While we believe beards of all shapes and sizes are awesome, length is the end all be all goal for a lot of dudes. When it comes to potential beard length, there are two schools of belief:
- Your beard just keeps growing, and with enough time and patience, any man who can fill in a decent beard can get competition-big.
- Beards at some point will reach a terminal length and stop growing.
So which is it? Not to burst any bubbles, but it’s not the first one. And the second one comes with a slew of caveats. Let’s talk terminal. And science.
Keep reading for our barberly secret to a bigger beard…
What is Terminal Length?
“Terminal length” is a scary term, but what does it actually mean? Is it the length where your beard stops growing? Short answer: sort of? Here’s the longer answer.
Your Hair’s Circle of Life
There are three types of hair: vellus/languo hair is the downy monkey fuzz that covers humans in their entirety, except our palms, soles, lips and eyelids. Primary Terminal Hair (look, it’s that word again) applies to eyebrows and eyelashes.
Secondary Terminal Hair is all the other stuff-chest, back, legs, arms, scalp, beard, and…other places. But our focus is not on those fun bits today, we are looking squarely at your beard, sir. Let’s take a look at your beard’s circle of life.
The Anagen Phase
This is the go time phase where those stem cells of yours are cranking out keratinized cells in the hair follicle. These cells keep at it anywhere from several weeks (for mustaches and the like) to 10 years (for some lucky scalps). This cycle in scalp hair averages 3-5 years, beards seem to average, and let us put a heavy emphasis on average, about two years. This is what 90% of your hair is doing at any one time.
The Catagen Phase
After all that exertion, your cells need to chill for a minute. During this transition phase the follicle shrinks, the hair bulb disappears, and the shrunken root end forms a round club-like thing. Weeks, this part takes, not months, and less than 1% of your hair is doing it at any one time.
The Telogen Phase
This is the death part. During this final resting phase, your hair sheds, or is sometimes held in place for a bit, but it’s coming out at some point.
What the Hell Does that Mean?
Okay, that’s a bunch of technical jumblies there. Here’s how that translates to your day to day life with your beard. Your beard grows, hibernates then sheds. Depending on your beard’s rate of cycling through these phases, your hair has a certain time frame to get as long as it can before things shut down.
The most important thing to remember in your beardventure is that every beard is indeed a special snowflake. Every face grows differently, in different amounts and annoyingly, in different amounts over different parts of the face.
Don’t be surprised if you have to trim different parts more, and more often than others. What you generally don’t want to do is allow those overachiever bits to be your guide to length. Trim to the lowest common denominator, lest you end up looking like a goat.
Just remember that growing your beard is a journey, not a destination. It will go through phases where it doesn’t seem to be making much progress, then growth picks up again, but it is a law of diminishing returns. Eventually you’ll go terminal.
The Secret to a Bigger Beard
While there are plenty of products out there that promise you the beard of your dreams, there is no quick fix. Keeping it occasionally trimmed, well-moisturized and well-cared for won’t necessarily help it grow more, but it can definitely help prevent length lost to damage.
The best trick is one no one likes to hear: be healthier.
Hair, skin and nail condition are all drastically affected by overall health. So drink your water, eat your dark leafy greens, drink less alcohol, stop smoking, work out…you know, all those things you were planning on doing anyway, right?
But if those don’t sound like things that are going to happen, just keep your face creature well-tended, bring your patience shoes, and have a good time on the journey.