A guide for growing a long beard

So, How Long Does it Take to Grow a Beard?

Let’s be honest: while every guy has looked at himself in the mirror and wondered what he’d look like with a beard, the prospect of growing one – and maintaining it – can be pretty daunting. How do you grow a beard properly – a real piece of barbered perfection, not just scratchy, patchy bum-fluff? And how long will it take?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, the good news is that there’s probably never been a better time – with people working from home and living through lockdowns – to give it a go. It could take you from one to six months to get the look you want, with genetics, diet, exercise, and testosterone all playing a part, but we’re with you all the way. And we have the perfect plan to help get you started and keep you motivated: a five-step guide that will take you through the four stages of beard growth, from decision day right up to the maintenance of your perfect beard.

The Smart Guy’s Guide: How to Grow a Beard in Five Easy Steps

There’s no getting away from it; it’s a cruel fact that while some guys are blessed with the ability to grow a frankly astonishing amount of facial hair in the blink of an eye, for others, it can take weeks to see signs of progress.
Wherever you are on the spectrum, hirsute or baby-faced, following our five-step plan will help maximize your chance of success.

STEP 1: The Planning Stage

Man is thinking about beard-growth steps

Time to make a plan and commit to growing a beard.

Growing a beard requires a certain amount of thought and planning. You’re going to need to commit to the project, and even a short beard will take some time and effort. Be patient, and stick with it. No pain, no gain.

While you’re waiting for the initial growth, you should start thinking about what type of beard you’re aiming for and what will suit you best. After all, the ZZ Top look really doesn’t suit everyone, so why get yourself demoralized unnecessarily if something shorter is going to be your coolest look? Typically, a bushy beard looks better on guys with narrower faces, while longer beards are more suited to the rounder-faced among us. Whatever beard style you opt for should give your head an oval appearance.

Three men with beards are standing in a row

We’ve got some top tips for getting a head start now you’re committed and have embarked on your beard growth journey:

  • It might seem counter-intuitive, but make a point of shaving every day for a week or so, helping stimulate the follicles. If you’ve ever tried to grow a beard before and remember any area where the growth was patchy, then try shaving that area against the grain.
  • Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate! Taking the time for this, making it a part of your daily grooming regime, will get rid of dead skin cells. It’s something you should do once your beard’s fully-grown, so it’s good to incorporate it into your routine early on. Plus, you’ll know you’re working on your plan and doing something positive!

In these early stages of growth, you’ll probably just need to accept that your beard is going to look a patchy, stubbly mess. Realistically, it’s going to look more like scrubby waste ground than a perfectly-manicured lawn. To keep yourself motivated and sticking to your plan, maybe start during your holidays to avoid co-workers’ painful scrutiny. Or, if you’re working from home right now, perhaps think about the settings for any Zoom meetings.

Step 2: Diet and Fitness

Sneakers, dumbbells and a weight

Working on your body works on your beard.

Physical condition and diet both play a big role in growing a beard. Regular exercise helps with blood circulation, which also impacts how fast your hair grows. We all know that a proper fitness regime helps relieve stress – and stress can slow beard growth; doing exercise a win-win for general health and beard health, alike.

There’s a beard-friendly diet to consider, too. Your new beard – whatever stage it’s at-will love you if you start the day with oatmeal or eggs. Beyond breakfast, think about lean beef, fish, or chicken breast. Beards love veg, so get some broccoli or Brussel sprouts on the menu, and your facial hair will flourish. For snacks, think fruits, nuts, and seeds, with milk and plenty of water.

You could consider talking to your doctor or asking at a health food shop about vitamin and mineral supplements that might help speed up your beard growth and keep it in tip-top condition. After all, if you’re going to all this effort, you’re going to want to do the best for your new beard.

Step 3: The Early Stages of Growth

Man is checking his beard in the mirror

Time for patience: it’s the hair and the tortoise, at first.

We’re not going to lie – it’s challenging for the first few weeks. Catch yourself in a mirror, unsuspecting, or look up when you’re brushing your teeth one morning. One cold, hard glance could have you throwing in the towel in horror and embarrassment. But don’t mess with it and don’t give up! Yes, there will be patchy spots. And probably the beginnings of a slightly crazy shape. Trust us – let it get thicker, and you’ll get through your beard’s equivalent of its teenage phase. Then, you can groom, sculpt, and shape. For now, you just need to live with the pain and the patches and keep exfoliating.

Man is scrubbing his beard

On the subject of pain, you might well be finding some itchiness and discomfort. Often, even when guys can deal with the shambolic look of fresh beard growth, the desire to scratch can be overwhelming and put an end to the whole project. Again, don’t give up! In fact, you’re now onto the next phase of beard growth: congratulations, and let the conditioning commence! Starting with the growth you have, try some beard oil or beard cream. You can apply argan oil or coconut oil to your new beard before you go to bed, which will soften the hairs and make things more comfortable. But you’re now on your way to being properly bearded – and four to six weeks from day one, you’ll find the itchiness will go. Just stick with it. And keep conditioning.

Step 4: Taking Shape and Filling out – Time for a Visit to the Barber

A man is touching his short brown beard

You’re ready to visit a barbershop – it’s time for the experts.

If you’ve reached this point, 4 – 6 weeks in, then you have our congratulations and respect. You’ve got through the early days of nothingness, the awkward horror of patchy, random scrub, as well as the itchiness of initial growth, all the while exfoliating and conditioning. We salute you!

Your beard should now be taking shape nicely. Any patchy spots should be much less noticeable, and your beard should be noticeably softer since you started with the conditioning. So, now’s the time to start thinking about beard grooming basics, starting with daily brushing. You’ll want to get your jawline, neckline, cheeks, and mustache cleaned up and tidied, and it’s always good to get a professional onto this – with the investment you’ve already made to get to this point, we think you know you’re worth it!

A properly trained stylist can get your new beard looking its absolute best and give you all the advice you need to put the finishing touches to the look you want so that you can maintain it yourself. A good barber can help with any specific beard-growth problems you might have and give you general beard-maintenance tips. They might even have some ideas for a fresh style idea that suits you best.

Step 5: Your Beard Has Filled Out, so It’s Time for Housekeeping and Maintenance

A man is showing thumbs up while looking in the mirror to his medium beard

Look after your beard – you’ve worked hard, now make the most of it.

You’ve been exfoliating, and you’ve been conditioning and brushing your newly filled-out beard. Finally, it looks the way you envisioned at the start. The patchy, crappy bits are long-gone, the barber’s helped you get the perfect shape for you, and your hair is soft, not scratchy, and you should be feeling pretty proud.

Congratulations! Now, you’ve turned from beard growth to beard maintenance. You’re not growing a beard – you have a beard. And it needs the same maintenance as the hair on your head – regular washing, conditioning, brushing, and trimming. But remember, too, to take care of the skin underneath your beard, and help keep it in great condition with a healthy lifestyle: exercise and a good diet.

As well as the 5-step guide, we’ve got some more information that might make a good read, especially while you’re in the early stages of your beard-growth project. Here are some of our favorite bits of info and a 4-step guide to the stages of beard growth.

How Fast Does Hair Grow?

Man's face divided into two parts: one without a beard, the other with a beard

Cutting to the chase, here and, broadly speaking, a beard will grow at about ½ inch a month – maybe a bit faster in the early days and then slowing growth as it fills out. That said, there are a few influencing factors, including:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Diet
  • Physical health
  • Hair care and skin care routine

Can I Grow a Beard Faster?

A person is looking at his wristwatch

A quick recap through the 5-step plan.

We’ve all seen the ads – there are some radical treatments out there that promise great and fast beard- and hair growth. Expensive and potentially risky options. In reality, most guys are far better off sticking with the natural option – it takes a bit of patience but will pay off in the long-term. No snake oils, no magic pills, just patience, and a simple plan:

  • Shave every day for a week prior to starting your beard (also read: Best Foil Shavers – Guide 2021)
  • Exfoliate! And use facial scrubs to help circulation and get rid of dead skin. Keep this regime up from when you first plan to grow a beard right through full beard growth.
  • Leave it alone for the first 4-6 weeks. Really, just leave it alone!
  • Exercise and maintain a beard-friendly diet. Your body and your beard will both thank you.
  • If you smoke, try stopping. This might be the best incentive you’ve had to finally quit! Improved blood circulation helps beard-growth and, once you’ve grown your beard, all that conditioning and oiling will maintain such a better aroma.
  • Reduce your stress levels – less stress could mean more hair!
  • Get enough sleep. As with stress, generally, proper sleep can only improve general health, and this will show through in your beard.
  • We are what we sleep, after all.
  • Use beard oils or conditioners. These will help you through the itchy-scratchy phase and, once you have your full beard, they’ll make you feel fab and keep your beard looking great.
  • Brush and maintain your beard. Your face may be your fortune. In other words, you’ve put a lot of effort into getting a properly-grown, properly-maintained beard. Keep it that way – you’ve worked for it, after all!

How Long Does It Really Take to Grow a Full Beard?

A man is thinking about a long beard

It’s a commitment – we aren’t going to lie. It’s going to be anything from a month to six months before you get the kind of beard you first had in your mind’s eye. But, as we’ve seen, effort – including diet, exercise, and skin care regimes – can really help. If you won the gene lottery, then you definitely have a head start. If not, then you’ll just need a bit of patience.
Mostly, just don’t give up: take your time, keep up with the five steps, you’ll get there. And it’ll be worth it!

The Four Main Phases of Beard Growth Explained

Stages of beard growing

Ok, by now, you’ve got the idea that growing a beard is a commitment and isn’t just a project for the weekend. With factors such as age and genetics playing their part, it’s still likely to take a few months for most guys to get their ideal look. Helpfully, there are four main phases of growth. Read these as you embark on the project, and it might help you chart your progress and stay motivated.

Stage 1: Five O’Clock Shadow

The first stage, and one with which most guys will be familiar – let’s be honest, more through laziness than by design. Looks-wise, this stage can go one of two ways. Some men can really pull off this look and work to maintain it.

But not everyone can be George Clooney. If your stubble isn’t looking pretty, don’t get discouraged. A proper beard takes time and patience. Take your mind off your stubble by maintaining a good skincare routine, using beard oil and a boar hair brush to minimize any itching, and remembering to keep up with exfoliation to stimulate follicles and get you past the patchy, stubbly stage.

Stage 2: Is This a Beard? Is This Really as Good as It Gets?

So, it’s a hard truth, but this phase can be pretty gruesome. You might well find yourself, shoulders slumped, staring gloomily into the mirror and seeing a weird patchy mess looking back at you. Adding injury to insult, it’s probably going to be itchy, too. Focus on your end goal, and don’t quit. It’s just a frustrating phase, but it means progress! Stick to the five-step plan, and you can and will grow a beard. Keep exfoliating, keep using the beard oil – chuck every moisturizing product in our plan at the problem – and the itchy phase will end, and those empty patches WILL disappear.

Stage 3: Congratulations! You Have a Beard and Its Time to Sculpt

Your beard is now looking like a beard should – if you’re reading this at the start of the project, we promise you will get to this point. So now, the fun starts, and it’s time to do some trimming and some shaping. Beard aficionados recommend that you start about an inch above your Adam’s apple, removing anything below that point and continuing to the edges of your jawline. It may feel sad to see that hard work literally going down the plughole, but you’ll look much better for it, and your beard will thank you. You might think about a visit to the barbers to help get the look you’re trying to achieve. It’s all good!

Stage 4: Proper Beard Maintenance – You’ll a Fully-Fledged Bearded Man

You are now the proud owner of a formidable beard. You know the time and effort – and maybe the pain – that you’ve put into this, so you’re going to want to keep it healthy and good-looking. Time to think about maintenance. Give your beard trim when it starts to get a bit wild or straggly and keep up with the brushing and exfoliation. Welcome to the world of beard beauty! One glance around Instagram should give you a pretty good idea of the range of accessories and products – scissors, oils, and balms – available to help any hipster maintain their look.

Age and Potential: How Does Age Impact on Beard Growth Potential?

A young man with a long brown beard under 30 and an older man with a short grey beard above 30

Testosterone levels play a major part in the quality and quantity of beard growth. While puberty triggers beard growth, this doesn’t automatically mean a classroom full of schoolboys comparing and grooming their full, lush beards!

Typically, beard growth peaks around the 20s to early 30s, with testosterone levels naturally dropping by about one or two percent a year after that, which usually leads to thinning and greying of beard hair. So, if you’re in the optimum age group, in your beard-growing prime, then congratulations – now are the perfect time to embark on the 5-step beard project!

If you’re in your 30s, don’t panic – it doesn’t mean you’ve missed the beard-growing boat; it just means your beard may be a bit thinner, a little greyer, and it may not fill out so quickly. But it’s not a competition – it’s your project – your beard. And you should still be able to grow a full beard if you take the right approach. Remember, genetics play a part, and you may have struck it lucky. Either way, and whatever age, it’s your beard, your project, and you should find something to suit – and there a lot of fans of the silver fox out there.

Talk to the Professionals: Risks at the Barber

A man is cursing

After all the hard work and – let’s face it – the emotional investment, you really should talk to a professional and get yourself to a barber to help you maintain your beautiful beard. You can trim it yourself, keep on top of it, but it’s never going to look as sharp as when it’s cared for by a professional salon.

Now you’re happy with your beard, it may become a lifelong companion to your face, so choose your barber with care – it could be a long-time relationship, and you’ll want to find one that’s a keeper.

Sadly, not all barbers are created equal. A bad beard trim might not be as drastic as a bad tattoo, but there are a few risks to consider when selecting your barber. Not to alarm you – most barbershops are entirely safe and licensed. Still, there are a few unscrupulous establishments around, and even in the best barbershops, incompetent or unsupervised employees can make mistakes. Our salutary list includes:

  • Infections
  • Allergic reactions – you should be able to talk to your barber about any skin conditions before any product application
  • Cuts
  • Disease caused by unsanitary equipment
  • Hair loss from the bad technique or lack of skills
  • Burns from equipment misuse
  • Head lice

No one thinks of going to the barber as a risky activity – really, why would you?! But accidents happen. And when they do, it’s good to know that you may have some legal recourse. Suppose risks at a barbershop cause you trouble, and you need legal help. In that case, we advise you to check the article Common Risks in a Barbershop written by law specialists from UK solicitors’ directory Solicitors.guru.