While walking down the streets these days, you would see men with fully grown beards which is becoming very fashionable these days. There is even a name for it, the beard gangs.
For most boys growing up pre-puberty, it is almost like a competition on who will be the first to grow facial hair. The myth of hair growth when you cut it led most of us to start shaving the skin in the bid to force the hair out! It was a competition of who will be the first to have that facial hair.
But, sadly, some of the boys may never be that man with full-grown face warmer. Not everyone could grow a beard, even amongst those who could grow one, only a handful could successfully pull it off to a high degree of having an even full-blown beard.
But is there an explanation, medically or otherwise, that could help point us in the right direction while Tom could have a fully grown beards, or why Jerry spots tiny sparsely dotted facial hair like a desert trying to grow some grass while others just got the look of Lord Varys, the fictional character in The Game of Thrones TV series; absolute hairlessness?
The most straightforward explanation which comes to mind for someone with little knowledge of biology is testosterone. Testosterone is the male sex hormone which is often referred to as an anabolic steroid. The anabolic steroid increases the formation of protein in cells and produces androgens such as testosterone.
When asked about this, there is the likelihood to conclude that men with more testosterones have more facial hairs, after all, isn't testosterone responsible for male sexual development?
The answer may not be entirely correct. Testosterone is indeed a hormone that is responsible for the regulation of sexual development. But it regulates multiple traits, chief of which is the male secondary sex characteristics. The male secondary sexual characteristics are the physical attributes which are associated with males but not directly related to reproduction.
You would agree with me that the beards may be sexy, but it is not something you need in reproduction.
They include the building of more muscle mass, more pronounced Adam's apple, a deeper voice (low pitched), broad shoulders and chests and of course facial hair.
Even though testosterone is the hormone that makes men have facial hair and in some instance women too, they are not the reason some guys cannot join the beard gang.
It is a tricky situation here since the levels of testosterone is not an indicator that can be used as a yardstick to forecast the level of hair growth. I bet you've seen a well-built "man's man" with no facial hair.
So what can we use to predict facial hair? Ok. I will tell. The chemical that is the culprit here is known as dihydrotestosterone or simply called DHT.
It is a more potent form of testosterone which. It is produced by the less potent testosterone through an enzyme known as enzyme 5α-reductase found in some particular tissues.
The table below shows some biological functions of the DHT and testosterone at puberty in the male.
|Voice deepening||Pubic, facial, axillary, and body hair growth|
|Fertility and Sperm production||Prostate enlargement and cancer risk|
|Deepening of voice||Pattern hair loss, and scalp recession|
|Increased acne and sebum production|
|Sex drive and erections|
The possibility of hair growth or loss is dependent on the number of androgen receptors beneath your skin.
The 5α-reductases can metabolise the testosterone to form a more potent androgen known as DHT. These can then bind the androgen receptors or AR. The DHT has more affinity compared to testosterone to attach to the AR.
The more the AR under the top layer of your skin, the more the DHT that binds on to them which translates to more hair on lower half of your heard (beard) but a loss in the upper half due to the high DHT presence.
Wikipedia Commons, Figure by Jonathan Marcus, original drawing by Dr. Marianne D Sadar: Human androgen receptor and androgen binding
But the same DHT may cause different results due to genetics and the type of hair follicles. The gene decides the number of AR that you have. So this may come as a sort of consolation for the beardless gangs out there, it is not you, it is the gene! You may want to write a strongly worded letter to the headquarters of genetics.
Though male pattern baldness could be treated by medication, as some of the medicine can lower the production of DHT, there is very little you can do if your genes decide to give you a limited number of AR which you will need to be that bearded gentleman you have always wished for.
There are few exceptions where men with both DHT and many androgen receptors end up developing alopecia areata or spot baldness, the spots of hair loss in the centre of healthy hair growth. This hair loss type is treatable.
But what happens when women grow facial hairs? It is not that common, and the condition is known as hirsutism. It is a condition caused by a more than normal levels of testosterone coupled with plenty of androgen receptors. Women also produce testosterone but in smaller amounts.
But as a young man above 20, if you have issues developing the bearded look, the bad news is that you are not likely to get the hair.
But it is not downhill from here; there have been some concerns about hygiene on beards. In fact, a reaserch made in 1967 wrote an article on their findings called Microbiological Laboratory Hazard of Bearded Men.
The hypothesis tested was on how safe it was for people with the beard working in labs to contaminated infection when exposed to infectious microorganisms.
The test subjects had bacteria sprayed on their beards and were allowed to wash them off, after careful washing they were tested.
beards retained microorganisms and toxin despite washing with soap and water.ScientificAmerican
But later study cast doubts on this findings.
The study examined over 400 medical staff and found bacterial colonization was “similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair." Of note, staff without facial hair had higher rates of colonization with pathogenic bacteria like methicillin-resistant coagulase-negative staphylococci. ScientificAmerican
In conclusion, everyone should maintain a high level of hygiene and enjoy the bearded look. And if by chance you do not have any, and you are forever the man with the boy face, revel in the fact that you may not grow bald in the future. But if you wanted a beard so badly, you may just get a glue-on beard and join the gang :)