Research conducted by Braun shows that a whopping 67% of the men in New York sport some style of facial hair. The same study also found that from the men that didn’t have beards, 77% would instantly grow one, if they could.
That’s a lot of guys desperate for having a beard, yet unable to grow one.
Why is that? What makes some men sprout bristles from their faces, while others practically never even have to shave?
Ask this question from almost anyone, and the common answer is “genetics”.
And while it’s true that your genetics are the ultimate factor, most don’t realize how exactly are your genetics hindering your growth potential, and what can realistically be done to hack around them, so that even the most desperate cases of beardlessness can be fixed or at least significantly improved.
But before you learn the underground hirsute secrets, you have to understand how facial hair growth works.
What Makes the Beard Grow
The hormonal cascade that triggers beard growth is complex, but it can be dumbed down to a relatively understandable path that travels from your brain down to the gonads and all the way back to your face again.
It all starts in an almond-sized brain substrate called the hypothalamus which releases gonadotropin releasing-hormone (GnRH). The hormone then travels to another tiny brain substrate called the pituitary gland, where it stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH); these are the “gonadotropins”.
Through your spinal blood flow, LH and FSH are shuttled down to your testicles. Once there, FSH has a role in maintaining fertility, whereas LH stimulates the testicular Leydig cells to start converting cholesterol into the main anabolic and androgenic male hormone; testosterone.
Once the testosterone is produced, it’s released to the bloodstream. When it comes to contact with an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, some of it converts to an even more powerful androgen called dihydrotestosterone or DHT.
Eventually, testosterone and DHT will begin circulating around your beard area, and if your androgen receptors in the facial hair follicle cells are sensitive enough, the hormones can bind into the receptors and enter DNA.
Once that happens, beard growth occurs. More specifically, testosterone primes the follicles for growth, whereas DHT stimulates the linear growth of the beard hairs.
In a nutshell: Testosterone + DHT + sensitive androgen receptors in the face = facial hair growth. When any part of this doesn’t work properly, you can’t grow a beard. It can be caused by your genetics, but also because of your lifestyle habits, nutrition, etc. and you most certainly can affect each of these processes.
The Three Steps to “Forcing” Beard Growth
Like said, even though facial hair growth is mostly a game of genetics, you can still brute force it through some modern day research, supplements, and a prescription-free drug.
Below, I’m going to explain how it happens, sharing the three “secrets” to better facial hair growth stimulation.
1. Maximize your Testosterone Production Naturally
There have been many great guides about methods to increase testosterone production naturally, such as this one here in Menprovement, this one at Anabolic Men, and this old classic from the Art of Manliness.
As a side effect of increased testosterone, you will inevitably start growing more facial hair, faster, and thicker. It takes some time to see the effects, but at the end of the day, you simply cannot significantly boost your androgen levels without seeing better beard growth as a result.
As a quick snippet, here are some tricks to boost androgens:
Consume a slight caloric surplus, as low kcal, fitness-bunny diets crush androgens.
- Consider eating more carbohydrates; potatoes, fruit, berries, honey, etc.
- Prioritize monounsaturated and saturated fats over polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
- Lift heavy weights often, preferably with multi-joint movements as well.
- Make sure you’re not deficient in any key micronutrients. Take a multi if need be.
- Sleep a lot. Each extra hour of sleep results in roughly 15% more T the next day.
- Try to stay somewhat lean. Fat mass increases estrogen and lowers T & DHT.
(sources for the above claims – and more – can be found in the three articles linked above).
2. Supplement with Carnitine
Carnitine is a non-essential amino acid which can be naturally found in muscle meats.
When it comes to beard growth, carnitine can greatly help through its effect in increasing the sensitivity and density of the human androgen receptors.
This has been seen in two studies which both fed 2g/day of L-carnitine L-tartrate to the test subjects, resulting in significant increases in AR content observed via muscle biopsies (here and here).
Since the androgen receptors can be seen as “gate-keepers” that allow androgenic hormones to enter the DNA in your beard area; triggering growth, it’s not hard to see why supplementing with the amino acid might help with beard gains (especially if you also work to increase your natural test production at the same time).
There’s also a study from Froizik et al. which showed that carnitine can directly improve hair density and growth. The suggested mechanism of action would be that carnitine helps shuttle more fatty-acids to the cells for use as energy.
One of the key reasons why the men with Eastern Asian genetics often struggle with facial hair growth is not to do with testosterone, but with the fact that their androgen receptors tend to be less sensitive than what is seen with African or Caucasian males. So if you’re Asian and struggle to grow a beard; carnitine is the best supplement you can possibly try.
3. Minoxidil (yes, the hair-loss drug)
The earliest mentions online about men using minoxidil for facial hair growth are from 2004. After that, there have been increasing amounts of threads, articles, Facebook groups, and even websites dedicated to using rogaine or generic minoxidil products for beard gains.
The prescription-free minoxidil works simply through increased local vasodilation, which shuttles more androgenic hormones and nutrients to the hair follicles, forcing it to transition into the active anagen growth phase, and eventually turning those light vellus beard hairs into darker, thicker, terminal kind as the follicle connects to the sebaceous gland.
After the follicles have connected with the glands and are producing terminal hairs, minoxidil use can be stopped and the beard will keep on growing. This has been anecdotally proven by hundreds of testimonials and before-after photos.
Interestingly enough, there has even been a study of 48 male subjects that examined the use of 3% minoxidil solution for beard growth purposes, finding that it was extremely effective when compared to placebo.
Since minoxidil works through increased vasodilation and has no hormone suppressing effects like most other hair-loss drugs do (finasteride, etc) it’s also quite safe to use, with minimal side effects (hence why it was made prescription-free by the FDA).
That doesn’t mean side effects wouldn’t exist, and you can still experience the following side effects:
- dry skin
- increased heartbeat
- water retention
- and tiredness
- unwanted body hair growth
If you can’t grow facial hair, using the recommended 1-2ml of minoxidil twice per day on your beard area might still be worth the risk. And you most definitely wouldn’t be the only guy to try, as at least hundreds of thousands (yes, that’s more than 100,000 guys) have done it by now.
Beard growth is all about having high androgen levels, while also having sensitive enough androgen receptors for the binding of the androgens.
If you struggle with the whiskers, boosting testosterone naturally, supplementing with carnitine, and applying minoxidil to your facial hair area for 6-12 months is almost guaranteed to give you insane beard gains.
Alternatively, you can choose to live beardless or be blessed with the genetics that allows you to sprout a thick beard without lifting a finger.