Why does my beard shed? The little-known reasons!

As your beard gets longer and longer it is common to notice hairs shedding. In the early stages of growing a beard you don’t notice the amount of hair that you lose because the hairs are so short. As the hair gets longer you may start to notice a ton of hairs in the basin after you have gone through your daily grooming routine and for some this causes a fair bit of anxiety. In this article, we will go over all of the reasons why your beard sheds and how you can reduce the impact of the shedding on your beard. All of this comes from first-hand experience of growing my beard for the last few years and from the scientific literature and experts on beard growth and conditions.

Your beard sheds as a natural part of growth. To produce new hairs existing follicles undergo cycles of growth throughout your lifetime. The growth cycle goes from anagen (the growth phase), Catagen (the regression phase) and the telogen phase (resting). After the telogen phase the hair may fall out.

All of these stages happen once the hair follicles on the face have responded to testosterone and its derivatives such as DHT. The hormones because the hairs to turn from light thin, vellus, hairs to thick dark terminal hairs.

Shedding a multiple number of beard has throughout the day is completely normal and people have shared that they can lose anywhere between 10 and 30 hairs a day (that they notice) without loss of density or fullness of their beard.

Is it normal for Beard to shed?

It is completely normal for Beard’s to shed. Hair growth goes through three different stages.

  1. Anagen stage
  2. Catagen stage
  3. 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. Interestingly, 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.

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 the about three months.

The full hair cycle has been well studied and a great summary of the major events of the hair cycle has been reported by scientists in a 2006 publication published in the Journal of cell science. For those of you that want all of the details and insider workings of each step of the hair cycle they have produced a infographics which you can view below.

Beard shedding phase

The stage at which beard shedding occurs is after the telogen phase and the hair has rested. Interestingly, from the above diagram you can see that you don’t necessarily lose the hair at the end of the telogen phase.

Sometimes in the transition back to the growth phase the hair stays in the root until the next one grows. Because the telogen phase can last for anywhere up to about three months this means that it may be up to 3 months before the hair falls out and gets replaced by the new growth even if it is no longer growing.

Two transition back to the growth phase the stem cells at the base of the hair root start to proliferate and there is the formation of a new hair bulb to facilitate hair growth.  

There can be a certain amount of anxiety which comes along with noticing your hair falling out regularly.

How many should you shed?

It’s a common question that arises once you start noticing hair is falling out. Then, in a nasty case of confirmation bias makes you root see every single hair that falls out and start to wonder if it’s too many hairs?

According to a September 2015 review in the Journal of clinical and diagnostic research the scientists say that the average number of beard hairs that fallout per day is dependent on the size and length of the beard but is expected to be much smaller than the 100 to 150 daily hairs which are shed from your head.

Subjectively I have noticed that while sitting at my desk doing some work I can easily pull out 10 long hairs and then notice many more being dropped in the shower and into the sink during my daily grooming routine. Sometimes I wonder if this is too much but then I just remember the research.

You should only be concerned if you notice large clumps of beard hairs falling out and not being replaced. If your beard is starting to develop serious patches that are not being replaced by new hairs it’s time for you to go and see your trusted health professional.

Excess shedding

Excess shedding of beard hairs may be related to infections, major surgery, significant hormonal changes or weight loss which can cause hairs to enter the telogen phase of the growth cycle earlier. There are also other disorders such as fungus infections, thyroid conditions and even some medications can cause beard hairs to fallout prematurely.

There are also a range of everyday reasons why your beard may be falling out. Let’s check those out in the next section.

What does it mean when your beard hair falls out?

When your beard hairs fallout it is normally the natural part of the growth cycle which is responsible for the death and shedding of the hair. However, there are some lifestyle choices and environmental factors which could cause your beard hair to fall out prematurely and not be replaced by a new hair in the growth phase of the beard hair cycle.

Poor diet

A poor diet will quickly change the healthiness of your beard. That’s because to grow efficiently and strongly your beard requires the appropriate nutrients and bucketloads of energy to grow thick and strong.

A poor diet will quickly deprive your body of anything it needs to grow a beard. Because about 90 to 95% of your beard hairs are growing at any one time you need to make sure that you are getting the right range of vitamins, minerals and proteins to support the hair growth.

Here are some of the best things that you can eat to support your growth.

Eggs

Eggs contain both protein and biotin – both of these things promote hair growth. When you look at your diet you need to make sure that you are eating a good amount of protein as the hair on your body is made up mostly of protein. This is particularly important if you are on a vegetarian or another restricted diet. Most people will not have to worry about getting adequate amounts of protein in the diet but if in doubt about your intake speak to a doctor or nutritionist.

Lastly, eggs contain a molecule called Biotin. Biotin is a molecule found in eggs, milk, and bananas. It is commonly recommended for brittle hair and other conditions but taking more than what is consumed naturally has not been shown to have any benefit. In other words, you don’t need biotin supplements unless you have been diagnosed with low levels. Biotin is an essential part of the production of keratin – a protein found in hair.

Berries, citrus and other fruits

Vitamin C is a really strong antioxidant and can be found in berries, oranges, blackcurrants, kiwi fruits, lemons, lychees, papayas and strawberries. Vitamin C can help protect the beard hair follicles against damage from things called free radicals in the body. These are molecules that naturally occur in our bodies so it’s not anything you should be worried of – but vitamin C is your friend when it comes to limiting the amount of free radicals in your body.

The body uses Vitamin C to produce collagen with is another protein that is in the body that strengthens hair – including the hair on your face. Make sure that you take in a good amount of vitamin C and your beard will thank you for it!

Spinach and kale

Besides Vitamin C, as mentioned above, spinach and kale contain vitamin A. Vitamin A helps the glands on the face produce sebum. Sebum is an oil that is produced by your face to keep the hair and the skin well-conditioned. As your beard gets longer the natural oils on the face struggle to produce as much sebum that your beard needs to stay hydrated. So, you can also supplement the oils with a good quality beard oil! Check out my really in-depth guide on all of the things you need to know about beard oil.

Fatty fish

Some types of fatty fish contain a huge amount of omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to promote hair growth. Not only are the fatty fish great sources of these essential fatty acids – they contain a load of protein too! Fish that are considered good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are:

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Anchovies
  • Sword fish
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Trout
  • Pollock

If you don’t like the taste of the fish you can also find these great fatty acids in the form of pills. Click here to find out the best prices for fish oil tablets on Amazon.

Avocados

Avocados are delicious and a wicked source of healthy fats. They contain a huge amount of vitamin E which, like vitamin A, helps combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body. One study resulted in people with hair loss seeing 34.5% more hair growth after taking Vitamin E for eight months.

Also, just like the fish mentioned above, you can find a good amount of fatty acids in the avocado! This makes it one of the best foods or beards on this list!

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are like little packets of beard growing power. They contain a huge density of powerful beard growing molecules such as:

  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin A
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

The best sorts of nuts are Almonds and the best sorts of seeds for your beard growth are sunflower, chia and flax seeds. When I first started using seeds in my meals I was surprised how easy it was to mix them into things like porridge and smoothies. A delicious way to add a nutrient boost to a range of meals!

Red meat

Meat, in general, is found in most people’s diets and is not only a great source of protein – it contains iron and other vitamins that may help make your beard hair stronger and thicker. Protein can also be found in a large range of not animal products too so if you are a vegetarian you don’t have to eat meat to have a brilliant beard.

High protein vegetarian options

Protein is a really important part of growing a beard and so, here are the best plant-based ways to get your protein:

  • Lentils
  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Spiriulina
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes

These options are brilliant additions to your diet – vegetarian or not!

So, there are all of the best foods for growing your beard. If you need an extra little boost here are the vitamins and supplements that you may consider taking!

For a complete rundown of the best food you can eat check out my YouTube channel and video, below:

Who would have thought growing a beard could be so delicious?

Changes to hormone levels

Testosterone is the hormone that is produced during puberty which is responsible for the growth of your beards. Testosterone and DHT receptors can be found it at the base of the hair follicles and it’s the interaction of testosterone with these receptors which causes your beard to grow.

On the other side of the coin, if your hormone levels change significantly it can also impact your ability to grow more hairs on your beard. Because these hormonal changes take a while to have a significant impact on your body it may be that you have since got through the issue that caused the hormonal changes but are only now seeing the side-effects of that issue.

If you’re in doubt about whether or not your hormone levels are currently affecting your ability to grow beard you should seek out help from your trusted health professional to get professional advice.

Stress related

Stress can do a lot of things to the human body.

A lot of research has been done on animals that shows that psychological stress can cause hair to start greying and that the stress accelerates human biological ageing but it has not been explicitly linked to humans developing grey hair or losing a significant amount of hair.

There is no doubt however that stress causes a huge amount of biological pressure on the body and can also impact our actions and habits to the detriment of our health.

Researchers have found that if you remove the stresser from a person who is experiencing symptoms that the effects can be reversed by simply removing the source of the stress.

More serious conditions

There are some more serious conditions which can cause bald patches in the beard. These have been highlighted in a photo quiz submitted by an American family physician.

The more serious conditions are summarised as:

  • alopecia areata – this is characterised by a localised area of complete hair loss with a normal skin pattern. This has a pretty rapid onset and may involve the entire body.
  • Cicatricial alopecia – this is permanent hair loss caused by destruction of the hair follicles by an inflammatory or autoimmune disease. The condition causes folliculitis and eventually leads to scarring and atrophy of the skin.
  • Tinea barbae – this is a relatively uncommon fungal advection which affects farmworkers. Pulling out the infected hairs is usually painless and it can be accompanied with scaly patches and fragile broken hairs.
  • Traction alopecia – this is due to high tension a grooming style and can occur in the beard. Although it is more common on the head. In rare cases this may result in scar formation if the person is particularly rough with their beard.
  • Trichotillomania – this is a compulsive disorder that involves repetitively pulling at the hair until the hair falls out or it is plucked.

The above are unlikely to be the cause of your beard falling out. However, if you notice that your beard is falling out in more numbers than previously and you are experiencing a growing patchiness you should reach out to your health professional and mentioned the above options for diagnosis.

How do I keep my beard from falling out?

If you want to stop your beard from falling out here are the simple things that you can do to keep your beard healthy strong and in your face.

Stop tugging

Tugging at your beard is a natural compulsion for many beard growers as it is right there and the perfect distraction for your idle hands.

If you want to know more about stroking your beard check out my other article – why can’t I stop stroking my beard – click here to be taken to article.

Whether you are tugging at your beard due to insecurity, fidgeting, boredom or compulsion getting out of the habit of stroking and tugging at your beard will ensure that your beard hairs stay in your face for longer. Check out the article for methods and interventions. Think touching your beard so often.

Go easy on the heat treatment

Excessive heat treatment is one of the ways you can easily damage your beard. Whether you are using a hairdryer on high heat all you are using a beard straightener with hot ceramic components you can easily damage your beard.

Go easy on the heat treatment and try not to do it every single day if your beard doesn’t need it. I like to give my beard some time off every so often so that it gets a chance to just do what it wants to do.

Brush gently

Grab yourself a natural hair bristle brush so that when you brush and comb your hair you are not as likely to damage the hair. I use a combination of my plastic comb and boar hair bristle brush nearly every day to tame my beard.

I noticed that as I’m using my plastic comb more hair falls out and there is less hair for when I use my natural hair brush.

Summary

Your beard hairs fall out as part of the natural cycle of hair growth. There are some other issues which may cause excessive hair shedding but with most of them if you remove the stimulus the shedding will stop, and you will go back to your normal hair growth pattern and balance.

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!