We’ve all heard it before – from misinformed teenage friends, the internet, maybe even from a parent or coworker: “Every time you shave, your hair grows back thicker!” This news may sound like a sweet siren song to men around the world looking for an easy solution to their stubble struggles, but is there really any truth to it?
The short answer is: not really.
The truth about why and how fast your hair grows isn’t quite so cut and dry. Regardless of when or how you shave, your facial hair will always grow at approximately the same rate: about one quarter-inch per month. In fact, while your body does have ways of governing the maximum length of different types of body hair, all of your hair – and our hair, and everyone’s hair – grows at the same one quarter-inch per month rate no matter how often it is trimmed.
Although there’s no evidence that shaving has any effect on hair thickness, there are a number of reasons why this myth may have persisted for so long. In their teenage years, boys experience a spike in testosterone, which results in that unfortunate phase of patchy, unreliable facial hair growth that many young men experience. This means that while your body was going through “the change,” you may have shaved your beard only to have a thicker beard grow back in its place. This is purely coincidental – your body was simply sorting out the kinks of adulthood at the same time you happened to be learning to shave.
Optical illusion plays no small role in the long life of the shave-your-way-to-thicker-hair myth, either. The individual strands of your hair are tapered on the ends, and when you shave them – effectively sheering all of those tapered strands into flat ends, they look thicker to the naked eye. Combine that with the fact that you are constantly naturally shedding hair from your beard, and the short, densely-concentrated dots on your freshly shaved face can appear thicker than the beard from whence they came.
Your shaving method can play tricks on you, too: higher-end razors with multi-blade designs lift your facial hair before slicing it, resulting in a deep shave that means new growth of your freshly-shorn hairs will take longer to become visible, since they will be starting from much closer to the surface of your skin. The same effect happens if you use a standard double-blade razor and shave multiple times in a row to get a perfectly smooth shave. A single-pass shave with a standard razor or an electric razor will result in a lesser shave and new growth that is starting from cut ends that are already a bit past the surface of your skin. Hence, these shaving methods make your beard appear to fill in again more quickly.
So, right about now you might be thinking: ‘Great…. you’ve told me what won’t help my beard growth, so what will?’ Well, you’re in luck bud, because we’ve done all the research for you, and here are a few things you can do to help your beard become more in touch with its robust side:
Up Your Protein Intake: One of the best things you can do to help your chances of growing competition-worthy scruff is to eat a diet that is high in protein. The outer layer of your hair is made mainly of keratin, and eating foods high in protein – such as nuts, meat, and eggs – boosts the production and strengthening of keratin. This means your beard won’t just gain some girth, it will be stronger (and shinier!) too.
Work Hard and Rest Hard: Regular exercise increases blood flow and proper sleep gives your body a chance to recharge at the end of the day – both of which help to ensure that the systems growing and strengthening your hair keep running smoothly.
Don’t Shy Away From Pampering Your Face Fuzz: A smooth, fluffy beard is a thing of pure beauty, but let’s get real for a second: even the most well-maintained beard lives a pretty rugged, raunchy life. Besides acting as a loyal crumb-catcher (even when you wish it wouldn’t), your beard sits proudly on your jaw soaking in all the sunlight, dust, dirt, heat, cold, spittle, and every other element you encounter in your day-to-day life. You probably wouldn’t ignore taking care of the hair on your head or the sensitive skin on your face, so why should your facial hair be any different? If you really want to upgrade your chin curtain, there’s just no way around it: you need to care for it properly.
Beard oils are loaded with ingredients that condition your beard, protect the skin underneath, and leave you looking downright classy. If you live in a particularly cold or dry environment, it’s a good idea to upgrade from beard oil to beard balm, which typically contains beeswax for extra conditioning and protection. Keeping your beard squeaky clean helps the hair stay strong and healthy, so you’d be wise to use a beard shampoo to freshen up between showers. If you’re a ramblin’ man, consider picking up some beard wipes to keep those whiskers tidy while you’re on the go.
While improving your beard may not be as easy as a quick shave, these tips and a little TLC will improve the health of your facial hair and have you on your way from dud to DaVinci in no time.