It is a common misconception that shaving one’s beard will cause it to grow back thicker and darker. Some people even pin their hopes of having a bushy, luxurious beard on this long-held piece of folk wisdom. But unfortunately, it is an urban myth; shaving has absolutely no effect on the thickness, darkness, or rate of growth of facial hair.
The feel of a freshly-shaved face might give the owner the illusion that the beard is fuller. The short, sharp bristles feel thicker and denser than longer and curlier hairs. Additionally, being freshly shaven makes the follicles appear darker and the face slimmer, highlighting the cheeks and chin areas.
Hormonally, androgen hormones such as testosterone cause beard growth, which is why some men are thicker-bearded than others, depending on the amount of androgen their body produces. The amount of facial hair an individual grows is determined by genetics, and nothing a person can do — not even shaving — can affect this genetic hardwiring.
A dermatologist, Dr. John Zaida, commented: “For men who have concerns about not growing enough facial hair, a more effective long-term approach is to identify and treat any underlying medical issues that may be involved”. Such medical issues might include conditions such as hypothyroidism or low testosterone, or even nutrient deficiencies or certain medications.
More extreme approaches, such as taking herbal supplements or dedicating lots of time to facial massage, should be done with caution, as such treatments have not been scientifically proven. Dr. Zaida cautions: “In general, supplements, vitamins, and facial massages have not been rigorously studied for their ability to increase beard growth, and I would be careful about recommending them without extensive research”.
Furthermore, unless individual hairs are removed at the root (a procedure known as electrolysis) any hair removed will grow back, regardless of whether it’s shaved or waxed. The new hairs may even come in a little darker and coarser, simply because they are new. That being said, it is just a temporary change, and — once again — shaving can have no “real” effect on the genetic makeup of the beard.
In conclusion, regardless of how eager some men may feel about getting rid of their razor, the reality is that shaving cannot affect how thick, dark, or fast a man’s beard will grow. If a man is determined to grow a thicker, fuller beard, they should consult their doctor as they may need to treat any underlying medical issues or change their diet or lifestyle habits.
Causes of Facial Hair Growth
The hairs on our bodies grow in a cycle formed by four different stages: anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen. Anagen is the active growth stage, when cells at the base of the hair follicle divide quickly, adding hair length. Catagen is the transitional stage, when the follicle shrinks and the hair growth slows down drastically. Some follicles are prevented from entering the telogen phase by hormones, effectively keeping them in the anagen stage and encouraging healthy hair growth. Androgen hormones such as testosterone, along with DHEA, have been found to be directly connected with facial hair and the presence of those hormones in the body correlates with the amount of facial hair an individual may grow.
An individual’s sexuality, age, and ethnicity can also play a role in the amount and type of facial hair they may grow. High levels of testosterone are typically responsible for producing longer and thicker hairs, which is why most beard styles are seen in men rather than women. In pre-pubescent boys, androgen hormones are present in only small amounts, meaning facial hair is not seen until adulthood. One’s racial or ethnic background may also be a factor, as it has been suggested that Black and Hispanic men tend to grow more facial hair than men of Asian descent.
Possible Ways to Increase Facial Hair Growth
It is important to realize that simply shaving or plucking facial hair will not cause it to grow faster or thicker in the long term. Rather than relying on dubious “folk” remedies, men can address any medical issues, such as hypothyroidism or iron deficiency. Drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet are also important for keeping healthy facial hair, as the follicles rely on vitamins and minerals to grow. Finally, massaging or “stretching” the skin around the chin may help to increase facial hair growth for some men, as the massaged area will have improved blood flow, delivering nutrients to the hair follicles more efficiently.
Alternative Forms of Hair Removal
Shaving is not the only option when it comes to facial hair removal. Other forms of temporary hair removal include tweezing, waxing, and use of depilatory cream. Depilatory cream is a popular form of hair removal that involves applying a cream to the desired area, waiting a few minutes, and wiping the cream and hair away. Waxing involves applying a warm wax which, once it cools and becomes hard, is then peeled off. Both depilatory cream and waxing are fast and effective techniques for removing facial hair temporarily. However, regular use of these products can cause discomfort and skin irritation.
Tweezing is another form of hair removal, although it is usually used for eyebrows. Tweezers are used to pluck individual hairs from the desired area, and results can last for a few weeks at a time. The drawback of tweezing is that the hair needs to be long enough in order to be grasped by the tweezers, and unlike shaving and waxing, tweezing doesn’t offer an even surface.
Laser treatment is popular among individuals hoping to achieve smoother skin in the long term and is more effective than temporary methods like shaving and waxing. Skin absorbs a laser beam’s light energy, which then destroys the hair follicle and prevents future growth. Laser treatments can provide results that last months or even years, depending on how well the body responds to the laser, the laser device’s power capacity, and the individual’s hormones. This form of hair removal is fast and relatively painless, although it is important to reapply the treatment in order to sustain its results.
A more extreme option is electrolysis, which involves destroying each individual hair follicle through electricity. Each follicle must be targeted individually so treatments sometimes require multiple sessions; a great deal of commitment is needed to achieve full electrolysis. But, a great advantage of electrolysis is that, once a hair follicle is destroyed, it won’t grow back. Results, however, are not permanent. It is important to note that, like any method of hair removal, electrolysis may cause skin irritation or redness after the procedure.
Cultural Hair Removal Practices
Many cultures believe that there is an art and significance to the way an individual grooms, with regard to both their facial hair and hair in general. Native Americans have traditionally embraced facial hair as a source of strength and pride, and have used methods like braiding and waxing as grooming techniques. In Islamic cultures, facial hair removal is referred to as “tahara” or “purity”. In addition, some Hindus shave their beards as part of spiritual ceremonies.
Today, men take great pride in the way they groom their facial hair and prefer to use tools and techniques that bring out their personality and style. From waxing and threading to plucking and trimming, men have a variety of facial hair removal options. Regardless of the technique used, it is important to remember that shaving one’s beard will not make it grow back thicker, darker, or at a faster rate.