Why You Have A Patchy Beard

Nov 16th, 2009 by Coach Adam in Beard Science

patchy beard

Let’s face the cold truth.   A lot of guys have patchy beards.  Beards that they are not exactly pleased with.  Beards they wouldn’t write home about.  Now, I have a deep love for all beards, thick and thin, but having a patchy beard is a huge deterrent to growing one for a lot of guys.

In an effort to find biological reasons for your patchy beard, and hopefully a nice natural fix, I researched many scientific articles that frankly were a bit over my head.  But I’m a pretty smart guy, and I was able to take away some info and distill it down to the essential reasons why your beard is lackluster compared to the norm.  Hopefully you will take away a better understanding of your frustrating situation and also some hope that the rapid progress in genetic research will someday create a solution.

To the science!

Beard hair growth, unlike the growth of head hair or other facial hair, like eyelashes, depends on compounds called androgens. Androgens are responsible for what are considered masculine features.  The most famous androgen is our old friend we learned about in middle-school health class, testosterone.

Testosterone fueled your conversion from a boy to a man and took you through those hellish emotional changes and awkward physical changes we all had to suffer through.  Now that you are an adult, your manly hormone keeps your muscles firm and useful and keeps your sex drive at a normal level. It is also beard food.

Inside each of your follicles is a structure called the dermal papilla.  The dermal papillae are kind of like the “brains” of your hair follicles.  The ones in your beard follicles respond to the messages that your androgens send and cause the surrounding parts of the hair follicles (called the hair matrix) to do their thing and make some damn beard hair.  Guess what androgen tells the beard hair follicles to activate the hair matrix?  Yep, testosterone.

So why not simply partake in some extra testosterone?  Number one, it’s a controlled substance in the United States.  Number two, there are other factors at work here that are sabotaging your beard growth.

When the dermal papillae of your beard follicles utilize testosterone, they actually metabolize it and create another androgen as a byproduct called dihydrotestosterone.  This substance is like the bigger, stronger brother to testosterone.  It contributes to male characteristics, just like wimpy old regular testosterone, just a lot more.  It didn’t just kick start your pubescent transition to an adult male, it is pretty much the reason that you developed as a male in the womb.

To utilize testosterone and create dihydrotestosterone, your beard follicles need yet another substance, an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase.  This enzyme is necessary for this conversion, and if you have low levels of it, then you have low levels of dihydrotestosterone.  More importantly to the topic at hand, if you don’t have enough 5-alpha-reductase, the dermal papillae of your beard follicles can’t properly use testosterone to tell your hair matrices to make hair.  And if your beard hair matrices aren’t making hair, you aren’t growing a beard.

In case you got a bit lost in the science back there, let me summarize.

Each beard hair is like a little plant whose “seed” is buried within each follicle.  Your beard seeds need testosterone and an enzyme to grow.  The testosterone is like the water and the enzyme is like the germ inside the seed that takes the water and uses it to grow.  Too little water means too little growth, but more importantly, if there’s no germ inside the seed, there’s no way anything is sprouting.

So what’s a guy with too little 5-alpha-reductase to do?  The good news is that it is already the subject of much pharmacological effort.  The bad news is that those efforts are currently working toward the goal of reducing the 5-alpha-reductase levels in normal men.  Why in the world would they do that?  Because of the dihydrotestosterone that it helps produce.  You see, in the crazy mixed-up world of hair, too much dihydrotestosterone causes male pattern baldness!  Yes, the more likely a man can grow a beard, the more likely he will eventually go bald.  Elevated dihydrotestosterone levels may also contribute to an enlarged prostate and even prostate cancer.  Hence the current 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors on the market today.

But take heart, you patchy-bearded soul.  If a medicine can reduce the level of an enzyme, then there’s no reason one couldn’t be created to increase the levels instead.  Maybe an intrepid reader of The Beard Coach will one day start a foundation to fund the development of such a drug.  Until then, don’t fret.  Your patchy beard doesn’t make you less of a man.  You lack no testosterone man fuel.  You simply suffer from a medical condition that one day in the glorious future may be cured.  Then you can gladly take your beard pills and finally grow a one you can take home to Mom.

Sources:
http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v98/n6s/abs/5612065a.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9804329

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119302972/abstract

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5-alpha_reductase

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androgen

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dihydrotestosterone

(Note: I am not a dermatologist and there may be giant errors in my understanding.  If any real dermatologists read this, please comment below with your insights. Thanks!)

55 Comments

  • Remember abraham lincoln? He is dead, no one cares about his beard anymore. Quit worrying about how you look and go live your life to the fullest. The beard does not make the man.

  • At 50, I have all but given up growing a beard. My next life I’ll probably be a bear(d) now. Rim shot.

  • I also, found this article today and in the years since there is now commercials regarding “testosterone gel” they call it Foresta. Now, my question and maybe the leading to a follow up column is that, IF a testosterone gel has been devolved (meaning in essence we can apply that testosterone to any body area) AND if “dermal papillae of your beard follicles utilize testosterone, they actually metabolize it and create another androgen as a byproduct called dihydro-testosterone.” would IN THEORY the application of testosterone gel work in facial hair growth?

  • I am 35 i’m pretty damn hairy every where but my face. I just found this article today. My facial hair is patchy on my cheeks,and I can’t grow a mustache to save my life.I still have a full head of hair when highschool friends are balding or have receding hairlines,but they can grow beards.I am not sure if the problem is testosterone or some other genetic factor since other family members can grow beards.

  • I suffered of big bald spots in my beard 2 years ago when I started growing it, and before that with the sideburns when I decided to keep it. However, the more I let it grow the better it got. now I still have some spot areas, but it is not noticed from a distance, and can be covered if I let the beard grow long. But it seems to me that, even those spots will grow hair with time. I do nothing special rather than being patient. But, I do take a multi-vitamin that contains biotin( which is a factor in hair and nail growth). you may want to get biotin pills for 2 to 3 years and see how that goes.

  • I’m 28 and within the last couple years started letting my bread grow out because it was always so patchy before. It’s gotten better but still thin & looks more like I have a goatee & chops going on at the same time with the bald spot splitting the two parts that’s why I have to keep it trimmed so short so it’s less noticeable. And what beard I do have is kind of thin. What should I do to fill in the bear spots and thicken it up? Is the onion juice something worth trying? Or should I try a dihydrotestosterone supplement? Could use some advice, thanks

  • Well I guess I’m not alone here. I seriously look like my wife has a very sand papery set of peaches. Thats pretty much the story I have stuck with anyways but still cant stand it. I want a full beard. Will be trying the onion juice for sure.

  • william fernandez

    Hey guys, I signed up for this thread a few years back and forgot about it. I wanted to let you guys my personal experience. I am now 30 and have a full beard and moustache, I’m very happy and do is my wife, now, what did the trick in less than 6 months is, I began taking hgh or human growth hormone, I went go into the legality of it so let’s leave that aside, but one thing is for sure, somatropin helped me grow a full beard.

  • It’s suggested to sleep with a slice of onion on the bald spot. After a couple of weeks this should do the trick. Is worth trying, except for the bad smell :)

    Is possible to read a success story on that link: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071003124336AAPCX1Q

  • I’m 40, and I grow a nice goatee and full mustach, but my beard is slow and the only style i could have is maybe chops. I have some hair but patches of baldness on my chin line! So is there anything that is available right now that may slightly contribute to help grow facial hair?

  • minoxidil apply to beards
    letrozol half pill once a week
    after 1 year
    fulllllllllllllll beards

  • hi im 21. my beard on my cheeks still hasn’t grown. and this patchy beard really makes me sad. if there’s any fair way to solve this problem please tell me.

  • A big problem that contributes to low testosterone is adrenal fatigue.

    http://robbwolf.com/2012/04/09/real-deal-adrenal-fatigue/

    Secondly, good beards require good nutrition! Proper mineral intake is huge.

  • To all of you under the age of 40: The beard is something that continues to mature, though some mature more than others. Coming from a man who still grew peach fuzz at 21 and a “milk moustache” until he was mid to late 20s, i grow a pretty decent beard at 40. true, it is not nearly as thick as i would like it to be but it grew in nicely enough to cover up patchiness, and if i NEVER would have ever guessed i’d be able to even grow the beard i have now. i was encouraged in my late 20s when i talked to a co-worker who was about 55. he said he couldn’t grow a thick beard until he was well into his 40s, and his beard was THICK. all you can do is hope and be content with what you got–or just shave every day and accept it

  • please advise me….am 33 year old .. i had a full beard ..now a days one area of my beard is coming patchy …what is the solution ..
    thank you

  • well, im 16, and i can grow the best side burns and mustache but i have a baldpatch under my chin, in betweem my chin and my mustache isnt connected to the rest of my hair. although i know im only 16, i was wondering if i should be worried seen as everything else grows so well

  • Anyone out there who are gonna use the colorings: I discovered this when my beard started getting grays kinda early in life, so if you’re coloring for a patchy beard this same advice applies.

    when I color mine, a: make sure to leave a FEW gray hears and b: when you dye the beard use three or more different colors, with the DARKEST color being the “deepest” and then the more shallow you get you get to the lightest range of your natural colors so that way you don’t look like you have a black magic marker all over your face (my hair is black) so I go from “true black” to “dark brown” to “light brown” and then “sandy blonde” on the top.

    Anyway, works for me and turns out pretty good.

  • Hello all! I’m 23, I can grow a 90% full beard, just the left side, just beside my jaw there is a straight line going up my cheek that just doesn’t grow in, about a eighth of an inch thick. on the right side there is a small circle, smaller than a dime in the same spot, right next to my lip. other than that it grows in, great shape and moderate thickness.

    Rewind 3 years ago, I could hardly grow sideburns. in fact, it was to the point where I didn’t even have to shave – it just didn’t grow at all. However I was furry everywhere else, My back was thick and covered, my tummy and chest grew in thick, arms, legs, I was a very furry guy, except for my face! Just part of my genetics I suppose.

    Some guys just can not grow beards. I almost accepted that I wouldn’t ever grow one. I was so discouraged! My back is covered, my chest, tummy, legs, arms – even my upper arms and shoulders! but nothin on the face…

    Here I am 3 years later and it’s growing in! Slowly.. but it’s filling in! In some cases, Your beard is just a ‘late bloomer’ Be patient. Beards ARE a sign of patience, dedication and wisdom.

    one tip I’ve picked up: Exfoliate and wash your face daily; a clean pore is more likely to grow if it isn’t clogged up. Massage your face, make sure it stays nice and clean!

    Hope my comment helps!

  • Hey it’s Ed again. I did the no shave November thing and I actually did better than I thought. I almost pulled off a beard. My sideburns grew in a lot better than they usually do. They were dark blonde and actually looked like sideburns. It was still kind of patchy and the left side grows a lot better than the right side. I kept it all until just a couple weeks ago. It seemed like that was as thick as they were going to get for now, it didn’t look like they were growing anymore, so I shaved the sideburns. I still have the goatee.

  • I have half mustache. grows on left side only. Im over 50 now and so tired of hearing you
    forgot to shave one side.Or people looking at just one side of my face. Im so tired of it.
    My one good side with hair is dark black.
    Hair on the other side what their is of it, kind of grey looking.but when I look close
    can see some hair under skin,Not much. So for a few years thought shaving one side more
    the bald side would promote growth .Well really not too much luck with that.
    just let me know if maybe something that I can do. Mr. half B

  • I’m 27 and still can’t grow a full beard. Everyone else in my family can and has. My father, both grandfathers, uncles, cousins etc. Mine will grow in nice and thick for a mustache and around my chin but the cheeks and sideburns only come in a little bit. Under my lips the right side grows all the way to the lip but the left only to about a half inch below the lip making it look really stupid. I’m not a fan of goatees or plain staches but that’s really all i could do. I’d love to actually have a full beard that’s thick enough to keep it short and neat and still look full like my father and everyone else. I always though as I got older it’d come in better but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s truly makes me feel really effeminate especially because i lack chest and back hair as well (which honestly that part I’m happy about)

  • i’m 20 years old, going on 21. i’ve had issues growing facial hair for a while. it’s growing better than it was a year or even a half a year ago, but its still awfully patchy. i can pull off an ok goatee, it grows ok on my chin. my moustache doesnt show well, its still pretty patchy. but my cheeks are just ridiculous, the facial hair has no shape its just all over the place, and extremely light and patchy. i’ve tried shaving as often as i could, now usually once a week

  • Little Boy Beard

    Thanks for the great explanation! Unfortunately I won’t be subscribing because, at 27, I have less facial hair than most 15 year olds.

  • I dunno about this man, on paper i see what you mean but ive done testosterone therapy for over 8 months and no hair growth on my beard.

  • Got a theory about my bald patches. As I said in my other comment, I have two bald patches on one side of my face. The left side. This happens to be the side I sleep on and I like to tuck my hand under my head when I sleep.
    Maybe, from all the years of sleeping this way, this is why I have bald patches on one side.

    Can anyone else make this connection?

    Just a theory.

    • I’ve considered this too. I don’t have large patches, just a couple of very minor small ones that should disappear quickly (I’ve got a full chinstrap already, but have only started growing out my cheeks and mustache for 1.5 weeks or so)…but the patches are on the right side of my face. I pretty consistently fall asleep on my right side. May be something to this?

  • An interesting read, but maybe I can help.

    I’m 35 years old and I’ve always wanted to grow a full beard but my bald patches always put me off. After a couple weeks of growing, it looks a mess so I end up shaving it all off. Even though I know if I ignored the patches and kept growing it, it would probably look a lot better but I always wake up one morning and think, ‘I give up!’

    Its funny because my bald patches are almost identical to the image at the top of this article and I’ve also seen other people with the same. This is partly why I tend to give up. I’ve seen others with the same type of patches grow their beard a lot longer than I have and I always think they look a mess so I assume mine looks the same and think other people are looking at me in the same way.

    I honestly wouldn’t mind at all if the bald patches were symmetrical on either side of my face but when they’re only on one side of my face it doesn’t look right.

    On my right side, I can grow a thick, almost perfect beard. The same with my tash and chin area, but on my left side, I have a bald patch on my jaw line and another in the center of my left cheek. It makes me look like a tramp when it gets too long and because the patchy areas have one or two thick single hairs on their own it looks very untidy and almost makes me look unclean. Or rather, it makes me look lazy, like I don’t take care of my appearance. I may be over-thinking it but this is how I feel. I’d love to be the proud owner of a thick grizzly type beard.

    This COULD be a solution but I’m not 100% sure
    ——————————————————————-
    I might have a remedy for it but I haven’t tried it myself so I can’t say how well it works. I heard about it years ago when I was at school and me and my mates were all competing to see who could grow the most bum fluff on our faces. Haha

    The trick is ONION JUICE. Apparently, if you rub onion juice on your bald spots just after shaving while your paws are still open, it’s supposed to trigger more hair growth. Your not going to believe this but a friend told me about it after watching a TV program. The TV show was about women who have grown hairs on their face and apparently there was an onion factory in China where all of the Chinese women who spent every day peeling onions had all started to grow full beards. I know that sounds crazy, but it also sounds plausible too.
    The reason I think it might work is because I had a younger friend who we told about this TV show and one day he turned up after being away for a few weeks and he had a full thick beard like a fully grown man. He was only about 16 at the time so maybe there is some truth to this. When we saw him, we all instantly said, you’ve been using onions. Haha

    Anyway, as I said, I really cannot say if this remedy is real or not but I will try it one day if my patches don’t go away. If anyone else wants to try it I’d love to hear how you got on and if you’ve noticed any results.

    BTW – be warned, I don’t think anyone close to you will appreciate your stench of onions. Especially any female your trying to impress. This is the reason I’ve never tried it myself but if I ever hear it definitely works, I’d be the first to do it.

    I’m going to do some more research on this subject so if I find out anything, I’ll post it here for you guys.

  • Hello peeps,i’m 18 & av got no beards,wah kind of pills used to grow beards can i find here in nigeria

  • This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Appreciate it!

  • I’m not a man, but a woman. I read this article because of my bf, whose beard is patchy, he is almost 19, and I hope it grows in, but I doubt it will after reading this article. I did laugh a lot, so I enjoyed reading. Thanks :]

  • i can grow facial hair everywhre except on the right cheek, it come in patches. i really wnna find something to help this if ne pone has info plz email me

  • what about side effects
    is it dangerous to preconise androgens as self medication ??

  • Hi,am buzzard from NIGERIA. Am 24 and… i’ve got no beards on my face,that really sucks when i see my younger ones with lot of beards. Pls,i really need a help to this predicament. What can i do? *crying*

  • I have the exact same problem as Mike. I’m 20 and I can grow a full beard except for the middle of my chin and I can only grow on the sides of my chin. I keep a full beard year round (I’m kinda chunky and it makes me look good in a “rugged” sort of way) but I feel as if I look like a complete idiot because of this damned bald spot in the middle of my chin. ANY HELP!?!?!

  • Hey there Beard Coach, consider me subscribed!

    Just wanted to share my thanks for this interesting bit of insight. Many transgender men like myself view beards with a certain reverent awe, and eagerly look forward to the day when we too might pursue the noble facial fuzz.

    Even those of us who have been voluntarily introducing testosterone to our bodies and studying its effects for years never cease to be amazed by the diversity of results men experience! (One wonders what wondrous revelations may lie in the study of female-bodied beard-growers.)

    Patchy beard is definitely a regular complaint for many of us, and the brutal reality of how fickle genetics and biochemstry are can really land a blow on a guy who expected to give Grizzly Adams a run for his money after just a few months. It’s good to know even “cisgender/bio-men” commonly experience this kind of anxiety!

  • I am 33 and I grown hair only on my chin, mustache and side burns and cant grow it on the rest of my face. Has anyone else experienced this? Is there anything out there that can be prescribed for this? At 33 I would think that I should be able to grow a full beard. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

    Adam

    • Hey Adam,

      I am 33 too and I have very less moustache and worse, only along the jaw line. Nothing seem to grow in the area right below my nose and above my upper lip. I really don’t know why it is so. I also feel in no way this should be any deterrent to my happiness level. If there is lesser face hair, i end up shaving faster :)

    • Weird, I have this exact same facial hair pattern. Anyone have any input as to how it looks after fully growing in? Moustache, chin, neck, mutton chops… Arrrrrgh!

  • Oh, how I wish I could grow a beard. Ever since I was a kid, I’d waited for the day when I could finally grow a beard. I’m 21 now, and that day still hasn’t come. Due to my shitty beardless genetics, the most I can get is a bit of stubble on my neck and a light pedo-stache. Remember, some of us are not beardless by choice, but rather the cruel hand of fate.

    • Don’t fret too much… 21 is still pretty young in beard terms! My own beard was certainly not as good at 21 as it is now that I’m 33. There’s a reason beards are symbols of experiential wisdom, my friend.

    • Take heart from the Coach’s words, Bearless! I’m not much older than you, 24, and while my beard still has some developing left to do it still gives what I could grow at 21 a run for it’s money.

  • I’m 20, nearly 21 years old, and have always lacked hair in the middle of my chin, (like where the cleft is), but the corners of my chin grown hair fine.. (I may have a couple bald patches, but aren’t too big of a deal) What are some recommended ways of filling in my stubborn patchiness on my chin other than just shaving a lot or waiting a while to shave??

  • Well thats an interesting read. Im 29 and finally decided to try a bit of a beard on for size after a lifetime of shaving.

    The stubbly beard look suits me well, and im already noticing people treating me in a more manly and serious fashion, almost like im walking around with a large pair of balls hanging out of my pants.

    Anyway the only problem with my stubbly beard is that either side on the jaw line i have a small area of limited growth, i am somewhat perplexed by this refusal to conform from these areas of my face but i am happily enlightened now as to the reasons for such rebellious behaviour from these lazy hair follicles.

    For this i must thank you, and remember people…the beard is mightier than the tash!

  • Thanks for the information. You write very well for the common man.

  • The same thing happend to me a few weeks ago, great beard since the late teens, now all of a sudden a patch came sort of overnight, i have split up with my gf recently and am going through some issues at work and am thinking it is related, but can’t be sure. I also read somewhere that it can be caused by a sexual desease called syphullus.. not sure if i spet that correctly, but also worth bearing in mind for some readers.

  • Hey Beard Coach~
    My beard is extremely thick and has been from about the time I was 18. However, Im now 35 and over the last few months I’ve noticed I’ve slowly started to develop some bald patches in my beard? It’s occuring on either side of my chin. Any suggestions on how to prevent this? Will it stop? Will it grow back? Thanks.
    -JJ