First, Know the Myths
Before we get started, let's clear the air: There is no concrete evidence that shaving or massaging will lead to a thicker beard. This myth may stem from the fact that hair is darker and wider close to the skin, which gives the appearance of thickness in the days after a shave. However, in truth, the only way your razor encourages beard growth is by staying out of sight.
Be Patient, Young Grasshopper
The biggest mistake many beard-growers make is calling things off too early. Not all facial hairs grow at a similar rate, so you won't know the full extent of your beard until your scruff has had time to fill in. If you're growing for the first time ever, give it 4-6 weeks at minimum: No trimming or shaping allowed. Only then will you know just how thick your beard could become.
Age is also a factor: Your beard will continue to thicken well into your 30's and 40's, so if your scruff is still patchy in your early 20's, try again once a few years have passed.
Keep Your Beard Well Fueled
Like any other body part, your beard needs the proper nutrients to grow in healthy and strong. Hair is made up of protein and fat, so make sure to get plenty of both, though stick to healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids. If you're short on sources of protein, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, and nuts, one cup of whey protein a day will help.
Vitamins and minerals are also essential: Iron, zinc, and Vitamins E, C, D, and B (particularly Biotin) all play a crucial role in growing thicker, stronger hair. These are found in citrus fruits and green, leafy vegetables, but if you really want to commit, you can try a specialized supplement like Vitabeard.
Get Plenty of Sleep and Exercise
Testosterone plays a crucial role in growing both hair and follicles, and production of the hormone relies on a healthy lifestyle. To keep testosterone high, be sure to get at least eight hours of sleep every night, and exercise regularly: Both weight loss and strength training help boost testosterone levels. Minimizing stress is also key, as cortisol has been found to reduce testosterone levels, and chronic stress can also constrict blood vessels, causing hairs to receive fewer nutrients.
Try Rogaine, But Manage Your Expectations
The bearded community has a mixed opinion of Rogaine: While it often yields impressive results, many men have complained of drawbacks, from overly dry skin to hair falling out prematurely. If you're thinking of trying this treatment, start by knowing the facts: First, while minoxidil (the active ingredient in Rogaine) does stimulate growth in follicles, the follicles have to be there in the first place, so don't expect hairs to sprout from otherwise bare skin.
Second, the strongest results generally come from long, continued use. While men have complained of hairs falling out after they stopped applying the product, most of those subjects used Rogaine for only a couple of months. Apply it daily for at least three months if you expect to see results, and for six months or longer if you want the hairs to stick around after you've stopped.
If All Else Fails, Get a Beard Transplant
If your face lacks the necessary follicles to grow a bushy beard, there is one final step you can take. A surgical beard transplant is exactly what it sounds like: Follicles are removed from the back of your head (where hair most resembles beard hair) and transplanted onto your face. The procedure has proven (and permanent) results, but it comes with a hefty price tag: upwards of $7,000, depending on the patient. As always, consult your doctor first before going under the knife.