Six reasons why your beard is getting darker

Have you noticed your beard hair getting darker? When I was growing a beard, I noticed that my beard looked much more thick and substantial after the length had increased and the hairs started to intertwine more. It could be that you are in the early stages of beard growth and have noticed that the white hairs on your face are turning into thick dark hairs.

The two main reasons your beard is getting darker is because you have been through puberty and vellus hairs turn into terminal hairs and that there is a change in the melanin concentration of the hair. The darkening can be caused by hormonal changes, environmental effects, and changes in diet.

In this article, we will have a look at the five main reasons your beard is getting darker and expand and explain the two underlying causes that can cause a beard to get darker.

How a beard gets darker

No matter what the cause, a beard can get darker for two main reasons. The first is that puberty has taken its toll, and the light vellus hairs on the face have started to react to the production of testosterone and DHT. Secondly, your beard may become darker because of the changes in the concentration of melanin in the hair. We will talk about both of these below.

Puberty

If you are under the age of 20, your beard may be getting darker due to puberty’s onset and later stages of producing a beard.

Why is my beard getting darker

According to the UK’s national health system, puberty begins at about 12 for boys. But this is not when you can expect to see your first beard growth – it takes much longer than that!

The first signs of puberty are that the testicles get larger, and there will be a small amount of hair around the base of the penis. The testicles are where testosterone is produced and fuel your beard needs to grow thick and dense!

In the later stages of puberty (one to three years after initial signs), you will grow thicker body hair. The hair will go from a light, thin type to something much more substantial.

Changes in melanin

Melanin is a molecule synthesised in the body which helps protect against the effects of UV radiation. There are two types of melanin in the body eumelanin and pheomelanin.

Eumelanin is brown and black, whilst pheomelanin has more red and yellow shades.  

It is the relative proportion of these two molecules that determine the colour of your beard. As your beard grows, the pigment molecules get incorporated into the hairs structure. If you are creating more brown and black pigmentation, this will likely darken your beard over time.

There are several reasons why melanin may decrease or increase throughout your life. Old age, UV exposure, hormonal differences, and other environmental factors can influence why your beard may be getting darker.

Whether it is puberty or changes in melanin, we should look at some of the reasons why your beard is getting darker below.

Why is my beard getting darker?

Your beard is getting darker because of vellus hairs turning into terminal hairs. Your beard could be getting longer, and the wiry nature makes it denser and darker, or it could be hormonal and environmental changes.

Vellus to terminal hairs

There are very tiny white hairs spread all over your body. Areas such as your earlobe and forehead have very thin and translucent hair coverage.

The light hairs are called vellus hairs or maybe hair and peach fuzz. These hairs are present on the human body from childhood.

The growth cycle of vellus hair to terminal hair follows the following path:

  • Lanugo – this type of hair is first produced by beetle hair follicles and is present on the foetus from about 16 weeks of gestation up to 33 weeks until birth.
  • Vellus – the less hair replaces the previous type of hair and is present in children and adults. It is an essential part of controlling your temperature and providing sensory input for detecting and sensing 3D space around you.
  • Terminal – vellus hairs can turn into terminal hairs once they have reached puberty. The notable change is that vellus hair is stronger, longer, and more noticeable due to its thickness.

This transition occurs because some parts of your body have receptors that respond to testosterone and its derivatives such as DHT. A study published in 2008 goes through the effect of these hormones and hair growth.

The main hormones regulating changes in human hair follicles are called androgens. In mammals, hair is produced by the hair follicle which is a highly complicated organ that is crucial for evolutionary purposes.

Androgens stimulate the tiny vellus follicles which turn the superfine vellus hairs into larger and deeper follicles which can grow thicker and more pigmented hair.

Thickness and length

Your beard could be getting darker because the hair is getting longer and becoming much more intertwined and wiry.

If you want to know more about why beard hair is so wiry, you can check out my other article – click here – where I go through all of the science you need to know about wiry beards.

why is beard hair so wiry?

As beard hair gets longer, it kills around much more easily. The curliness increases the bulk and thickness of the beard, which traps more light. Because your beard is thick and absorbs much more light, it gives the impression that your beard is darker. In this sense, the individual hairs aren’t any darker but, collectively, they appear to be much darker than before.

The thicker and curlier your beard, the darker it will become.

Your beard is getting curlier

In some cases, your beard may be darker because it is getting curlier. Typically the texture and curliness of your hair are determined by your genetics. Genetics determine the shape of your hair follicle, the cross-sectional shape of your hair, and the growth pattern and density on different parts of your face.

Your ethnicity also plays a huge role in the type of beard texture that you will grow. As a sweeping broad statement, the middle eastern ethnicities can grow fantastic beards, as can people of Indian, Italian, and Hungarian descent.

You may also find that beard hair feels different on different parts of your face. That is because the cross-sectional area of the hair will change depending on where on the face you find it.

In 2017 a review article was published which looked at the biology and genetics of curly hair. The scientists found that the three-dimensional shape of the hair fibres varies depending on ethnicity and geography.

Even though genes play a huge role in the curliness of your beard hair, some other factors can create more curly hairs over time. These include hormonal changes and environmental changes that we will talk about below.

Hormonal changes

Hormones are a powerful driving force in our bodies. They are responsible for a whole range of things, including regulating sleep and mood to affect our hair and beard.

Everyone’s body is different, and hormones affect everyone differently, but they can certainly impact hair and beards.

Scientific studies have shown that melanin synthesis and pigment transfer to hair can be changed by hormonal signals.

Oestrogen, progesterone, and cortisol can all play a part in changes to hair colour. Still, the amount of oestrogen in the body can help determine the concentration of melanin in female hair. In males, testosterone can certainly change the texture and thickness of beard hair, increasing its darkness.

If you are undergoing any particular treatment or consuming any food or chemicals which contain oestrogen type molecules, you can sensibly impact the darkness of your beard.

Testosterone determines how thick beard hair becomes, and it can certainly cause beards to become darker.

Stress hormones can also cause our body to redirect energy and nutrients into other parts of our body than our beards. Stress hormones have been scientifically proven to cause beards to become lighter.

The researchers used mice to examine the effects of stress on hair colour. The mice were exposed to 3 different types of the stress involving mild, short-term pain, psychological stress, and induced stress by restricting their movements. The results were very interesting.

All of the mice put under each form of stress noticed greying in their hair which meant colour building blocks had been lost at the root of the hair as it grew.

The removal of stress has also been shown to return the hair to its natural darker colour.

Environmental changes

Lastly, there are a wide variety of environmental issues that may be making your beard go darker.

Any chemicals in the environment can affect your hormones which, in turn, can affect your beard colour, and your body can only grow a beard and the fuel you provide to it. Your diet should contain various minerals, nutrients, and essential building blocks for keeping your beard hair dark and strong.

Any particularly large changes in your diet can cause your beard to change colour. Your body is pretty good at recovering from moments of low nutrient uptake to keep your body running efficiently. If you have been consuming the wrong sort of food for a long time, your body could start to struggle to protect your beard.

Making sure that your body is operating as efficiently as possible is as simple as eating a well-balanced diet. If you make bad diet choices daily, there is no doubt that you can severely influence and impact the overall health of your body. Your beard and its colour are no different.

Your body requires a huge amount of vitamins and minerals to grow a beard healthily.

Many different nutritional deficiencies can have a massive impact on your hair growth and colour.

To grow a beard, it takes all of these vitamins:

  • vitamin A – vitamin A is required by your hair to stay moisturised and grow efficiently. You can find this mineral in sweet potatoes, carrots and leafy green foods such as kale and spinach.
  • Vitamin B – vitamin B helps carry oxygens and nutrients to the roots of the hair. The roots of the hair are the only anchor point the hair has to your face; therefore, keeping this healthy is a priority for you. B vitamins can be found in whole grains, meat, and seafood.
  • Vitamin C – vitamin C is used by the body to make collagen and help hair ageing prematurely. This is an important aspect of beard growing, and you can find vitamin C in citrus and strawberries.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D’s role in hair growth is not fully understood, but a lack of it can result in hair loss. So get out into the sun in a safe manner – with lots of suncreams – to increase the amount of vitamin D in your body. If you work in an office environment, make sure that you are particularly conscious of getting enough vitamin D throughout your day.
  • Vitamin E – vitamin E helps fight the oxidative stress in your body. Protecting your body from free radicals is an important way to ensure that your hair does not age prematurely. Normal environmental conditions and your daily life can produce free radicals. Eating a good amount of almonds, avocados, and sunflower seeds is a good way to protect your hair.

Eating a wide and all-encompassing diet is the only way to guarantee that your body is in the best condition possible to grow a beard.

Any changes in your diet can quickly cause your beard to change colour, including getting darker.

Is your beard getting duller?

Your beard may be getting darker because you are confusing darker for a duller beard.

The symptoms of a dry and dull beard include:

  • lack of shine
  • brittleness
  • easily tangled hairs
  • split ends
  • hyper absorption of product
  • an itchy face

A beard can become dull due to the lack of moisture and breakages in the hair shaft.

A dull and damaged beard can cause a range of other issues, including itchiness, beard dandruff, unruly beard styling and more. Your beard may become overly dry because of a variety of reasons:

  • Overwashing – if you are regularly affected by a dull beard, you may use the wrong shampoo. Make sure you use a dedicated beard shampoo that does not strip all of the hair’s natural oils.
  • Low sebum production – sebum is an oil made by the glands in the skin. If you have a low amount of sebum, it can make your skin susceptible to bacterial infections and make your beard dry. You can boost your semen production by using a diet rich in animal fats, caffeine, exercise and sweating and topical treatments such as jojoba oil.
  • UV rays – UV rays can easily cause your beard to become dull and dry
  • sea salt and chlorine – if you have been swimming in the ocean or a pool over the summer months, your beard may get darker and duller due to the salt and chlorine in the sea and pool. After I have been for a dip in the ocean, I make sure to use a deep conditioning product such as beard balm or beard butter to ensure that my beard has been replenished with all of the oils and nutrients that the sea or pool has removed.

If you suspect that your beard is darker because it has become dull, you should check out my other article – dry beard solutions – where I go through everything you need to know about making your beard healthy and lustrous again. Bringing back the natural shine may be the perfect remedy to your darker beard.

dry beard solutions

Summary

In this article, we have gone over the six reasons why your beard may be getting darker. There are a wide variety of internal and external influences that determine the darkness of your beard, and any major change in any of these can cause your beard to get darker.

Mistaking the darkness for dullness is always a very easy mistake to make. Making sure that you apply the appropriate conditioning product to your beard after exposing it to shampoo, UV rays, sea salt or chlorine, or other oil stripping activities will return your beard to its light and lustrous look.

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!