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April 30, 2020 7 min read
OK, so everybody out there knows some random, and probably false, fact about growing and having beards. So I thought these might be a good place to investigate a few of them and find out if they are fact or fiction. I’ve tried as much as possible to keep it science and fact based and am calling on my long years of experience as a registered nurse! Most of this information is widely available on the internet – it’s just very hard to filter out the fact from the fiction – and put it all into an easily readable fact check database! Find the Fake News as Trump might say! I’ve compiled a list of common ‘facts’, but if I haven’t investigate the one you are interested in then tell me what it is in the comments below and i’ll do my best to look into it…..
So without further ado:
A beard grows back thicker after shaving it….
We’ll start off with a resounding FALSE! Although I know a lot of people will say, hold on a minute I do this myself and I know it comes back thicker! So what are the facts behind this.
First up, scientifically there is no basis around the theory of shaving a hair to make it come back thicker, faster or to encourage better beard growth. By shaving a hair you are just cutting it back to the skin and doing nothing to affect the hair follicle underneath. There is also no chance that cutting hair will cause a new hair to grow next to it. (and I’ll come back to stimulating new beard growth later on in this blog).
So, the big question is – why do people swear that when they shave their beard it appears to come back thicker? The Mayo Clinic (and numerous other institutes) state that shaving a hair blunts the tip and makes it feel and appear thicker and darker. If you imagine, a hair tip narrows down to a point or blade, when you cut it it has a flat thicker tip which can deceive the eye as to actual overall thickness. Eventually this flat tip narrows down again and appears thinner at the tip again.
So, although in the first week or 2 after shaving it may appear that the beard is coming back thicker and better it actually isn’t and this kind of optical illusion will fade.
‘…scientifically there is no basis around the theory of shaving a hair to make it come back thicker, faster or to encourage better beard growth.’
Does rubbing an onion on your face stimulate better beard growth?
Wait…..what? Seriously? Yep, apparently a LOT of sources and people think that rubbing onion juice onto your face can stimulate better beard growth – in particular it is recommended for guys with a patchy beard to help the beard fill in with new beard growth. So why has this become a thing? And could it possibly be true?
‘Well I suppose first up….who cares if it’s true? Who wants to rub onion on their face??’
Whats the point of having an awesome beard making you handsome if you stink of onion? But ok, I’m fact checking here….and there are lots of other anecdotal things which are apparently good for rubbing on your face to improve beard growth and this will generally cover them too….so apparently onion juice is full of sulfur which can strengthen hair follicles, it is also good for blood circulation which is suggested to encourage new hair/ beard growth. Oh, and studies have sown and it can increase testosterone when ingested by rats….
So as a medical person this stuff kind of makes me crack up. It’s really important that we look at the details, like why a certain property can improve something, and, how the body can process this thing to gain value from it. For example we know milk has lots of calcium which is good for our bones – but that doesn’t mean that washing our feet in milk will give us stronger bones…
So yes sulfur is good for hair health but to gain a benefit from it our body needs to process it internally (eating onions??!!). We also only need certain amounts of vitamins and minerals, if we have an excess we just eliminate/excrete it. So the only way we would gain a benefit from increasing sulfur in our diet (not something I am recommending!) is if our sulfur levels were already below the norm, which they most likely are not – our bodies are actually good at regulating themselves.
The same goes for onion juice being good for blood circulation – yes, it is – but there is no research or indication anywhere that this effect can be achieved through the skin. All the same facts as above apply here – correct processing of the onion juice and a most importantly a need for the property in our system.
And rats gain testosterone by eating onions so therefore men would boost beard growth by rubbing onions on their face? Its’ just madness!! Yes testosterone improves beard growth, but the levels of onion we’d need to ingest to try and raise testosterone levels would be awful (and stinky!) to consume!!!! And then, once again the body would just excrete the extra – or even just produce less itself to regain equilibrium. So once again if we are well it will have no effect – and certainly rubbing it in will do nothing.
So STAY AWAY FROM ONIONS for beard growth is my advice here!
All the same facts stand for rubbing anything on your face, from mud to olive oil to massaging it to beard growing oils and balms. They just don’t work! The body isn’t absorbing them in any affective way and even if they are absorbed the body doesn’t like an imbalance so won’t just stockpile extra testosterone (for example) to specifically boost your beard.
‘…if you need supplements then there is likely a deficiency somewhere and you need to get to the bottom of the cause, not just treat a symptom.’
Do beard growth vitamins work?
Now, this is a slightly difficult one for me at first consideration. When I first grew a beard I took Biotin to try and boost my beard growth and I kind of felt it helped….but when I looked back on it, and pictures of my growth I realised that it was no thicker or faster, I was just better at trimming and styling it to make it look better.
So clearly I’m about to give a false here too….basically you can look at the onion one above. Does Biotin help strengthen hair and improve hair growth? Yes….but only in certain circumstances. If you are deficient in biotin then taking a supplement will help. But if you aren’t deficient then it will just be excreted and do nothing!! And as I mentioned before there is no reason to think you are deficient in biotin – our bodies are amazing at self regulation and maintaining balance! So if you require biotin supplements there is most likely something else going on and you need a chat with your doctor!!
Do beards get better with age?
Yes….finally a yes! But with a caveat! First up your beard strength is mainly decided by your genetics….and this won’t change!! So why does beard growth improve with age? So testosterone levels in the body are closely linked to beard growth. The higher the testosterone levels the better the beard growth. So the big caveat is that these levels increase up to the age of 30 (approximately) so the beard potential for young men gets better and better. But then AFTER the age of 30 testosterone levels begin to slowly reduce. Read more here… So yes, beard growth improves with age up until the age of 30.
However, as I mentioned this whole process is mainly dictated by genetics which you can do nothing about…unless you’re Dr Who I guess?!
Do bald men have better beard growth?
Hmmmm, maybe! Its an often stated fact that bald men grow better beards than men with full heads of hair. And there is some science behind this one. Although first up, don’t forget that genetics pays the main part! However, baldness can lead to a better beard and this is why.
It’s all about the testosterone again! Harvard Medical School discuss how increased testosterone can cause better beard growth but restrict head hair growth. So men who are balding probably have higher testosterone levels which will in turn boost their beard growth. (Which I guess means there also some truth when bald men say there head is a solar panel for a sex machine!!)
Are beards dirty and full of poo?
Oh my….I hate this, absolutely hate this, opinion and suggestion! So where did this disgusting and insulting ‘fact’ come from.
A few years ago a paper ran an article stating that research showed there was poo in most mens beards. I’m loath to link to it, but for clarity and completeness here it is…. basically the research was shown to be a biased, flawed and incorrectly analysed. A reporter decided to swab beard, have the swabs analysed and then drew conclusions from this themselves. ‘Men’s Health’ did a great job debunking the ‘facts’ in this ‘research’ which you can read in full here. But simply put the bacteria that was found was bacteria that is normally found on skin as well as other not so nice areas. The levels of this normal skin bacteria found in beards were identical to levels found on clean shaven faces. there are plenty of bacterias and things which leave on our bodies and cause no problems – again balance come to mind here!
The main problem with this research was that it was explosive and gross sounding because of the way they decided to incorrectly review the results. It worked for them because it made headlines around the world – but this didn’t make it true!
So NO all beards are not intrinsically dirty and full of poo! They are as clean as the person with the beard. So wash yourself!
Well, there you go. Some myths debunked and some facts proved. Let me know what you think in the comments below……I think that some of these will cause some differing opinions but I have tried to keep it all medical and fact based.
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