You haven’t shaved in three weeks, and you’re staring in the mirror. You’re looking at your beard… or so you would technically call it. It’s patchy. It’s scraggly. Some parts are weirdly thick and other parts are pitifully thin. There are spots where no hair grows at all. It’s not a beard: It’s a facial disaster that needs to be put out of its misery and shaved off immediately. Why, oh why, you wonder, can’t I grow a damn beard?
If this is you, or has been you, I have some bad news for you. “The number one reason would be genetics,” says dermatologist Rajani Katta. “Genetically speaking, some people are able to grow a longer or thicker beard than others.” That is to say, if you can’t grow a decent beard, someone in your family tree couldn’t grow one either, and passed those bad facial hair genes down to you. They could come directly from your father, or your mother courtesy of your maternal grandfather. They don’t necessarily affect your siblings equally; if you have a brother with a beard like a lumberjack’s and all you can grow are wisps, it just means you lost the genetic beard lottery, and there’s not that much you can do about it.
You do have a few options. You can get a beard transplant, but it would be helpful to win an actual lottery first, as they can cost thousands of dollars. You can start exercising, eating better and getting plenty of sleep, because when you get healthier, your hair gets healthier as well. You can stop shaving for a few months and hope that your beard fills out more with age. But there’s nothing you can do to change your genes.
If things seem hopeless, there is a possibility that there will be ways to improve your beard growth more substantially… in the future. “There’s definitely a lot of research being done in that area, and I think it’s kind of intriguing,” says Katta. “Could there be something you can apply topically? Right now, there’s nothing that I can firmly get behind. [But] stay tuned!”