Can everyone grow a beard? Beards are said to be the product of masculinity and virility, but the truth involves a very different and far more specific explanation.
I’ll put it bluntly: some men can’t –and will never be able to– grow a beard. With the current state of medical science and technology, there are no procedures to facilitate beard-growing (short of very expensive hair-transplants). So, no, you can’t grow a beard by increasing your testosterone levels, nor by taking a magic pill or rubbing a miracle cream on your face. It’s frustrating for many men, and many are left wondering what exactly have they done to deserve it. So, why is it that some men grow majestic facial hair and some are left with patchy stubble?
A common misconception is that beards depend entirely on testosterone levels, but that’s not actually how it works. Testosterone is just one among many hormones called androgens. Androgens are known to regulate several male-typical features, including the amount and density of hair. Usually, testosterone levels are roughly the same among all males, so that’s not the main reason for the annoying beard-growing differences. According to several studies, there’s another chemical that’s crucial, called dihydrotestosterone (or DHT), for inducing beard-growth.
So, here’s what happens. Our skin has tiny hormonal receptors that make us more or less sensitive to the hormones they are related to, meaning that a person with many androgen receptors on the bottom of their face will be very sensitive to DHT, therefore growing an imposing beard. Those lacking sensitivity to the right androgens simply won’t.
Let’s be clear, then: it’s not your testosterone levels or your overall masculinity that determines whether or not you grow a beard: it’s simply how sensitive you are to testosterone and, more specifically, to DHT. And what controls the number of receptors and sensitivity to hormones? In short, genes.
That’s right. Ultimately, the answer is all about genetics. There’s no secret substance whose levels we can manipulate to generate the results we want: you either have the appropriate receptors, or you don’t. I know this sounds like terrible and discouraging news, but there’s an upside. Those who are sensitive to DHT on the lower part of their face usually have the same receptors on the top of their heads. And what does DHT cause when it acts on those? Baldness.
So, actually, having a patchy beard is a sign that you’ll have a full head of hair for a long time. If you can’t grow facial hair, be happy to know you probably won’t go bald any time soon. It’s ironic, but it balances out pretty well in the end.
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