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7 Reasons You May Be Growing a Patchy Beard and How to Fix It
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Updated on April 23, 2024

A man’s ability to grow facial hair can influence the way he feels about himself and the way others perceive him [1]. So having a patchy beard may lower your self-confidence and even negatively affect the quality of your relationships. 

There are several potential causes of beard hair loss, such as your age, genes, and hormones. Certain types of alopecia can affect your beard as well. For example, alopecia barbae makes up 28% of all cases of alopecia areata [2]. Dermatological problems such as psoriasis can also lead to patchy beard growth, as can some of your lifestyle choices. 

The good news is that there are treatments and cosmetic solutions available to help you fix the bald spots in your beard. Medication such as Minoxidil or steroid creams, therapies like derma rolling for hair growth or choosing the best beard grooming and styling techniques can help increase your facial hair fullness and reduce its patchy appearance. And if all else fails, you may still be a good candidate for a beard transplant

Keep reading this article to find out all you need to know about:

  • The main signs of patchy beard growth 
  • The most common reasons your beard might be patchy
  • Effective solutions for fixing your patchy beard 
  • Hair growth treatments unlikely to help your beard growth
Table of Contents

What does a patchy beard look like?

You may be concerned about bald spots in your beard, or may simply be experiencing uneven facial hair growth, with sparser or thinning areas. Depending on the condition that is causing it, a patchy beard can look and feel in different ways. Here are a few examples [2][3]:

ConditionMain symptoms
Alopecia areata barbaeCircular bald spots in your beard, small yellow or black dots on your beard area skin, exclamation mark hairs.
Beard PsoriasisBeard area inflammation, thickened reddish plaques, silver flaking, tenderness, itching, dry skin, beard hair loss in the affected area.
Seborrheic dermatitis Oily white or yellow greasy scales, reddish, inflamed skin, itchy rash, tenderness
Traction alopecia of the beardBalding spots where the most tension is usually applied (e.g. your chin), bumpy skin, black dots and/or broken hairs in the affected area. Sometimes, tenderness or a tingling sensation.
Age/hormone-related thinningMore diffuse beard thinning, uneven, sparse beard growth, with no irritation, inflammation, rash or flaking.

What are the main reasons your beard may be patchy?

There are several reasons why your beard may be patchy. Some of them may resolve on their own, while others may require medication or a beard transplant to restore facial hair fullness. Here are the most common:

Autoimmune conditions 

Alopecia barbae is a form of alopecia areata which affects your beard. Studies show that almost half of men whose facial hair is affected by this condition will also develop it on their scalp (and 80% of these cases will occur within a year) [4].

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where your white blood cells attack your hair follicles, causing them to stop producing hair. It creates circular bald patches on your scalp or, respectively, in your beard.   

Alopecia barbae in two male patients
Alopecia barbae in two male patients

Psoriasis is another autoimmune disorder that can flare up anywhere on your body, including  your beard area. It can result in inflammation, flaking and thickened, itchy plaques, as well as beard hair loss in the affected area. While beard and scalp psoriasis may sometimes be difficult to treat, corticosteroids and calcineurin inhibitors can help reduce your symptoms in a flare-up  [5]. 

Facial psoriasis localised in the beard
Facial psoriasis localised in the beard

Genetics and Hormones

Men with male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) usually experience a receding hairline, temple hair loss or a bald spot on the crown due to an excess of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). However, when it comes to your beard, an opposite effect is observed: androgen hormones like testosterone and DHT promote its growth and fullness [6][7]. Thus, hormonal imbalances can lead to sparser beard growth. 

Sparse, uneven beard growth on a young man
Sparse, uneven beard growth

Similarly to male pattern baldness, a thin, patchy beard can be genetically inherited. However, just like if your dad is bald it doesn’t mean you will necessarily go bald, if your close male relatives have sparse facial hair, you are not certain to experience this as well. Still, you may be more predisposed to it. 

Dermatological conditions

The skin beneath your beard is as exposed as your scalp to disease or infection. Perhaps even more so because your thicker facial hair helps retain oil and sweat, which can make a perfect breeding ground for fungi or bacteria. That is why some common scalp problems can also affect your beard.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a very frequently encountered example. While it is mostly known as a yeast infection of the scalp, in 87.7% of cases, it affects your face (usually alongside other body parts) [8]. When it grows on your beard area, it can cause an itchy rash, greasy flakes as well as facial hair loss.

Beard seborrheic dermatitis
Beard seborrheic dermatitis

Another, albeit less common skin condition is tinea barbae – a fungal infection similar to ringworm, caused by a type of mould called dermatophytes. It usually creates inflammation and tender, oozing plaques known as kerions. The beard that covers affected skin becomes brittle and falls off easily, leading to bald patches. 

Tinea barbae

Normal age-related processes

Young men before the age of 25 have not normally reached their full beard growth potential yet [9], which is why their facial hair can still look sparse or patchy. This is especially true of teenagers, whose beard has recently started growing. The hormonal imbalances caused by puberty can affect the appearance and growth rate of their facial hair. That is also why the best age to get a beard transplant is normally after 25. 

Incipient, yet-to-mature beard growth on a teenager
Incipient, yet-to-mature beard growth in a teenager

At the same time, men over the age of 50 may naturally experience some beard thinning and slower growth [9]. That is why they may notice sparser facial hair, which, depending on their genes, may look diffuse or patchy. 

Mechanical conditions

As you can probably imagine, accidents that cause scarring to your beard area (e.g. cuts, burns) are likely to prevent hair from growing in the affected area, as the beard follicles get destroyed. However, there is another form of mechanical harm that can cause some of your beard hair to fall out: traction alopecia. 

Man with chin scar that prevents beard growth
Man with chin scar that prevents beard growth

This condition which can also affect your scalp develops when too much tension is applied to your hair follicles over an extensive period of time. When it comes to your hair, tight hairstyles such as top knots or man buns can cause hair loss.

Similarly, braiding your beard tightly or twisting and pulling on it very often (as some men do without realising when they are nervous or bored) can lead to traction alopecia of the beard, leaving patchy spots at the points of tension (often, on your chin) [10]. The good news is that in most cases the symptoms resolve themselves once you stop the behaviour which caused them.   

Two images taken from each side of a man with bilateral traction alopecia of the beard
Man with bilateral traction alopecia of the beard [10]

Psychological conditions

It is a known fact that stress and anxiety can cause hair loss, but they can also affect your beard. Significant psychological distress can disrupt your facial hair growth cycle, causing telogen effluvium. This can cause temporary excessive hair shedding from your head, and sometimes also from your beard.

While this hair loss is usually diffuse, it can sometimes cause a patchy appearance, especially if other factors that cause beard thinning are also present.

Trichotillomania of the beard under a man’s chin
Trichotillomania of the beard

Another, much rarer psychological condition that can cause a patchy beard is trichotillomania. Described as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder by the DSM-V, it involves repeatedly plucking hairs from your scalp or beard [11].

Men who pull out their beard strands often do so without realising, when stressed or bored. Since hairs tend to be plucked from the same area, they often develop bald spots in their beards. 

Styling damage

Caring for your beard, and washing and brushing it frequently can be a healthy habit. However, some beard styling mistakes can make its strands brittle or more exposed to breakage.

Overbrushing or being too forceful with your brush can break off your strands, as can vigorously rub your beard dry. Using excessive heat to dry or style it can also dry out your facial skin and beard strands just like heat can damage your hair.

Furthermore, frequent use of harsh chemicals, such as bleach or dye can cause hair loss from your beard as well as from your scalp.

Damaged beard, with broken hairs and split ends
Damaged beard, with broken hairs and split ends

Effective ways to fix a patchy beard and make it look thicker

Depending on what is making your beard patchy, there are a variety of treatments, therapies and tricks that you can try to make it look fuller. Here are some of the most helpful solutions:

Man applying topical Minoxidil to his beard

Treat the underlying condition

If you suspect your patchy beard growth may be caused by an autoimmune or dermatological condition, it would be a good idea to see a trichologist. In accordance with your diagnosis, they may prescribe one or more of the following treatments: 

  • Minoxidil – This is one of the most popular hair growth medications, sold under the brand name Rogaine for men (or Regaine in the UK). It can be successfully used to stimulate beard growth as well in a variety of non-infectious conditions. It works by dilating your blood vessels so more oxygen and nutrients can reach and nourish your beard follicles.
  • Steroid creams – corticosteroids can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of alopecia barbae, as well as soothing inflammation caused by seborrheic dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis.
  • Antimicrobial medications – substances such as ketoconazole, salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione or coal tar have antifungal and antibacterial properties that can relieve the symptoms of yeast infections such as seborrheic dermatitis or tinea barbae.
  • Derma rolling for hair growth – Also known as microneedling, this therapy involves using a small tool covered in fine needles called a roller to create minuscule punctures in the scalp. This triggers your natural healing response, stimulating hair growth. There is insufficient evidence at this time to determine whether beard rollers work for beard growth the same way they do for scalp hair. However, research shows that using topical Minoxidil together with a derma roller on your scalp can enhance its effect, as microneedling increases topical medication absorption. The same process may occur when using it on your beard as well (however, clinical evidence is needed to confirm this).
  • Beard transplant – the past years have seen a rise in the popularity of beard transplant surgery. This procedure is simple, painless and requires no hospitalisation. It involves harvesting healthy hair follicles from your scalp or a fuller part of your beard and reimplanting them in your patchy areas. 

Due to advances in surgical techniques and equipment, beard transplants look natural and leave little to no scarring. They are also very safe and normally yield good results. It is quite uncommon to hear of a beard transplant gone wrong if performed at one of the best hair transplant clinics, with highly skilled surgeons and excellent success rates.

While beard transplant costs can be higher than that of medication, keep in mind that just like a hair transplant is permanent, you can also enjoy your facial hair restoration forever. 

Make lifestyle changes

Your living and beard grooming habits can play a significant role in the health and fullness of your facial hair. That is why making the following adjustments can help improve the patchy appearance of your beard:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet – getting enough vitamins and minerals can keep your beard follicles nourished and can support faster, fuller hair growth. Moreover, certain vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss that may also affect your facial hair.
  • Reduce smoking Smoking can cause hair loss by increasing inflammation and oxidative stress in your body and reducing blood flow to your hair follicles. This can also have a negative impact on your beard fullness.
  • Reduce stress – a stress-filled life can induce telogen effluvium, temporarily making your head and facial hair shed faster than normal. Exercising, meditating or scheduling extra time for relaxation each day can improve your physical and mental health, as well as the appearance of your facial hair. 
  • Avoid tugging at your beard – tying your beard tightly or pulling at it constantly can cause it to fall out in patches. Wearing looser beard ties and making a conscious effort to gently stroke your facial hair instead of tugging on it can reduce traction alopecia of the beard.
  • Avoid over-styling your beard – brushing your beard softly once or twice a day, washing it with a gentle shampoo and letting it air dry can improve its strand health. As can replacing chemical styling products that can dry out your skin with more natural alternatives (e.g. replacing hairspray with beeswax for hold or essential oils for hair growth and shine). 
Young man with a well-groomed diamond-style beard.

Wear a flattering beard style

Before you get a chance to treat your patchy beard, you can try adopting a style that best disguises its sparseness. While the belief that shaving your facial hair makes it grow back thicker is one of the biggest myths about getting hair loss treatment, choosing the right styling options can really help your look. 

Some men find that letting their beard grow longer can give it a fuller appearance and mask the patchy areas (especially if you have more textured facial hair). On the contrary, others prefer stubble, as it gives them a more rugged look and makes their balding spots less conspicuous. According to the size, shape and location of your thinning beard patches, there are many beard styles that can emphasize the fuller areas and mask the thinning ones. Learn more in our expert tips on how to grow a fuller, healthier beard.

Young man using spray on his beard

Use beard thickening products

Just like you can use hair thickening sprays to disguise thinning hair, you can also use beard thickening products to mask a patchy beard. According to your needs and preferences, they can work in different ways.

Some can contain microfibers which stick to your beard strands, making your thinning areas appear fuller. Others spray pigment on your beard, to reduce contrast. Of course, you can also use other types of thickening products, such as beard pen fillers, which allow you to draw beard strands on your balding spots. 

Young man holding a medication capsule and frowning while reading the package insert

Hair loss treatments to avoid when trying to fix a patchy beard

While some of the best hair loss treatments for men, such as Minoxidil, are also effective for a patchy beard, others are not. This is primarily the case of Finasteride, the most prescribed medication for male pattern baldness.

Androgenetic alopecia develops when too much of your testosterone is converted into DHT by an enzyme called 5 alpha-reductase. When that happens, the excessive DHT binds to androgen receptors in your hair follicles, preventing them from producing new strands. Finasteride works by inhibiting the activity of 5 alpha-reductase, which significantly lowers the amount of DHT your body produces. 

However, while excessive amounts of androgens can make your scalp hair fall out, testosterone and DHT actively stimulate your beard growth [6][7]. So lowering your DHT levels would, in the best case scenario, not impact your beard fullness at all and in the worst case scenario, your beard could become even sparser. Moreover, while very effective against androgenetic alopecia, Finasteride has not been found to treat any other conditions that cause hair loss, such as alopecia areata or dermatological issues.

The same considerations can be applied to Dutasteride, which, while more effective than Finasteride, shares the same mechanism of action. Dutasteride, however, is currently not FDA-approved for hair loss, so it can only be prescribed off-label for this purpose.

A young man standing in front of a blackboard, pointing at the word “testosterone” written on it above his head.

Does a patchy beard mean you have less testosterone?

Studies show that beard length and fullness do not accurately predict a man’s testosterone levels [12]. While it is true that androgens can contribute to beard fullness [6][7], growing a patchy beard does not necessarily imply that you have low testosterone levels. As shown above, there can be many non-hormonal causes for beard hair loss.

Even if your hormones do play a role in your beard sparseness, testosterone is not necessarily the root of the issue. Other hormonal imbalances, such as those produced by thyroid disorders can cause hair loss as well as beard thinning. 

However, if you have concerns about your testosterone levels, it is a good idea to share them with your healthcare provider. There are simple tests they can order to determine your hormone levels. And if you do indeed have a deficiency, supplementing testosterone at your physician’s advice may improve your quality of life. 

A smiling teenager, sporting a youthful, immature beard

Will my beard get thicker after 30?

The moment when you reach your full beard maturation depends largely on your genes and hormones. It can happen as early as your late teens or as late as your early 30s. However, on average, research shows that most men see the highest beard growth rate between 25 and 50. This means that you may achieve greater beard thickness after 30, but nobody can tell for sure ahead of time. 

Are you concerned about a patchy beard?

If you are unsure about the reason why your beard grows patchy or about the most effective way to fix it, the best thing you can do is to book a consultation with a trichologist. They will examine you thoroughly, take your medical history and listen carefully to your symptoms.

Then, they will provide you with an accurate diagnosis and recommend the best treatment options available for your specific condition. Moreover, they can support you by providing competent, evidence-based beard care and styling advice that can help you achieve healthier, more appealing facial hair.

7 Reasons You May Be Growing a Patchy Beard and How to Fix It, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)Updated on April 23, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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