You’ve probably noticed that many products are designed specifically for beards — beard oil, beard balm, shampoo, conditioner, etc.
But why? Why do you need different products for your beard hair than your head hair?
To help you find answers to this question, we did the research for you — so let’s discuss how your beard hair differs from your head hair (and why it matters).
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The Different Types of Hair: Head vs. Body
Unlike the hair that grows on our heads, our beard hair develops from a secondary sex characteristic that men have, allowing us to grow facial hair as we go through adolescence.
Related: Why Some Men Can’t Grow Beards
And while women can also tend to grow hair on their face, it’s typically to a much lesser extent, especially before menopause; however, that’s an entirely different story.
The different parts of our bodies sprout different kinds of hair:
- Lanugo hair is the thick, fine hair you see on newborn babies. This hair falls out either before or soon after birth.
- Vellus hair is light, short, and delicate. It develops during childhood and covers most of the body besides the palms, soles, lips, etc., which are different type of hair that develops later. These hairs sprout from hair follicles that aren’t connected to oil glands.
- Terminal hair is what grows on your head. This hair is long, thick, and typically darker than the hair you’ll find elsewhere on your body. Once you enter puberty, this hair replaces the vellus hair found in your armpits and around the pubic area. People (particularly men) can also develop terminal hair on their limbs, back, chest, feet, and face. Once this hair develops during puberty, it becomes known as androgenic hair.
Androgenic Hair, Growing Cycles, and Your Beard
Your beard hair and head hair both grow in three steps. However, your beard hair’s growing phases consist of much shorter cycles.
Those three steps are:
Anagen: The Growing Phase
All hair growth starts with the anagen phase. This is the longest phase — when it comes to the hair on your head, it lasts between three and five years. However, some people’s hair stays in this growing phase for seven or more years.
However, the anagen phase is shorter for other types of hair, including facial hair, pubic hair, eyebrow hair, etc.
During this phase, all your hair follicles push out hairs that will keep growing until you cut them or they reach the end of their life, falling out.
In fact, 90% of your head hair is in the anagen phase at any given time.
Related: The Best Beard Soaps
Catagen: The Transition Phase
Then, when the anagen phase ends, the catagen phase begins. This phase typically lasts around ten days.
During this step, your hair growth slows, and your hair follicles shrink. Your hair also separates from the bottom of your hair follicles; however, they remain in place during the final days of growth.
While the majority of your hair is always in the anagen phase, only around 5% are in this phase at any time.
Telogen: The Resting Phase
Finally, there’s the telogen phase, which lasts around three months. In this phase, around 10-15% of your head hair is resting.
Hairs no longer grow in the telogen phase but don’t typically fall out. Instead, during this step, new hairs begin forming into follicles that release their hairs in the catagen phase.
Androgenic Hair During This Cycle
Androgenic hair growth depends on the hormone testosterone. Essentially, the more testosterone you have, the more facial hair you can grow. However, testosterone is also responsible for terminal hair follicles changing back into vellus follicles over time — this is why middle-aged baldness can happen even if you have a luxurious, full beard.
The hair that grows on our faces is an entirely different beast from the hair that grows on our scalps (or anywhere else on our bodies). Facial hair is thicker and more wiry than what’s found on our heads.
In addition, the skin underneath it is different, too. While the skin on our scalp is typically more oils, facial skin is often drier. So, some cleansers are great for removing the excess oil from your head; however, they are too drying and harsh to use on your face and beard hair.
Other Differences Between Beard Hair and Head Hair
The differences between hair types don’t stop there — there are also variations in how your hair looks, tangles, etc.
For example, your head hair might be perfectly straight, but your beard hair could grow thick and curly. The reason for this change all comes down to how your hair follicles are shaped.
The follicles on your face are much more sensitive to testosterone and androgen; they make the follicles twist, resulting in kinked hair. So, even the comb or brush you use might need to be different styles — typically a softer one for your head hair and a stiffer one for your beard hair.
Beard Hair vs. Head Hair: Color
So, beard hair can grow with an entirely different texture compared to your head hair, but it can also have different colors.
It’s not uncommon for men to grow red hairs in their beard — even if they don’t have a single red hair anywhere else on their body.
In addition, while a man could have a full head of dark hair well into middle age, his beard could grow entirely gray.
Are some gray hairs getting you down? Luckily for you, you can dye your beard — Don’t forget a spray to lock in the color!
What Does It All Mean?
Beards typically need milder cleansers and additional conditioning products like beard oils to stay soft and healthy.
Related: Why Does My Beard Get Split Ends?