Help me grow a beard
May 24, 2012 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I want a beard. If I take testosterone, will it turn my straggly tufts into a lush manly chin carpet?

I am a cisgender dude.
posted by peter1982peter to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The beard coach says no, for reasons he explicates. You can read the articles he's citing to see if you think he's on the right track.
posted by jessamyn at 5:12 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nah, it doesn't really work like that, from what I've seen, and the beard coach makes a lot of sense.

Having watched testosterone use up close with a bunch of guys: more likely you'll end up with tiny testicles, back acne, extreme horniness, encroaching baldness and rage fits at traffic and long lines. ALSO an eight-pack of abs! Seriously, it's amazing, you can eat anything you want and you'll grow muscles. For a while. Also try not to punch anyone.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:27 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Not necessarily. Everyone is born with a genetically predisposed capability for growing facial hair. What determines the speed and density of facial hair on a person is that how activated that capability is by the total lifetime exposure to testosterone. You can sort of get an idea of how much unactivated beard hair you have by carefully feeling the nature of your peach fuzz.

Medieval scholars were fascinated by this question and took advantage of the brutality of the age to generate answers. It turns out that castrati, folks that were violently separated from their testicles, who were cut before puberty never grew beards but those who already had beards never lost them.

This is all to say that, yes, you might be able to improve your beard if the reason you don't have more beard is a chronic lack of testosterone. However, we now know that it isn't really testosterone exactly that does it, it is dihydrotestosterone, which is a derivative steroid. It is more likely that, and this still assumes you have a beard to develop, you do not produce enough of the enzyme which performs the conversion, 5-alpha-reductase. There is nothing that can be done about this.

Your doctor will be able to test you for testosterone levels to see if this is the cause of your issues, but even if it is, please keep in mind that testosterone is really fucking chronically toxic. It is pretty much the reason why women outlive men by a few years, despite being disadvantaged in lifespan markers in most other ways. Treatment with testosterone will likely shave years off of your life, and any 'deficiency' you might have would likely add years.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:28 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can also get a decent idea of how much testosterone you body has been exposed to so far at home by measuring your digit ratio.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:31 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not just back acne: face acne, too. And, if you're unfortunate, man-boobs (gynecomastia), as a result of peripheral aromatization of your excess androgens to estradiol.

Also, the 2D:4D digit ratio is thought to reflect prenatal androgenization and prenatal testosterone to estrogen balance, not later exposure to testosterone - the sexual dimorphism develops as early as nine weeks of gestation. So if you've got problems with testosterone now, you won't see them reflected in the digit ratio. (Not to say bone isn't hormone-responsive, it very much is, but adult bone changes are reflected in density, not length.)
posted by gingerest at 6:06 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Hey folks - answers need to at least mention "beards" to be on topic, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look into adding biotin to your vitamin regimen - it causes faster growth of thicker/shinier hair and fingernails, so it'd probably help your beard too. Possibly combine it with folic acid, too. This won't increase the number of follicles in your beard, but will possibly help your existing ones to create better beard.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:05 AM on May 25, 2012

Have you considered less drastic, more cosmetic solutions to your beard issues? For example, "straggly tufts" tend to look fuller if they are better organized, which means that you get a better effect if you edit your beard down to the least patchy bits, then trim what remains and (if applicable) color the beaded area with dye. (That last suggestion is assuming that at least some of the patchy appearance results from the beard being naturally varicolored; if the hair is in a fairly narrow range of shades, then the effect from a distance is more unified.)

Of course this all requires a good deal of maintenance, but surely it's less invasive than dosing yourself with testosterone.
posted by La Cieca at 10:49 AM on May 25, 2012

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