I get this question a lot, so I figured I’d dedicate an entire post to it. The answer is pretty straight forward:
Let me explain. Every hair on the human body, including beard hairs, goes through three phases of life–anagen, catagen, and telogen. The first phase, anagen, is the growth phase and the one we are concerned with today.
The anagen phase (for head hair) lasts anywhere from two to six years, and since this is the growth phase, we can say with confidence that no man’s beard can ever grow longer than it is at six years old. Now, a man’s genetics determines how long his beard’s growth phase is. That’s right, the cocktail of wonder your parents threw together is responsible for the length of your beard, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re beard will either be a stunted youngling, or an ancient six-year-old.
During the second phase (catagen), your hair stops growing. It embeds in your skin, and sort of sits there for a few months. During the final phase (telogen), a new hair starts growing in the follicle and pushes out the old hair, causing you to shed it.
Head Hair vs. Chin Hair
Now, you’ve probably noticed that the texture of your beard hair is very different than your head. That’s because your body, after puberty, grows two types of hair–head hair, which is thinner and grows on the head, and androgenic hair, which is your bristly body hair. Again, it is genetics that determines the texture and characteristics of your body hair, and how much of it you have. Common wisdom has it that beard hair is androgenic hair–the same as body hair. However, androgenic hair has an anagen “growth” phase of only a few months (which is why your back hair never grows as long as your head hair despite never shaving it). So, if the theory that beard hair is androgenic hair is correct, it means that a beard reaches its terminal length at two months.
This is obviously incorrect, as I can attest from personal experience. Compare my photos below of my beard at one year old to my beard at two years old–the two year version is obviously longer.
Brandon’s Beard at One Year
This is me, your humble author, at one year’s growth. Copyright, Brandon M. Dennis, 2013. All rights reserved.
Brandon’s Beard at Two Years
Beard hair is somewhere on the spectrum between head hair and androgenic hair. It may never grow for a full six years, but it certainly grows longer than two months. Thus, it takes between two months and six years to grow a beard, depending on your genetics.
How to Tell How Long Your Beard Can Grow
On average, a beard left untouched will grow three feet long. Some may get a four- to five-footer, and some may get a foot-long–the only true way to know for sure is to grow it and see what happens. You may not want to wait six years to discover how long your beard will get. That’s understandable, but the only way to learn how old your beard can get is to wait until it starts shedding. Your beard won’t start falling out until it completes the growth phase. So, keep growing your beard. Once you discover that long beard hairs are starting to fall out on their own accord (without you tugging, pulling, or brushing them out) then it’s a safe bet that your beard has reached it’s maximum length.
There is one caveat to that: not all hairs are going to have the same anagen phase length. This means that some beard hairs will stop growing and fall out, even while other beard hairs continue to march on. So the key here is to ignore random occurrences–the stray beard hair here and there–and start paying attention to patterns. If you notice that more beard hairs collect in the bottom of the shower, or between the keys of your keyboard, or on your pillow than usual, then you have probably maxed out your anagen phase–you’ve reached your beard’s terminal length.
How to Maximize Your Beard Growth Potential
We’ve already established that your genetics are responsible for the texture, character, and length of your beard. That said, many beards under-perform their potential due to environmental factors, including diet, stress, and toxins. In short, many people don’t grow the epic beard of their dreams because they are malnourished.
This is why taking beard vitamins is important for your overall-health. Not only does it give your body the supplements it needs, but it focuses specifically on factors that encourage hair growth. Other topical solutions, such as beard growth serum and beard growth spray, encourage follicles to enter and stay in the anagen phase when they have been prevented from doing so by environmental factors. Combined, the two can help you jump-start your beard growing journey.
Finally, your weight is a big factor in the health of your beard. I say this from personal experience, not to be mean. I’m a very large man, but I used to be much smaller. When I was thinner, my skin was healthier and my beard grew faster, fuller, and the colors were more vibrant. Today, though I have an epic beard if I do say so myself, it is darker than it used to be, and my skin beneath it sometimes flakes or develops rashes. I never used to have these problems, and I believe they are the result of my weight. The best thing you can do for your beard, and your overall health in general, is to eat right.
Thanks for reading folks! Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.