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Why Do People Grow Beards?

man with a beard
Beards are one of those timeless looks that an increasing number of men are returning to recently. Reasons for doing so vary, but many people agree that beards and other facial hair add “character” or contribute to a man having “rugged good looks”. Aesthetics are always up to the person doing the viewing though and as a result beards aren’t quite surging into massive popularity even if they are becoming more acceptable again. Why do men grow beards though? Why does anyone grow facial hair at all? It doesn’t appear to serve us any purpose and many men alongside others who grow facial hair tend to simply remove it regularly rather than let it grow. The reasons for why people grow facial hair aren’t actually terribly complicated. It does require knowing just a little bit about biology though and being willing to remember a lot more people deal with facial hair than just men.

A Story of Mammals
Human are classified as mammals by science. This specifically means we’re warm-blooded and grow hair or fur all over our bodies. It means a lot of other thing, but those are two of the more distinguishing characteristic that help define our place in that category. The hair/fur growth is an important point to note. We have little trouble seeing this when we look at a cat, dog, or even a bear. Their fur is quite obvious. Most of our hair…isn’t. This is because the evolutionary path humans took has more or less lead to body hair having relatively little to do. As a result, most of our body hair is actually light, soft, and almost invisible to the naked eye. This is the youngest stage of hair growth and for the most part it stays there unless given the appropriate signals to grow into further stages that are darker and coarser. These signals take the form of hormones.

Hair and Hormones
Most body hair that will become evident begins to become evident when we hit puberty. This is because our hormone levels are beginning to rise to adult levels to help prompt our physical growth. Hair growth patterns are deeply tied to hormone concentrations within the body. Testosterone, the dominant chemical for most men, is deeply tied to promoting the further growth of body hair. It provides the right signals to hairs to go to a further growth stage. This is why most men grow facial hair and have comparatively dark body hair when compared to most women. Facial hair in particular is encouraged to become darker and stronger than it would otherwise be by testosterone. Estrogen, the dominant chemical for most women, tends not to promote much hair growth at all. In fact, the switch to higher estrogen levels from testosterone demonstrated by trans women on hormone replacement therapy actually leads to hair growth cycles reversing and a lightening of hair over time. The reverse of this is also true for trans men whose body hair darkens and actually leads to them growing obvious facial hair.

Facial Hair Isn’t Just For Men
A notable point to make that many people don’t think about it plenty of people deal with facial hair simply because they’re human. Everyone’s hormone levels shift around over the course of their lives. Menopausal and postmenopausal women frequently need to pluck or shave as the higher testosterone levels after that part of their lives leads to a few errant bits of facial hair here or there. Some women also have conditions that promote facial hair growth as well. Facial hair is a human thing and not something that should necessarily be split along gendered lines. This belief won’t disappear overnight, but it should hopefully at least help provide comfort to anyone who has to deal with facial hair that would rather not. Everyone has facial hair…it is simply a matter of whether people can notice it or not.

Hair is part of the human condition. Not everyone quite realizes that though. We tend to break down different kinds of hair as being something men get to have or that women get to have instead. This isn’t really accurate. Humanity, hormones, and style are far greater than any two boxes can encompass. Anyone can grow facial hair with the right signals from hormones, after all. It is up to the individual whether they embrace it or remove it.

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