Beard Growth Oils: Everything You Need to Know According to SCIENCE

by | Last Updated Nov 22, 2017 | Advanced Skincare, Beard Guides | 25 comments

Let me start of by saying that there is A LOT of misinformation floating around about beard oil products. It seems as though many of the top beard oil brands, gurus, and websites have a basic misunderstanding of chemistry and biology.

With that said, let’s weed ourselves away from the nonsense by discussing which beard growth oils are best, how they work, and making your own at home. No worries, it’s easier than you think!

DHT Blockers and Beard Growth.

I got some bad news for everyone. About 95% of beard oils on the market have potential to negatively impact facial hair growth. Why? Because they include DHT blockers. Let’s back up for a second and explain why this matters.

(100% Jojoba Oil)

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DHT, which stands for dihydrotestosterone, is the androgen hormone responsible for beard growth. It is derived by testosterone thorough the enzyme 5α-reductase (5AR). The more DHT a person has available the fuller their beard is.

DHT however, is also the same hormone that’s partially responsible for androgenic alopecia a.k.a male pattern baldness. Think of it like this:

  • DHT = good for beard growth.
  • DHT = bad for hair on the head.

This is why you’ll often find that heavily bearded men are bald on the head. If you haven’t noticed that yet, enjoy!

Note: this won’t always be true. There is a lot more that goes into male balding besides DHT; for example, free testosterone and local androgenic sensitivity. (1, 2)

However, if you’re trying to enhance facial hair growth through beard oils, it’s important to avoid DHT blockers because they inhibit 5AR — the enzyme that creates DHT from testosterone. This is why most beard growth oils simply don’t work. In other words, they contain oils or ingredients that are DHT blockers!

If you want more information on all the nitty gritty details about DHT and hair loss, check out this comprehensive guide.

The takeaway.

DHT is good for facial hair growth. Therefore, you must avoid oils and ingredients that block (inhibit) DHT if you want to grow a fuller beard.

Oils That Enhance Beard Growth.

There are two main groups of oils: those that DO NOT negatively impact DHT, and those that do. Here’s list of oils that will either enhance beard growth or do not block DHT.

Jamaican Black Castor OilVery thick. Many people like to dilute it with another oil for this reason.
Jojoba Oil
Great carrier oil. Feels really nice on skin.
MCT Oil Great carrier oil. Essentially coconut oil without the lauric fatty acid component. Stays liquid at room temperature.
Mineral OilBaby oil without fragrance. Considered an inert oil. Does not contain fatty acids. Slightly thicker than the rest, but more moisturizing because it occludes the skin.
Peppermint OilVery potent. Must be diluted to 5% with a carrier oil. Has to be variety "mentha piperita" to work for hair growth.
Squalane OilMy favorite oil! Naturally occurring in human sebum (makes up 15% of it). Very moisturizing, and has many benefits. Full review here.
Sunflower Oil Great carrier oil. Good for acne (has high linoleic acid content).

And here are a few examples of oils that block DHT (are bad for beard growth). Note: this is not a comprehensive list.

  • Coconut Oil
  • Emu Oil
  • Finestride
  • Lavender Oil
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil
  • Rosemary Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil

What Makes An Oil Good For Beard Growth?

The reason some oils are bad while others are not, has to do with the composition of their fatty acids. Here’s a quote from a research paper on this subject matter:

Among the saturated fatty acids, the inhibitory acids (more than 50% inhibition at 1.3 mm) have C12 – C16 chains. The relative inhibitory potencies for the 5a-reductase of saturated fatty acids are, in decreasing order, C12>C14>C15> C16>C18 . This result suggested that the 5a-reductase inhibitory activity of saturated fatty acids depends on the hydrocarbon-chain length. (3)

English translation = anytime you see an oil that has fatty acids with carbon chain lengths 12-16, you can safely assume it isn’t gonna be great for facial hair.

Note: this isn’t a hard a fast rule. There will be exceptions to this, so use it as a rough guideline!

To make this easier to understand, here is a graph to use as a cheat sheet. The longer the black bar, the more a fatty acid will inhibit DHT. For example, lauric acid (C12) has the longest black bar; that means it is the most likely to block DHT (bad for beard growth).

Source: Liu J., Shimizu K., Kondo R. “Anti-androgenic activity of fatty acids.” Chemistry and Biodiversity, Volume 6, Issue 4 (2009): 503–512.

From the graph above, you may have noticed that the fatty acids with carbon chain lengths 18 drop considerably in terms of inhibiting DHT. For the most part these will be fine for facial hair. The only time that they may be problematic is when they are in concentrations of 50% or greater. (3)

For reference, here’s a list of the carbon chain 18 fatty acids from most to least likely to inhibit DHT.

  • Stearic Acid.
  • Oleic Acid.
  • Linoleic Acid.
  • A-Linolenic Acid.

To make this all less confusing, we’ll consider coconut oil as an example. Hopefully this will help put everything into context.

A quick google search reveals that coconut oil is made up of 48% lauric fatty acid. (4) If we look at the graph above, we see that lauric acid has a carbon chain length of 12. In other words, it’s bad for beard growth, making coconut an oil we should avoid — something that has been confirmed by studies that show coconut oil is good for head hair, but not androgenic hair like that of beards. (5)

Here’s another example, this time we’ll use MCT Oil.

mct oil

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MCT oil is solely made up of fatty acids with 6-12 carbon atoms. Recall from the table above that carbon chain length 12 is bad! Therefore, if you want to use MCT oil you’ll have to find a variety that excludes lauric acid (C12 fatty acid).

The Viva Naturals MCT Oil is one such example because it only includes caprylic and decanoic (capric) fatty acids (C8 and C10 respectively). These are both outside the problematic 12-16 range.

Is all this confusing? That’s why I included a list of oils that don’t block DHT for you. I did all the work so you don’t have to. :p Here they are again for your convenience.

Jamaican Black Castor OilVery thick. Many people like to dilute it with another oil for this reason.
Jojoba Oil
Great carrier oil. Feels really nice on skin.
MCT Oil Great carrier oil. Essentially coconut oil without the lauric fatty acid component. Stays liquid at room temperature.
Mineral OilBaby oil without fragrance. Considered an inert oil. Does not contain fatty acids. Slightly thicker than the rest, but more moisturizing because it occludes the skin.
Peppermint OilVery potent. Must be diluted to 5% with a carrier oil. Has to be variety "mentha piperita" to work for hair growth.
Squalane OilMy favorite oil! Naturally occurring in human sebum (makes up 15% of it). Very moisturizing, and has many benefits. Full review here.
Sunflower Oil Great carrier oil. Good for acne (has high linoleic acid content).

How to Make Your Own Oil for Beard Growth.

sunflower oil

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Easy. Simply get a bottle or container, and mix any of the good oils listed above. Feel free to have fun and experiment!

For example, if you want an oil that sinks right into the skin, fill it mostly with thinner oils like jojoba or sunflower. If you want an oil that feels a bit richer, use thicker oils in your mixture like Jamaican black castor and mineral oil.

Using only one oil by itself is perfectly fine too! The only exception is peppermint oil.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if you decide to use peppermint oil, you must do two things!

  1. Make sure it is of variety “mentha piperita.” This is the kind studies have shown is good for hair growth. (6)
  2. Dilute it to 5% with a carrier oil!

The second point bares repeating — you must DILUTE peppermint oil if you decide to use it! Peppermint oil is caustic, meaning it has potential to burn the skin in high concentrations. This won’t be a problem if you mix it up to 5% in another oil like jojoba or sunflower.

Alrighty, that does it for beard growth oils! Hope you’ve learned a thing or two. And last but not least, make sure to check out my guide on minoxidil as that is the most effective thing you can do to enhance facial hair.

Cheers,

—f.c.

Related reading: what’s the difference between beard balms and oils?

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