It wasn’t that long ago that stubble was all the rage among those handsome humans with hair on their face. But it’s a different world out there today. Beards of all sizes, shapes, and, yes, colors are definitely the latest trend, though those who’ve been rocking them forever probably wouldn’t appreciate being counted among the trendy.
And while beards are an individual choice, genetics plays a huge role in determining the facial hair options of most people. That’s right, it has nothing to do with brawn. and everything to do with your gene pool. Look around you, if your lineage could not grow facial hair, you’re probably going to have to sit it out until the next trend emerges.
Androgens are the hormones that give humans-assigned-male-at-birth their traditionally male-appearing characteristics. Testosterone is an androgen. Hair growth is controlled by a number of hormonal signals, though androgens have the most impact. The influence of androgen on hair follicles depends on the hair’s location on the body. Hair follicles in body regions like the face, axilla, pubis, and chest are all subject to the stimulatory effect of androgens. It is genes, however, that determine how sensitive your hair follicles are to testosterone. The more sensitive your hair follicles are to testosterone, the more beard growth you will have.
Testosterone is often given all the credit for the growth of facial hair, but the truth is that most men (or those assigned male at birth) have a nearly equal amount of testosterone. Those with a full dark beard growing at the typical rate of about ½ of an inch each month have no more testosterone than the smooth skinned person or the one with spotty patches in their beard. And there is no truth to the belief that the more often you shave, the thicker your beard will become. It is the genetics of how an individual’s hair follicles respond to testosterone that determines the growth of facial hair. And that often has an ethnic correlation to it. So, if you’re wondering how you got the beard you did, or if you’re young and anticipating what yours will be, look no further than your family tree. Unlike the hair on your head, your facial hair will likely resemble that of your father and his father.
Vitamin D regulates the hair follicle cycle and is required to produce testosterone. It also plays a key role in the regulation of keratinocyte differentiation and proliferation. Keratinocytes make keratin, which is the protein that is the main component of hair. Optimal levels of testosterone can support the growth of facial hair, but it is ultimately how sensitive your hair follicles are to testosterone that determines the actual growth. A small amount of vitamin D is all that’s required for optimal functioning. It is important to maintain this healthy level for many of the body’s critical functions. The best source is natural sunlight, though people don’t spend as much time outdoors as they used to so it’s not as easy to get. It can also be found in foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), fortified grains and cereals, orange juice, milk, and Greek yogurt, though that’s also not always easily attainable. Consult your healthcare provider to determine if supplementation is necessary.
Research data on biotin does not support the B vitamin as being beneficial to hair growth in healthy individuals. There is no research that suggests it is beneficial to beard growth. A true biotin deficiency can lead to gradual thinning hair or hair loss, but that is a medical issue that needs to be addressed in a timely manner. Other signs of biotin deficiency include scaly rashes, pinkeye, brittle nails, depression, nervous system disorders, and seizures. Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin so the body expels any that it doesn’t use via urine. Adequate amounts can be found in a quality B-Complex like careof’s B-Complex: The Busy B’s. If additional supplementation is required, consult your physician.
Vitamin B12 is key in the function and development of the brain and nerve cells. It is also needed to form red blood cells and DNA. It can be found in animal proteins like chicken, turkey, and beef, as well as fortified grains and cereals. There is no data to suggest it has any impact on beard growth, but it is important to ensure that your body has adequate levels of B12. Any deficiency can usually be corrected with supplementation or, in extreme cases, injection into the muscles by a physician.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that is critical to cell growth. It also builds protein, breaks food down into nutrients, and makes both DNA and red blood cells. It is an essential ingredient in prenatal vitamins as it is the only type of folate that is proven to prevent neural tube defects. It has not been proven to be beneficial to beard growth. There is anecdotal evidence that it can stimulate hair growth, but that has been limited to persons who are folate deficient. Foods that are naturally high in folate include beans, avocado, broccoli, beef liver, spinach, bananas, eggs, orange juice, and canned tomatoes. Folic acid is only available in supplement form and is usually found in a quality B-Complex like Care/of’s B-complex supplement, The Busy B’s.
Vitamin E is important to vision, reproduction, and blood, brain, and skin health. It has antioxidant properties that could protect your body against free radicals, though its role in beard growth has not been determined. There are plenty of ads for beard care products rich in vitamin E and not-so-subtly promising thicker beards and beard growth. Read labels carefully and always consult with your physician when you are looking to supplement vitamin E. It is easy to get enough of it in a healthy, balanced diet and too much could come with serious side effects.
Vitamin C is necessary for the development and repair of all tissues throughout your body. It also helps with the production of collagen, an essential protein that makes healthy skin and strong hair. It does nothing to foster beard growth. There are claims on beard growth product sites that it does support beard growth, but there is no evidence to substantiate these claims. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and any excess vitamin C is expelled in urine. It is available in supplement form and also plentiful in citrus fruit, strawberries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, and potatoes. If you are planning to use it for beard growth, you should probably talk to your physician or dermatologist before you do.
Zinc is a trace mineral that is necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions. It is important for building proteins, healing damaged tissue, and supporting a healthy immune system. Being a trace mineral, the body requires very little, so it is easy to get enough zinc through a diet that includes beef, shellfish, oysters, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereal. While a zinc deficiency may lead to hair loss, there is no scientific evidence that supplementing with it will impact beard growth.
Whether and how your beard grows has almost nothing to do with your vitamin protocol. If you have a deficiency that results in hair loss, enhancing your intake of the deficient vitamin or mineral may help your hair regrow. If, however, you're healthy, the only thing that impacts your ability to grow a full, healthy beard is your gene pool. All the supplements in the world can’t keep you from having the kind of beard your father and grandfather had.