Why Does Beard Hair Turn White More Quickly Than Head Hair?

Why Does Beard Hair Turn White More Quickly Than Head Hair

Despite all historical evidence, every man believes he will be the first person never to get old. Then comes that first white hair, and the illusion of eternal youth is shattered. For the beardsman, that first white hair is rarely on top of his head. The beard normally turns white before the head hair does. Why is that?

Unfortunately, scientists have not cracked this question. However, one likely culprit is simply the speed at which beard follicles grow and replenish. Because facial hair grows and develops significantly faster than scalp hair, it likely depletes its pigment-imparting melanocytes more quickly.

To get a fuller picture of why beards turn white early, let’s look at how hair loses its pigmentation and what lifestyle changes might slow the process.

How Hair Goes White

To begin with, white hairs can appear at any time in life. While it’s true that almost every person’s hair and beard will lose most of their pigmentation as they get old, even young folks can get white hairs.

So, you probably don’t need to have an existential crisis over a single strand of colorless hair, whether on your head or in your beard.

On average, though, most people’s hair goes white as they age. This is because hair gets its color from cells in the follicle root. They are called melanocytes or melanin cells. Each follicle root has a finite amount of these cells.

After a certain span of time – which varies based on factors like genetics, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions – these cells will become depleted, and the hair will lose its pigment.

Aging Differences Between Face and Scalp Hair

All hair – whether on the scalp, body, or face – undergoes the same three-point life cycle. Here are the steps to that cycle:

  • Anagen Phase, during which hair grows rapidly.
  • Catagen Phase, a short transition where the hair separates from the follicle and attaches to the skin.
  • Telogen Phase, when a new hair pushes the old hair out, and the cycle begins again.

For hair growing from the scalp, the cycle listed above can take five years or more before restarting. The timeline is markedly shorter for facial hair, lasting only a few months.

Hair Life Cycle and Graying

As time passes, hair follicles deplete their melanin. However, scientists have never determined whether the speed of this cycle is a determining factor in beards turning white before hair.

What seems to be the case, however, is that the facial hair’s stores of melanocytes generally run dry before other hair does.

Myths about Whitening Hair

When considering the white hair in your beard, it’s easy to want to turn your life upside down to slow or reverse the process. That’s understandable, but you should first know what factors have been scientifically proven to cause whitening hair and which haven’t.

Here are some myths about the causes of white hair:

  • Stress has never been proven to be a factor in white hair.
  • Sunshine may lighten your hair seasonally, but it will not turn it white more quickly.
  • Dyeing your hair will not make it go white faster.
  • If you pluck a white hair, it will not lead to more white hairs. Feel free to dislodge the occasional salty follicle.

Lifestyle Changes that Affect Hair Whitening

Lifestyle Changes that Affect Hair Whitening

Now that you know which lifestyle changes have no appreciable effect on hair color, here are some items that can slow down the rate your beard goes white.

Of course, none of these is a silver bullet (pardon the pun), but each of them has been shown to promote resilient, younger-looking hair:

  • Grab yourself some B12 supplements. This vitamin promotes cell growth, which can bolster those fading melanocytes.
  • Vitamin D is another longevity-promoting nutrient. So, take one of those each day as well.
  • Eat hair-strengthening foods high in omega 3 acids, including leafy green vegetables, nuts, eggs, and fatty fish.
  • If you smoke, this is just one more reason to quit. Smoking has been positively linked to graying hair.

It is important to stress that these practices will not permanently prevent the emergence of white hair. The only solution to that is a Superman-reversing-the-rotation-of-the-earth scenario.

Pending that, let’s consider our options for addressing the impending snowstorm.

Dyeing with Dignity

The popular view of men dyeing their hair does have a slight stigma, but if you want to stave off the whitening of your beard, it’s probably your best option.

And you don’t need to fear the embarrassingly obvious dye jobs of eras past. Quality at-home beard-dyeing kits are better calibrated than ever to match your facial hair’s natural appearance. Matching the color is key to a good beard-dye plan. There is a temptation to just go with the darkest dye in your hue to mask the white aggressively. If you do that, you’ll end up looking like a boy wearing a greasepaint beard for Halloween.

As a general rule, you should look for a decent product in the same tone as your natural beard hair. With that, you can seamlessly blend your dyed areas with the untouched areas of your face and scalp.

If you’re going a little salt and pepper up top as well, it might be worth considering one of the “hint of gray” products on the market. At a certain point, you will need to move to an undyed graying look, after all. It’s not a bad idea to introduce the white gradually with a tiered beard-dye plan.

Embracing the Whitening Beard

We’ve spoken about white facial hair like it’s the Mark of Cain.

While you probably don’t want to spend your thirties and forties looking like Santa Claus, it can be exciting to embrace a dusting of white in your beard.

Research has determined that women are attracted to men with a little gray in their hair. It reflects maturity, experience, wisdom, and an ability to provide security. Surely, part of what initially attracted you to the lumberjack face was a desire to embrace the classic masculine look?

In general, silver facial hair can transform your appearance in exciting ways. A well-maintained, cleanly trimmed, hydrated salt-and-pepper beard is elegant and sexy. Consider embracing your inner silver fox. You might be surprised at the positive reaction.

The Bottom Line

While research has not determined the exact biological cause, it’s not unusual to see your beard turn white before your head hair. This might come in the form of an occasional white hair, or you might see whole areas of your facial hair begin to look a little salty.

There are plenty of ways to mitigate your beard’s whitening, from vitamin supplements to dye. You can also lean into this change and embrace your new, more mature look.

As you consider how you want to shape your silver facial hair, take a look at our breakdown of some great trimmers.




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Hi, my name is Roland. I started Beard Guidance so I can share the knowledge I’ve acquired from years of beard-having experience in easy-to-read but informative and practical articles.

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