Why Some Men Can’t Grow Beards

Narrator: Look at that beard. The density. The thickness. It’s what a beard is supposed to be! Not this. This is my beard, if you
even want to call it a beard. This footage was taken after
I let it grow for two weeks. Two weeks! It’s thin, patchy, and in some spots there’s no hair at all. Sad. But let’s look at this one again. This is Kevin. We’re around the same age, both Caucasian males of Irish descent. You could say we have a lot in common, except in the facial hair department. So, I asked a dermatologist about why he’s able to
grow a beard and I’m not. Dr. Chwalek: It’s based on
genetics as well as hormones. Some men, you know, have
more hair follicles, so they can grow denser,
coarser beards than others. Testosterone gets converted
in the hair follicle to a more potent form
called dihydrotestosterone. Some hair follicles have receptors on them that are very sensitive to this higher form of
testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and that will stimulate hair growth. Graham: How would you
characterize my facial hair? Dr. Chwalek: I’d say it’s like, sparse, and you have light-colored hair, so it doesn’t show up quite as much. Graham: I can’t really grow a great beard. It’s been a problem. I want one. I wanna look
like my colleague, Kevin. I mean, look at that beard. It is just glorious. Why can’t I grow a beard like Kevin? Dr. Chwalek: Well, Kevin
has some good hair genes, so because of that, the hair follicles on his face are more sensitive to the effects of a form of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone which can help to stimulate thicker,
coarser, longer hair growth in some areas of the
body like the beard area. Narrator: Beards and facial hair have long been associated
with masculinity and virility. I began to wonder if my inability to grow thick facial hair like Kevin makes me less of a man. Graham: Does the fact
that I can’t grow a beard, does it make mean that
I have low testosterone? Dr. Chwalek: No. Men
who can’t grow a beard or have patchy beards usually have normal testosterone levels. It isn’t a reflection of
having low testosterone or being deficient in testosterone. Graham: So, you can still be virile – Dr. Chwalek: Right. Graham: And grow a crappy beard like this? Dr. Chwalek: Yes. Graham: Okay, good. Narrator: And in fact, there are some ways to increase the chances
of growing facial hair, but shaving more often isn’t one of them. Dr. Chwalek: So, the idea that shaving can impact hair growth is actually a myth. When you’re shaving, you’re
just cutting the hair off at the surface of the skin, and what’s controlling the hair growth is really occurring deeper in the skin. So, it shouldn’t have any impact on how quickly the hair grows,
or how dense the hair grows. People have tried topical
Rogaine or Minoxidil. These things may stimulate
a little hair growth, but assuming it’s due to genetics, then you’re kind of
stuck with what you have. Graham: It’s all about the
sensitivity of the hair follicles and how they interact with this – Dr. Chwalek: Dihydrotestosterone
or androgens in the blood. Graham: So, you’re saying that, that his hair follicles are “sensitive.” Dr. Chwalek: Yes. Graham: See, mine aren’t. Dr. Chwalek: Right. Graham: They aren’t
sensitive. They’re like rocks. They have no sensitivity at all. Okay, so I win that! Dr. Chwalek: Right.


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