As you are growing a beard you become acutely aware of its changes in length. Sometimes in the early days, it can feel like watching paint dry – but what about as you grow older? Does beard growth increase with age? Or do you have to wait longer for your beard to grow as you get older? Here we’ll go through the science and the experiences of men who are growing beards later in life.
A person’s beard depends on the production of testosterone in the body – this thickens the facial hair and turns it darker and their genetics. Puberty causes the onset of beard growth with most men reporting that their beard grows thicker at the age of 25 plus. After the age of thirty men’s testosterone production reduces by about 1 – 2 percent every year. This can cause a thinning out of beard hair and a reduction in the thickness of men’s beards.
What causes beards to grow?
When boys enter puberty the testicles begin producing the hormone testosterone. It is this hormone that is responsible for growing a beard.
In teenage boys going through puberty, facial hair grows and becomes thicker due to the effect of testosterone on the hair follicles. Before that, there is hair present but it is faint and thin. This secondary hormonal effect is actually seen quite late in the process of puberty and so a lot of boys think that they will never grow a beard!
Hair follicles on the face are sensitive to testosterone and what it becomes in the body –dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is made from testosterone by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase.
One important thing to note is that: Without DHT there is no beard.
However, there are genetic factors at play that determine the levels of testosterone in the body as well as how sensitive the hair follicle is to DHT and testosterone.
The stages of beard growth with age
Up until a certain point, beard growth will increase with age. It is the early years of life – specifically around teenage years – where we can expect the hairs on our face to transform into the capability of forming a beard.
Here are the stages that teenage boys can go through – but remember that each step can vary wildly for each individual depending on genetic and environmental factors.
The mustache forms its own stage in the development of facial hair in adolescent males. Facial hair in males does not always appear in a specific order during puberty and varies among some individuals but may follow this process:
- During puberty, the first facial hair to appear tends to grow at the corners of the upper lip (age 11–15).
- It then spreads to form a mustache over the entire upper lip (age 16–17).
- This is followed by the appearance of hair on the upper part of the cheeks and the area under the lower lip (age 16–18).
- It eventually spreads to the sides and lower border of the chin and the rest of the lower face to form a full beard (age 17–21).
- Although this order is commonly seen, it can vary widely, with some facial hair starting from the chin and up towards the sideburns.
As with most human biological processes, this specific order will vary from person to person, depending on genetic heritage and environment – like the ability to live a healthy and active life.
Testosterone (and beards) as we age
Clearly we can see that there is an important link between testosterone and DHT and the growth of a beard.
We can, therefore, take a look at the amount of testosterone produced in the body as a function of time to determine whether or not beard growth increases with age.
The “normal” or healthy level of testosterone in the bloodstream varies widely, depending on thyroid function, protein status, and other factors.
According to recent guidelines from the American Urological Association (AUA), a testosterone level of at least 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) is normal for a man. A man with a testosterone level below 300 ng/dL should be diagnosed with low testosterone.
The decrease in testosterone
As men get older, their testosterone levels may decline by about 1 -2 percent per year after age 30.
Although this slight reduction of testosterone doesn’t seem like much on the surface, what this means is that after ten years of a 1-2 % drop every twelve months, a man could find that his production of testosterone is down 20 percent.
Now that can make a tremendous adverse impact on his overall well-being quality of life as well as the growth and thickness of the beard.
Here is a breakdown of the testosterone levels in men at different ages from this source.
|Age Years||Total Testosterone Average Range||Normal Total Testosterone|
|30 – 40||219 – 1009 ng/dL||600 – 675 ng/dL|
|40 – 50||201 – 993 ng/dL||500 – 550 ng/dL|
|50 – 60||170 – 918 ng/dL||400 – 450 ng/dL|
|Over 60||156 – 700 ng/dL||300 – 350 ng/dL|
This reduction in testosterone from the age of 30 will likely cause the beard to reduce in thickness and color but it is your genetics that really plays a huge part in determining your beard growth.
Hair growth cycle
Now that we know how important DHT is to the growing of a beard. Let’s take a look at the steps of hair growth which is important if we are to answer the question of the increase of beard growth as people age.
Hair growth goes through three different stages.
- Anagen stage
- Catagen stage
- Telogen stage
In the anagen phase of the cycle, the cells in the root of the hair divide rapidly, slowly adding to the length of the hair. Hair will remain in the phase for anywhere from two to six years. At any one time, about 80 percent to 90 percent of the hairs on your head are in this stage of hair growth.
The catagen phase is a short intermediate stage that occurs at the end of the anagen phase. This is the end of the growth phase of the hair and no more cells are produced to increase its length. The hair is detached from the blood supply and lasts for up to three weeks.
The telogen stage is after the short catagen phase. Here the hair is released from the skin and the hair follicle takes a well-earned rest for about three months.
The average person can lose up to 100 hairs per day. After three months, the follicle goes back into the anagen phase and begins to grow new hair.
Importantly, all of the hairs undergo this at a different time and a thick beard relies on a dense collection of hair follicles that are in the anagen phase for a long period of time. Typically, 15 percent of hair is in the final stages of this cycle.
The rate of beard growth
On average, the growth rate for human hair is about 1.25 centimeters or 0.5 inches per month, or about 15 centimeters or 6 inches per year. The rate is about 0.35 millimeters daily – think of it like this and you probably won’t get annoyed!
The actual “length” of your beard will also depend on if your hair is straight, wavy or really curly as the length will be as long as your beard falls from your face.
The average person can expect to grow anywhere between 12 and 36 inches before their hair stops growing and falls out.
On average here’s the amount of time it takes to get to each length:
|0.5||0.25||0.625||Stubble to fuzzy stage.|
|2||1||2.5||You need to have a good shape up here.|
|6||3||7.5||Your chin is full and impressive front on.|
|8||4||10||Looking like a long beard.|
The final word
Does beard growth increase with age?
Your beard growth and age are intimately related. From the moment you go through puberty up until the age of thirty – testosterone is increasing in your body and this will help your beard growth.
After the age of 30, your testosterone decreases about 1 – 2 percent each year. A reduction of testosterone will impact your beard growing potential. But, it’ll be your genetics that will determine the magnitude of that effect.