’s locks from your chin - some of which may surprise you.

Here are some of the most common reasons for a hairless chin:

1. Genetics

Just as head hair is largely influenced by genetics, so is facial hair. A large study delved deep into how DNA influences our appearance. Studying European, African and Native American descendants, the research uncovered genes that could predict the colour, greyness, baldness, curliness, and most importantly - facial - aspects of hair. A variant of the EDAR gene appeared to cause facial hair to grow more sparsely and this gene also caused head hair to grow straighter. Beard and eyebrow density as well as beard and balding were significantly correlated.

Another reason why genetics is so important when it comes to beard growth is that genes influence the development of male sex hormones. The AR gene drives the production of androgen receptors, an important protein for male sexual development. If androgen receptors aren’t functioning properly, then the response to androgens (which are hormones such as testosterone) is compromised. This could play a role in beard growth.

Despite bad genes, treatments are available to help you to build a bushy beard. But first, let’s look at the other possible causes of stumped beard growth.

2. Hormones

As with male pattern hair loss, the most common form of hair loss in men, beard growth is also influenced by the production of DHT. About 10% of the testosterone produced is converted into DHT (dihydrotestosterone) and although more well known in its original form, DHT is actually much more powerful than testosterone and has a significant influence on hair growth. The hormone affects the beard and scalp hair in different ways. When it comes to head hair, DHT can inhibit growth, which is why finasteride, which blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT, is such an effective treatment for male pattern hair loss.

DHT affects beard hair differently. In contrary to the scalp, DHT actually promotes hair growth on the body, including the beard, with a significant amount of DHT found in beard cells but not scalp cells.

Although testosterone is a possible cause of poor beard growth, it’s important not to overestimate the role it has in the development of facial hair, as the inability to grow a beard is much more likely to be down to genetics. If low levels of testosterone explain the sparsity of the hair on your chin, you’re likely to notice several different side effects, including:

Declining levels of testosterone may even explain why some men feel they’re going through ‘male menopause’. You can take a testosterone supplement to support normal production of the hormone. If you want to check your testosterone levels, take a blood test. If you find you have low levels of testosterone then it’s best to speak to your doctor about your options. 

3. Stress

Stress causes all sorts of physical and emotional damage to the body - hair loss included. When under severe psychological stress, our hormones are affected, such as testosterone. Hormones play an important role when it comes to beard growth so when the normal production of hormones is compromised, you might see changes to the hair on your chin. Reducing levels of stress usually helps to revert to normal hair regrowth but speak to your doctor if you’re suffering prolonged stress and noticing unusual hair loss.

4. Alopecia barbae

If you’re noticing patchy beard growth, you might have alopecia barbae, which is a form of alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where the body mistakenly attacks hair follicles, recognising them as a foreign substance. Treatments are available for alopecia barbae, which we’ll get to later.

5. Age

You may be wondering why you don’t have a beard at 25, but as fully developed as you may assume you are by this age, beards can undergo a slow process of growth.

Beard growth kicks off at puberty when the androgen hormones are produced (for example, testosterone) and some teens can have a surprisingly busy chin. But for the majority, face hair follicles take the slow lane and can continue to develop and thicken well into adulthood.

6. Hypothyroidism

Good thyroid function is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy hair follicles, which is why hair loss can be a symptom of hypothyroidism

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

The best way to find out if you have an underactive or overactive thyroid is to take a blood test.

7. Diet

A healthy diet plays a critical role when it comes to getting the right amount of nutrients and vitamins in your system. If your diet lacks the healthy nutrients needed to promote proper development (known as micronutrient deficiency) then beard growth may be hindered.

Make sure you follow a diet that’s rich in fruit and vegetables, with a healthy balance of protein, fibre and carbohydrates. If you’re struggling to create a healthy meal plan, download our high cholesterol diet plan or acid reflux diet plan.

If you really want to pack a nutrient-rich punch to your hair follicles, you should consider taking a daily supplement, which can specifically target the areas of your health you want to improve, such as hair growth.

8. Smoking

Among much of the carnage that smoking causes to your health, it could also be stubbing out your beard hair. Nicotine, the chemical found in cigarettes, constricts your blood vessels, making it harder for important nutrients to reach your cells. Nutrient-rich blood is essential for healthy hair growth, which is why a treatment that widens blood vessels, stimulating blood to the hair follicles, has been found to be effective for both head and beard growth - but more on that later.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it’s one of the greatest things you can do to improve your health.

9. Misinformation

For all the prepubescent boys desperately shaving the smooth skin on their cheeks and face: put the razor down. Unfortunately, it’s a myth that shaving will make your facial hair grow faster.

When it comes to shaving, the best thing you can do is use a sharp razor to avoid irritating the skin.

So, what can you do to help grow your beard?

How to grow a beard

As beards have become more popular, men have thought of creative solutions to growing their own chin carpet. One of the newest trends that’s proving to be highly successful is minoxidil.

Minoxidil was originally used to treat high blood pressure but patients noticed that increased hair growth was a side effect. It’s thought that minoxidil encourages hair growth for several reasons including:

  • Dilating blood vessels, allowing more nutrient-rich blood to flow to the hair follicles
  • Extending the “growth” phase of the hair cycle
  • Increasing hair follicle size and diameter, so thinning hair appears thicker and fuller

With the success of minoxidil for hair loss, men started using minoxidil on their beards - and the results were promising.

Minoxidil for beard growth comes as a Topical Spray that can be applied to patchy areas of the beard or the entire beard to promote thicker, fuller hair growth. You can also use a derma roller for beard growth, which works by micro-puncturing the skin, encouraging blood flow, allowing more nutrients to reach the hairs. This encourages growth and stimulates dormant follicles. 

If you want great chin locks, you also need to give your beard proper care so it’s a good idea to look after it with a beard comb. Your best chance for success is to combine minoxidil and a derma roller with a good beard care routine.

The numan take

Beards are popular but not every man has freely growing locks on their chin. There are all sorts of reasons why you might have a problem growing a beard, but it’s most likely down to genetics. Even with unfortunate genetics, there are treatments available to help stimulate beard growth. Minoxidil, a solution for hair loss, is becoming an increasingly popular method of treatment for beard growth and is most effective when combined with a derma roller and proper beard care.

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