“Has my beard stopped growing?”
When beardsmen ask themselves this question it can be hard to tell if this is the case or not. Beard hair grows so slowly that we often wonder if we’re second guessing ourselves, or getting in our own heads about the length of our beard. So do beards stop growing at a certain point? Not exactly, but all hair does have a terminal length - which is how long a hair gets before it falls out and cycles in a new hair.
So how does this apply to your beard? Let’s give it some context. How long is the hair on your arm?
The hair on your arm has a shorter terminal length than say, the hair in your beard. This is because the cellular makeup of the arm’s hair follicles “program” the hair to only grow an inch or two before cycling in a new hair. Basically, each hair is programmed to fall out and be replaced after a certain amount of time - not a certain amount of length. The terminal length we experience is a direct result of the hair life cycle. Let’s discuss that:
The Hair Life Cycle
The cycle of hair growth and regeneration can be broken down into three distinct stages: The Anagen Phase, The Catagen Phase, and The Telogen Phase. When your hair reaches "terminal length", it’s reaching the end of its life cycle in which it stops growing, the follicle shrinks, the hair falls out, and then a new follicle is formed. Therefore, it’s not that your beard stops growing at a certain length,it’s that the hairs stop growing at a certain time.
The Anagen Phase
This is the longest phase of hair growth. Most of the hairs on your body are somewhere in the Anagen Phase, as it accounts for the vast majority of the hair life cycle. This is the phase in which the follicle of the hair anchors into your skin and grows as usual. The Anagen Phase of the facial hair cycle lasts anywhere from two to six years depending on your genetic makeup, which is why everyone’s “terminal length” is different.
The Catagen Phase
This is a transition phase when your hair ends the Anagen Phase. Your hair basically takes a break from growing and the hair follicle (the portion of the hair under the skin) begins to shrink in size. This process lasts around two to three weeks.
The Telogen Phase
This is the final part of the hair life cycle. The hair is ultimately released from your skin and falls out (now you see why it was shrinking!). After a dormant period of a few weeks to a couple months, a new hair grows in to replace it during a new Anagen Phase. That hair continues to grow for two to six years, and so on and so forth.
Terminal Length and Facial Hair
So what does this mean for our beards and mustaches? First of all, the terminal length of your facial hair is going to be different for each section of your face. Your mustache will reach terminal length pretty quickly at two or three inches, whereas the underside of your neck has a much longer terminal length. Your cheeks and the front of your chin actually have a shorter terminal length than you might think!
This means that while you’re pretty likely to hit your terminal length for your mustache, soul patch area, and cheeks, you may never hit terminal length for the growth that happens below your jawline (depending on what kind of beard you have).
There isn’t a whole lot you can do to change your DNA-bound terminal length. However, there are things you can do to prevent your terminal length from getting shorter due to environmental factors. Stress, your diet, and how you take care of your skin have a huge role in beard care.
We’ve said it many times, and we will continue to: Beard growth is heavily correlated with what you eat. If you’re eating a diet that’s low in protein and the essential vitamins and minerals needed for healthy hair growth, your terminal length is going to be shorter than it needs to be. Protein, as well as Vitamins A, B, C, and E, are critical for producing healthy hair. If you’re looking to go a step further, you can even start taking Biotin.
Stress is a huge factor in our physical health. If you’re overworked or sleep deprived, your facial hair won’t grow as strongly, or as quickly, as it possibly can. If there isn’t a whole lot you can do about your current levels of stress, be sure you’re drinking water, resting in what few moments you can, and eating a balanced diet to keep yourself energized throughout the day. Additionally, try to exercise regularly in order to channel that stressful energy. Exercise is also awesome for your facial hair.
A healthy body and a healthy mind are the key to healthy facial hair, and exercise helps with both. We recently wrote a comprehensive article on this, but here’s the short version: Exercise is important for managing hormone levels (and therefore facial hair growth), encouraging healthy circulation, and aging healthily.
One of the keys to healthy hair is healthy skin! If you’re changing up your routine to combat against terminal length, make sure that you’ve invested in beard oil or our Utility Balm to keep your beard (and the skin underneath) happy and hydrated. You should also exfoliate under the beard regularly to keep that top layer of skin fresh and your pores open.
The Wrap Up
Today we dispelled a myth. Your beard never “stops growing”, but your genetics determine the rate at which you shed and regrow your hair. The terminal length is determined by how long your hair is programmed to grow before cycling in a new hair.
If you’re concerned about beard growth, a couple changes to how you handle stress and take care of your body go a long way.. Remember - at the end of the day, we’re the only people who spend 24 hours a day in our own presence. Embrace what you’ve got, and own it with confidence. Keep on growing!
Author's Note: This topic was originally covered by Parker Malouf in April 2017. The subject has been expanded on and rewritten by Wil Mouradian.