What are the signs of growing a beard? The unmistakable signs

When I was approximately 15 years old, I was very concerned about whether or not I would ever be able to grow a beard. It seemed like all of my friends had massive moustaches, thick hairs on their arms and legs, and I was lagging. Not all of the signs of growing a beard are the same for everyone. However, in this article, we will look at all of the different ways that your beard may be hinting it is ready to grow.

The signs of growing a beard include the darkening of hair, typically at the corners of the mouth and sideburn areas. You will notice light hairs turning darker and, some people also experience itchiness during the early stages of beard growth.

Looking back at all of my friends, I can see a huge range of ages, beard types, and beard potentials, which determined whether we would grow a nice thick beard.

Time is the ultimate revealer of beard potential.

Too many people get anxious in the early stages of growing a beard. It often takes many years to grow the beard of your dreams. If you are under the age of 35, you still have some thickening potential to go.

In my experience, the early stages of your beard growth will likely be disappointing. Try to avoid all of the “snake oil” sold as a beard boosting product when, in fact, it only boosts the amount of money in the distributor’s bank balance.

In the early stages, here are all of the first signs of growing a beard.

What are the first signs of growing a beard?

Growing a beard requires your body has to produce testosterone.

For many men and beard growers, the peach fluff becomes a beard in late puberty.

This is when the hair roots are affected by testosterone in the body; the light vellus hair becomes terminal hair.

What are the signs of growing a beard? [Little known signs]

When a boy enters puberty, the testicles begin to produce the hormone testosterone. It is this hormone that is responsible for growing beards.

The hair follicles on the face are sensitive to testosterone and the substance produced in the body, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is made from testosterone through an enzyme called 5-α reductase.

Without DHT, there is no beard.

However, genetic factors at play determine the level of testosterone in the body and the sensitivity of hair follicles to DHT and testosterone.

So, you can see that various steps need to happen sequentially to get your beard started. First of all, your body needs to start producing testosterone – this happens at the early stages of puberty. Secondly, this testosterone is to be converted to DHT, and then it needs to act on the hair follicles to morph the hairs from light to dark.

Vellus to terminal hairs

There are three main types of hair on the human body, which vary in length, texture, colour, diameter, and shape. These are:

  • vellus hair – vellus hair is very thin, short, unpigmented hair with a small cross-sectional area found on “hairless” parts of the body such as the eyelids, forehead, and oily scalp.
  • Terminal hair is long, pigmented hair with a large cross-sectional area located in hairy parts of the body such as the scalp, beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits, and pubic region.
  • Intermediate hairs are hairs that are in length and thickness between the vellus and terminal hairs. It usually occurs on the arms and legs of adults.

Vellus hair is quite often termed peach fuzz. These hairs are fine and unpigmented hairs that grow over the entire surface of the mammalian body.

It’s important to note that the hair follicles will never change to terminal hairs if the follicle is not influenced by testosterone. How sensitive your beard hairs are to testosterone is also determined by your genetics.

Once you start noticing your light “peach fuzz” turning into darker hairs, this is the first and most promising sign that you are currently growing your first terminal beard hairs.

Your first terminal beard hairs can appear anytime between 12 years old and 20 years old.

Itchiness

Some people find that their beard is itchy when it starts growing.

The itchiness is nothing to be concerned with, and it is simply the extra activity in your face that may feel a little bit unusual at first. Not only will it become itchy, but the hairs will start to become stiffer when touched.

The itchiness can be resolved by using a good moisturiser and looking after the skin with jojoba oil and shea butter.

These products have enabled me to overcome pretty much every single beard issue and, in the early stages of your growth, I’m confident they will also help you as well.

Later stages of puberty

Many people judge their beards far too early.

The young beard growers often notice they have a thin beard and worry that it will never get thicker.

If you have just recently passed puberty, you will be delighted to know that you have many years to go before growing a thicker beard. In my experience, some people notice their beards getting thicker in their late 20s and early 30s.

A scientific study published in 1980 looked at the normal ages of puberty events in American men and women. They found that the median age at which men developed facial hair was 15 years of age. 20% of the boys studied had facial hair by the age of 13, while 95% of the men had facial hair by around 16.

When you consider that this is the beginning of beard growth in men, it is clear that there are many ways for your beard to grow thicker and fuller in the years to come.

Although you may have already passed puberty and may have tried everything in the sun to make your beard thick and strong, maybe growing a beard is simply out of reach!

Dr Amy McMichael told the online Elite Daily, “The biggest determinant of beard growth is genetics.” Dr McMichael works with people with hair loss and hirsutism.

The fact is that some men have genetics, which means that their facial hair follicles are sparsely populated, and hair growth is slow.

Some men will have to come to terms with the fact that they will not grow a beard, no matter how hard they try.

You may have heard that boosting testosterone levels is a surefire way to grow a beard. But unless you have a medical condition that severely restricts testosterone production, this is probably not a problem.

If you are in the latter stages of puberty, you will likely start seeing the growth of your beard.

Not all beards are equal. Some people have light beards, sparse coverage, low density, and uneven spread of hair follicles. Whether or not you can grow the beard of your dreams depends on a range of factors.

Most men will be able to grow some beard hair during their life. Puberty results in the production of terminal hairs for nearly every man. Although, it may not be the beard that they want to grow.

My friend has good coverage on his chin but nowhere else. Most people want to know if they can grow a full beard and, in the next section, we will talk about how to know if you’re going to grow a full beard from your early growth signs.

Rate of change

the rate of change of your beard will increase over time. It can feel like nothing is happening in the early stages, but as puberty progresses and DHT floods through the body, hair follicles with androgen receptors will change from light to dark at an increasing rate.

Being as patient as possible with your hair growth will be the only thing that will stop you from going insane. It is like watching paint dry – it seems to take forever. But, as soon as your focus is on something else, you’ll be surprised at how fast your beard will grow.

How to know if you are going to grow a full beard?

There is a huge difference between growing a beard and growing a massive full, thick, and dark beard.

Here are the important signs to look for if you want to know if you can grow a full beard.

Follicle density

Ultimately, it comes down to follicle density.

In my experience, the chin and beard area are the thickest part of the beard-cheeks are the least populated part of my beard. If you are struggling with these parts of your beard, check out my other article – How to grow a beard on your cheeks – Some tips there may help you.

Determining the hair density of different parts of your face may be the best way to determine whether you can grow a decent beard.

A study in 2011 found that you can reliably determine the density of beards using simple photography methods. Check out images from the University of Pennsylvania to see examples of hair density they found.

Take a look at the terminal hairs (or intermediate hairs) on your face. Do they look dense? If you have a high density, you will likely be able to grow a thick beard eventually.

Coverage consistency

The consistency of the coverage of your beard across your face will also determine whether or not you will go to grow a full beard.

Many people have issues growing beard hair on at least one part of their face. Whether or not it is your moustache, cheek line, neck, or other parts – everyone wishes their beard would grow thicker in some area.

My particular issue is on my cheeks. I often cut back to the place of maximum density and remove the sparsely populated areas of hair.

Have a look at your beard from your sideburn through to your chin. Make a mental note of all of the areas of lower density. If you have even coverage, this is a good sign that you will grow a thick and full beard over the entire surface of your face.

Genetics

One of the most important factors in determining beard growth is genetics. The good news is you don’t need an expensive DNA test to determine if you have the right genes to grow a beard.

All you have to do is look at your family – especially the men in your family.

The genes required to grow a good, thick, and luscious beard come from both your mother and father’s (mother and father) gene pool.

So the most important question to ask yourself is whether any of your relatives have a great beard or at least have the potential to grow a great beard.

The problem is, genetic inheritance can get pretty complicated. For example, your brother may grow a beard, and you may not! This is because, like you, your brother inherits 50% of his genetic makeup from his father and 50% from his mother, BUT they could be different genes!

We even get a few genes from even more distant relatives. You have approximately 0.78% of the DNA of your great-great-great-great-grandfather (aka 5th great-great-grandfather). So, even if it’s unlikely that your beard growth potential comes from your great-great-great-great-grandfather, it is possible.

5 o’clock shadow

Another good indicator of whether or not you can grow a full beard is your 5 o’clock shadow. Many men do not go past the 5 o’clock shadow phase and shave their faces almost daily.

If you have a dark 5 o’clock shadow that you can’t seem to remove, it is a very good indication that you can grow a thick beard. Men who complain about shaving too often miss out on the ability to show off their thick beards.

Some of my friends have got incredible 5 o’clock shadows and always seemed to be sporting some stubble. They are reluctant to grow a beard for their reasons, but I often look at them and wonder what their full beard would look like – I imagine it would look incredible.

Hairy elsewhere

Another, but not fail-proof, way of determining if you can grow a thick beard is if you are hairy elsewhere on your body. The same hormones responsible for beard growth also control the amount of body hair you can grow.

Often, men who can grow a beard have accompanying body hair.

If you want to know more about whether or not you can grow a thick beard, you should check out my YouTube video where I go through everything you need to know about growing a beard:

Often, people are concerned about whether or not they can grow a thick beard and if there are ways to speed up the growth. I have some unfortunate news for you in the next section.

Is there any way to speed up beard growth?

I run through everything you need to know about whether or not there is a proven way to grow facial hair in my other article – click here – where I go through all of the studies you need to know about.

Is there a proven way to grow facial hair

The proven ways of growing a beard hair include:

  • beard transplant surgery,
  • minoxidil,
  • taking vitamin D,
  • testosterone supplementation

These are all of the interventions which have science to back up their results. There are many more different types of interventions that are lacking in scientific evidence. These often include growth balms, oils, or supplements, and their efficacy is yet to be determined by science.

Summary

In this article, we have looked at all of the signs of growing a beard. We have looked at whether or not you are in the early stages of growing your beard by looking at the change of hairs from light, vellus hairs to dark terminal hairs. We have also looked at the age at which people generally go for puberty and have noted that growing a beard is the last step of puberty, and that is why many people get impatient during the growth phase.

The Author


Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialing different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!