Once upon a time, cutting off a man’s beard was a public way to shame him. This was because the beard was an iconic symbol of masculinity and maturity. In fact, in ye olden times, a man was not a man if he was unable to grow a generous amount of hair under his chin. Many even believed that the length and fullness of one’s beard was directly proportional to their virility and wisdom. Because nothing says macho alpha male better than a full and glorious beard, right?
Of course, it’s since become much less necessary for men to grow one. Over the centuries, society’s positive attitude towards beards has waxed and waned, and at one point, having a beard was even a taxable offense. Nowadays, men sport beards mostly because they want to, not because they weren’t considered respectable adults without them.
But what about when you can barely grow peach fuzz even after a week of no shaving? Or when all you can produce is a patchy mess that embarrasses you more than anything else? Some men skip one day of shaving and end up with a full bush on their faces; others longingly stroke their wispy whiskers.
Why is it that certain men simply have a harder time growing beards than others? What marks them different from their most hirsute brethren?
The short answer? Genetics. So if you’ve gone all your life with cheeks as smooth as a baby’s bottom despite your best efforts? Blame Mom and Dad.
You see, beards grow because of testosterone. More specifically, beards are caused by testosterone’s stronger and more powerful by-product, the androgen Dihydrotestosterone, which is the primary reason you went from boy to man during puberty. Without DHT, your balls wouldn’t have dropped, you wouldn’t have any body or pubic hair, and you wouldn’t know what a sex drive was if it hit you in the face. So yes fellas, you owe a hell of a lot to this hormone.
Many equate a person’s testosterone level to how manly they are, mostly because it’s responsible for increased muscle mass and strength, as well directly linked to aggressive behavior, according to extensive studies. It’s no wonder then, that beards, which many believe directly result from high amounts of testosterone in the body, act as a societal and biological sign of masculinity and dominance for humans.
But the thing is, high levels of testosterone don’t actually immediately translate to the ability to grow a luxurious beard at a moment’s notice. At the end of the day, your genes dictate how responsive you are to the hormones in your body, and consequently, how well you’ll be able to produce facial hair. So even if you’re swimming in testosterone, if you’re not coded for it, you still won’t be able to get that hipster lumberjack beard you’ve been hoping for.
Ironically, it’s been found that men who are sensitive to DHT, while being gifted with the ability to grow a beard, are also more likely to have Male Pattern Baldness as they grow older. Take it as nature’s way of balancing things out, letting those who can’t get pass stubble keep full heads of hair.
So the next time you’re feeling embarrassed about not being able to grow what you consider a respectable amount of fur on your face, just remember that it’s got nothing to do with how manly you are. You simply weren’t built for it, the same way you don’t have blue eyes or ginger hair. Own your look, smooth baby-face and all. And hey, at least you know you won’t be going bald anytime soon!
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