If you’re growing a beard—whether it’s for Movember, No Shave November, or just for the fun of it—we applaud you. A fulfilling journey lies ahead.
What will you experience along the way? While what happens with your beard and its growth may differ from man to man, there are various stages that, for the most part, are universal. We’ll look at those milestones in this post, as well as some other key elements of the beard growth progression.
The Ground Floor
Everything starts from somewhere and your beard growth timeline begins with a newly shaved face. You’ve shaved regularly and hopefully used a quality shaving cream or gel for lubrication, as well as a good after-shave product that keeps your face moisturized while minimizing skin irritation.
The main thing to keep in mind during the newly shaved phase is that you want your facial skin to be in the best shape possible before you begin growing a beard.
The Beard Growth Stages
Stage 1: The First Week
Gentlemen, put down your razors and start your engines. This is where the rubber meets the road and your beard growth journey truly begins. You’re probably pumped up, excited about what the future of your beardedness holds, while taking frequent glances in the mirror.
And nothing much happens.
At least appearance-wise, that is.
Well, nothing much happens for most men during the first week. You’ll notice some stubble, or perhaps more, which represents a few dashes of color in a painting that hopefully becomes a masterpiece. In short, what you see during the first week isn’t what you’re going to get in the end—far from it.
As we point out in this video, you’re going to see a couple of growth patterns during the first week, i.e., you’ll either see good growth in the mustache and goatee areas, or good growth on your cheeks and neck. There are always exceptions to the rule, of course, because nothing about beard growth comes etched in stone.
You’ll also notice two types of hair during this stage: the darker, coarser hair that your beard mainly consists of, and lighter hair, called vellus hair (especially if you’re younger). Vellus hairs eventually get replaced by darker hair.
Another thing to consider during the first week of beard growth is your expectations. No one is going to have a full beard in seven days. You may see a nice growth of scruff, but you need to stay realistic with your goals and, above all else, be patient.
Speaking of patience, you’re also going to need it during the first week because of beard itch. While the severity of beard itch varies from person to person—beard newbies may be surprised by it—it’s driven some men to pick up their razor and shave off their beard way, way too early.
The Dreaded Beard Itch
Why does your beard itch? For starters, the ends of your whiskers became sharpened by years of shaving and they can irritate the skin as they grow out. The irritation takes the form of an itch that can become relentless.
Not that you have to suffer in silence, however. An itchy beard helps to emphasize an important point about the first week of growth, i.e., it’s when you need to start using products such as beard oil. The latter is an essential beard grooming product that no man should be without—it not only moisturizes your beard and the skin beneath it (which helps eliminate beard itch), but makes your beard healthier-looking, as well.
It’s also OK to start washing your beard at this stage and it’s something you’ll want to do at every stage. Keeping your beard free from dirt, sweat, and grime also helps relieve beard itch. Wash your beard with warm water; water that’s too hot can dry out the skin and make it itch even more.
To sum it up, the first week requires a lot of patience while not losing sight of the end goal. Your beard may not necessarily look great or feel great during this stage, but your job is to stay the course. There are greater things ahead.
Stage 2: The Real Growth Begins
While you’ll gain a vague notion of what your beard may look like in the first week, things become much clearer in the next four to six weeks. At least by this point you’ll recognize where your facial hair growth is most concentrated.
This is the stage where the novelty of growing a beard may wane a bit, or not, but it’s also a period of breaking new ground. If the length of your whiskers exceeds one inch then you can consider them a part of a beard, not stubble.
It can also be an awkward stage of growth because beards don’t always grow in a nice, even pattern. There may be areas on your face in which the whiskers are growing thickly and follow a similar pattern, or there may be places where your beard resembles the fur of a mangy dog.
The latter is what’s known as a “patchy” beard and there are many possible reasons patchiness plagues your beard, including genetics, hormone imbalances, poor nutrition, stress, and a lack of exercise. We’ll discuss all of these later.
In many cases, particularly genetics, there’s not a lot you can do about a patchy beard. After all, some men have an easier time growing a full beard. But a patchy beard isn’t one to give up on, just like you don’t give up on an itchy beard during the first week or two of growth.
It comes back to patience and giving your beard the gift of time. As we point out in this video, there are going to be awkward, in-between phases in which your beard may not look that great, but your main job is to just let it grow.
Moreover, one of the worst things you can do during any stage of beard growth is to compare your beard to someone else’s. Your facial proportions are different, your beard hair is different, and your beard’s growth rate is different.
A couple of other truisms about patchiness: 1) you’ll notice it more than onlookers will, and 2) everyone experiences some patchiness along the way.
Also keep in mind that you need to resist the temptation to trim or shape your beard during this stage, even if it looks a little ragged. You can start trimming it a bit later, but trimming it now, when you’re just letting it grow in fully, will slow the growing process.
It is important to keep your beard clean and moisturized during this stage (and every stage for that matter). Use a beard wash every couple of days, but never clean your beard with a shampoo meant for scalp hair. Regular shampoo contains detergents and other chemicals that can dry out your beard while causing it to become brittle, or even to fall out.
You can also use natural soap to clean your beard if you’re trying to keep your routine extra minimal.
Keep on applying beard oil, as well. We’ll say it again: beard oil is your beard’s best friend at every stage of its growth.
Stage 3: Yes, That’s a Beard
A month’s worth of growth usually means a full beard, or at least something akin to a full beard. Of course, that depends on a lot of factors and some men will need more time than that to get a full-fledged faceful of whiskers.
Either way, you deserve a pat on the back for sticking with the process despite the itchiness and patchiness that often occur. There’s no reason to turn back at this point, even if your beard still hasn’t reached its full potential.
Your beard still may have areas of patchiness, but you’ll also have larger areas of beautiful, lush growth. You may even notice some grey whiskers, depending on your age, even if there’s no grey on your scalp.
No one is completely sure why grey hair pops up on beards before it does on the scalp, although some say it’s because facial hair grows faster than the hair on a man’s head. While the bits of grey may make you feel “old” they can also give you a distinguished look that exudes wisdom.
As with any stage of beard growth, there are several things to keep in mind once you’ve reached this point of the journey, especially if you’re new to the process:
The hair above your lip is something to contend with and you may have noticed some things about it. For one, it’s creeping into your mouth and may drive you crazy. Or, at the least, make you feel a bit uncomfortable, especially when you eat.
While you don’t have to trim your mustache’s bulk at this point—and in keeping with the full-bearded spirit, it’s perfectly OK not to—but you may want to snip away those stray hairs around the mouth with a pair of beard trimming scissors. You can worry about styling your mustache further down the road.
In this case, we don’t mean what you eat (which is important enough, as we discuss later), but the unique challenges a beard presents as you eat. And one of the biggest challenges is preventing your beard from becoming a napkin or bib.
Bits of food, sauce, beverages, etc., can easily accumulate on your beard because, hey, it’s directly in the line of fire, so to speak. Adjusting your eating and drinking techniques is a learning process and you’ll probably find yourself using straws, chopsticks, and other utensils way more than in the past. You’ll also want to keep a real napkin handy at all times.
As you’ve probably learned by now, there’s more to growing a beard than just putting the razor down and watching your whiskered magnificence unfold. While we don’t advocate trimming your beard at this point, at least not its length, it still needs some grooming.
You need to keep washing and conditioning your beard during this stage, including regular applications of beard oil, but it’s also a good idea to comb and brush it consistently.
Regular combing and brushing are beneficial to your beard in many ways, including that it helps to train beard follicles to grow in the desired direction. But it also decreases split ends and ingrown hair, while evenly distributing the natural oils of your facial skin, also known as sebum.
A quick note about sebum: your whiskers use up a lot of it and at a much faster rate than on a fully shaved face. That’s yet another reason why beard oil is important; it replenishes the depleted oils to keep your beard moisturized properly. Meanwhile, combing and brushing will distribute beard oil throughout your whiskers to create maximum hydration, along with preventing oil from sitting on the skin and causing breakouts.
Regularly moisturizing your beard also helps keep beardruff (the beard’s equivalent of dandruff) at bay. A good beard wash also fights beardruff and its pesky flakes that fall on your clothes and surroundings.
Keep Your Hands Off of Your Beard
Another aspect of beard care is monitoring your hands. By that, we mean don’t tug and pull on your beard. It’s a bad habit to acquire and it can damage your beard in the long run. You risk not only pulling out individual whiskers, but you can also break them and cause them to fall out on their own.
Then again, if your significant other wants to run their hands through your beard…well, we’ll let you decide.
A Word About Trimming Your Neckline
Letting your neckline grow unabated during the beard growth process is a common rookie mistake. While it’s true that you don’t want to trim your beard just yet, your neckline is another story.
Unless you prefer to look like a Neanderthal man, keep your neckline trimmed and neat. The general rule of thumb is to shave everything on your neck that falls below the very top of your Adam’s apple. You’ll look neater and you don’t have to worry about a swath of neck hair detracting from your beard’s overall appearance.
Stage 4: The Real Deal
At the four to six-month mark, you should have the kind of burly beard that’s filled in and more or less looks like it’s going to look for the foreseeable future. By this stage, the chances are good that you’ll have a consistent beard care routine down pat and be comfortable living as a bearded man.
At this point, however, your beard needs more control and care than ever. In many ways, it takes on a life of its own, with stray hairs popping up and some hair pointing one way while the rest of the beard points another.
Again, your beard won’t look perfectly-groomed without some assistance (in many cases, a lot of assistance). At this stage of the game you want to comb and brush your beard consistently. While you don’t want to trim its length, you do want to style it in a way that works for your face and its proportions.
Regular use of beard oil and beard balm, which helps keep wayward whiskers from sprouting too far out of control, and combing and brushing will give your beard a well-kept look.
While it’s tempting to use the $2 plastic comb you bought at your go-to supermarket or pharmacy, you should use a comb meant for beard grooming, preferably one made of high quality material such as cellulose acetate or wood. These materials are gentler on beards, won’t pull out hair, and will help get rid of the knots and tangles that occur in any beard.
A beard brush, particularly one with boar’s hair bristles, is another excellent tool that keeps your beard manageable while distributing needed oils evenly throughout your whiskers without the unnecessary tugging and pulling of brushes meant for your scalp.
Beard balm makes it easier to sculpt your beard while still keeping it pliable. Balm offers hold and control, but be careful not to use too much because a little of it goes a long way and too much will give your beard a “wet” look.
While a hairdryer helps style a beard, it’s like other heat tools in that it saps moisture and can cause hair strands to become dry and brittle.
Remember, your commitment to growing a full beard also means committing to a daily ritual of beard care. You don’t have to be obsessive about it, but a little bit of regular TLC will help your beard look, feel, and grow better.
Stage 5: Staying the Course
By six to nine months your beard should be in full force and you can rock it like a pro. But it’s also a stage in which growth can seemingly come to a standstill. That’s normal, however, as is the shedding that comes from regular brushing. Men shed 50 to 100 hairs per day, on average.
Beardruff may rear its ugly head at this stage, too, but you can fight it with regular washing and moisturizing.
And, finally, at the 10 to 12-month mark, you’ll have all the beard you could ask for, and then some. When, or if, you choose to trim it is up to you, but you can let it keep on growing beyond the “yeard” stage.
Many factors may prompt you to trim your beard, including your occupation and your workplace. Some occupations and companies have rules about facial hair and grooming, and there’s no sense sacrificing your job because of a beard turf war.
Next, let’s dig a little deeper and talk about the phases of beard growth and factors that affect how your beard grows.
The 3 Phases of Hair Growth
While beard growth occurs in several stages, all of hair growth goes through three phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. While it’s not a “stage” of beard growth, per se, the hair growth cycle is essential to the process.
The Anagen Phase
The anagen phase of the hair growth cycle represents the growing stage. The cells in the root of hair follicles divide at a rapid rate during the anagen phase, which can last from two to six years, perhaps even more.
The root continuously divides during this phase and hair strands may grow a half-inch, or more, per month.
The Catagen Phase
Catagen is the shortest of the three phases and represents the “transitional” part of the cycle. Hair growth stops during the catagen phase and hair strands become separated from the hair follicles and attach to the skin. Additionally, the blood supply to the hair cuts off completely.
Hair that’s in the catagen phase – which lasts for only two to three weeks – has stopped growing and is no longer in the active stage.
The Telogen phase
New, incoming hair pushes the old hair out and eventually causes it to fall off during the telogen phase, which may last for two to four months. While the old hair sheds, the follicle returns to the anagen phase to start the beard growth cycle all over again.
Keep in mind that not every man follows the same cut-and-dried pattern regarding the hair growth phases. Many factors, not the least of which are genetics, help determine how long your beard hair and facial hair remain in the three phases.
Which leads us to our next section:
Factors That Affect Beard Growth
If all men were the same and led the same lifestyle then they could probably predict what kind of beard they’ll have with some degree of accuracy. But they’re not all the same, which is why men experience the stages of beard growth in different ways.
Here are some of the most important factors that affect beard growth:
Genetics tells us that we have a good chance of growing a full, healthy, beard if our father, or grandfather, grew one. Understanding your lineage can help you understand what kind of beard you may grow, or why it’s growing in a certain way, although that’s not true in every case because there’s always the chance that a certain trait isn’t handed down.
Your age helps determine the rate of your beard’s growth and its quality. Males begin to develop facial hair around age 13. In general, the most abundant and fastest hair growth occurs between the ages of 25 and 35. The rate of growth tends to slow as men age, but not always significantly.
Here’s the deal: Men with higher levels of testosterone have a better chance of growing abundant facial and body hair. Makes sense, right? The body produces testosterone which, in turn, makes thin hair thicker and darker in color.
The flip side, however, is that men with higher levels of testosterone are often more prone to baldness because of dihydrotestosterone, an androgen that gives men their male characteristics but may cause hair loss. If you wonder why a man who rocks a beast of a beard is bald, DHT is the likely culprit.
A healthy diet has a positive effect on many aspects of our lives, including beard growth. A well-rounded diet that’s full of protein, vitamins, and minerals helps sustain your beard while enabling it to maximize its growth potential.
Ensuring that your diet includes plenty of protein is important because hair consists of protein. A lack of protein can make whisker strands brittle and weak.
Vitamins such as B, C, D, as well as zinc and iron, also help keep your beard healthy and growing steadily.
Exercise helps to boost testosterone levels and, as we mentioned, testosterone helps to create a healthy beard. So, keep working out fellas. Your body will not only look and feel good, but so will your beard.
Getting enough sleep is another way to improve the quality of your beard and its growth rate. The body’s temperature lowers during sleep, which leads to increased blood circulation—including circulation to hair follicles and their roots. The more nutrients that can reach the hair follicle and their roots, the better.
Your race can also influence your beard growth. Caucasians and African Americans can usually grow thicker beards, while Asian men have a harder time developing a full beard.
It’s not necessarily a joke when someone says stress has caused their hair to fall out. Stress can, indeed, affect the growth rate of both beard and scalp hair because it lowers one’s immunity system. And a lowered immunity means less hair growth.
You know all about the health hazards of smoking. But one hazard you may not have heard of is that smoking may lead to hair loss, including beard hair loss. It’s just another good reason to put down the cigarettes for good.
Growing a beard from scratch is a fulfilling journey that requires patience, a bit of knowledge, and the commitment to stay the course throughout its peaks and valleys. While your beard-growing experience may differ from that of other men, you’ll encounter many of the same things along the way, and we hope this guide helps you understand each stage.
We’d love to hear from you, too. What are your experiences with growing a beard? Are you in the process of growing one now? Your comments and feedback are always welcome.