It’s time to bust the myth once and for all! There have been scientific studies, dating back almost a century, that have proven that shaving has no effect at all on the growth of hair – on the head, face, legs, or anywhere else for that matter.
The growth of hair is, in fact, controlled by hair follicles – and these lie underneath the surface of the skin. While pulling hair from the root regularly over time (plucking, waxing) may eventually make the follicle inactive (it metaphorically “gives up”), shaving has no impact on the follicle whatsoever.
Why has this myth been so widely held for such a long time? When shaven hairs do start to grow back, they are cut blunt at the ends – as opposed to tapered as if they’d grown and never been cut. Additionally, short and spiky hairs are stiffer than longer hairs – making them seem much coarser. Both of these effects make it seem like the hair is thicker, when really it isn't.
Many people also believe that shaved hairs grow back darker. This isn’t so – but as we age, hairs do tend to darken (until they turn grey or white). Since most of us begin shaving in adolescence, it’s easy to see where this misconception comes from.
Additionally, an adult’s hairs grow much faster than those of children or adolescents – shaving has nothing to do with it.
So what does affect the thickness or growth of hair? Well waxing or plucking the hair can, but not in a good way if you're after more thickness or density. There is some evidence that prolonged waxing or plucking, over a period of years, can damage the hair follicles (as mentioned above). Frequently waxed hair follicles will eventually impinge on hair growth, with the hairs growing less frequently, and they may even become thinner or stop growing altogether.
So if you want to grow a beard – let it grow! Shaving won’t make it better, thicker, or stronger. You just have to work with what you’ve got – and use some top quality beard products to keep it in mint condition! If you want to read more about thickening your beard, check out our "patchy beards" article.