A lot of people have a lot of different questions. And sometimes those questions line up so that a lot of people have the same question. And people ask the internet for answers to these questions like “Why are tears salty?” or “How do I get rid of bedbugs?” or maybe just “How do I see more cat videos?” We’re all about fostering curiosity here are SciShow – that’s why we’ve worked with Google and YouTube to answer 10 of the most googled questions on the internet.
This is The World’s Most Asked Questions. Today’s question: “How do I grow a beard?” Well I can’t really help you sprout a stylish Van Dyke or a bushy Shenandoah or a Lincoln-esque chin curtain. But I can explain the science of facial hair; all you need to have for a big, bristly beard are two things. First: testosterone. Both males and females produce the sex hormone testosterone. But the highest levels typically occur in males who have reached sexual maturity.
Testosterone is responsible for all of the secondary sex characteristics you generally find in men, like more muscle mass, more body hair, and an enlarged larynx resulting in a deeper voice. It also triggers the growth of facial hair. But the whiskers don’t just show up out of nowhere; testosterone actually interacts with the little wispy peach-fuzzy hairs that everybody already has, pigmenting them to make them darker and stimulating them to grow thicker.
But make no mistake, the bushiness of a man’s beard is not a measure of how much testosterone he’s producing. Lots of research comparing men across various ethnic groups found that guys who produce less facial hair have the same hormone levels as those who look like Duck Dynasty stand-ins. So what else do you need? The right genes. ‘Cause it takes two players to make a whisker after all. The testosterone and the follicle, or sac in the skin where the little fuzzy hair grows into a thick bristle.
But the thing is, not all follicles respond to testosterone’s chemical signal in the same way. Genetic variations can change your follicles’ sensitivity to hormones; as a result some guys’ hairs have a hard time reading and responding to the signal, resulting in your kinda patchy Bob Dylan scraggle. While others are really sensitive to the hormone, giving you your Sacha Baron Cohen types.
So just as the hair on your head is a certain color and texture depending on your genes, so is your beard, or lack thereof. Finally, a tip that might save you some trouble: shaving really does not make your beard grow faster! We’re not sure how that myth got started, but it probably has to do with the fact that hairs are long and tapered, coming to a narrow point at the end. When you shave off the skinny top of the hair, you leave the thicker lower part exposed, making it look a little bigger.
But your whiskers won’t grow in any more full or lush because you shaved them. Like it or not, you’re stuck with whatever your face can produce; for me it’s mostly just…right here…ughh. Unscientific survey analysis time: SciShow Space watchers, according to the survey. Were way more likely to have beards than people who don’t watch SciShow Space. Now that seems really weird until you realize that SciShow Space viewers also are much more likely to have Y chromosomes, and thus a lot more testosterone, which is why statisticians are important.
Of all the fascinating questions in the world, what question do you want answered most? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter or in the comments down below, and we will answer. The best questions in a new video at the end of the month. And don’t forget to use the hashtag #WMAQ for World’s Most Asked Questions and stay tuned to SciShow for more answers.