Maybe you've been embarrassed to ask. Maybe you have asked, but have never gotten a straight answer. But chances are the question has occurred to you at some point: why is beard hair is so different than head hair? And what, if anything, does this mean for your personal grooming routine?
The answer to the first question is pretty straightforward. Beard hair, unlike scalp hair, falls into the category of “androgenic hair.” Androgenic hair, which includes underarm and pubic hair, doesn't begin to grow until puberty, as testosterone levels rise. It's coarser in texture than, say, scalp hair, in part because the follicles that it grows from become larger during puberty.
As for color, the color of any individual hair – whether androgenic or not – is determined by its relative proportions of eumelanin, which produces black or brown shades, and pheomelanin, which produces yellow or red shades. Each particular follicle can contain different ratios of these pigments, which is why you can end up with stray hairs that completely mismatch their neighbors. This is also why dark hair can glow golden or reddish in the light – that's the hidden pheomelanin peeking out. So why do so many men have reddish beards, but not red hair? According to QG: “The red hair itself is caused by a mutation in what researchers call the MC1R gene. Having two mutated genes gives someone all red hair, but having just one can give a person red hair in unexpected places.”
Another noticeable difference between beard and scalp hair? Beard hair smells stronger. As HuffPo explains, “Sebaceous glands are higher on your face than your scalp... which leads to an increase in sebum, which carries pheromones.” Your beard traps and concentrates these pheromones, which leads to a, as they put it, “distinct smell.” Unfortunately, beards can also trap dead skin, bits of food, particulate matter from the air, and bacteria who feast on all of the above – so good beard hygiene is a must, or it won't just be pheromones that you smell like.
And finally, the life cycle of androgenic hair is also different from other hair. All hairs go through anagen, catagen, and telogen phases. The anagen phase is when hair is actively growing, and normally lasts from 2 to 7 years for head hair. Then catagen phase that follows is characterized by the shrinking of the hair bulb as its blood supply is reduced, and finally cut off in preparation for the final, or telogen phase. During this final phase, the hair simply rests in its follicle until it eventually falls out. Compared to scalp hair, however, androgenic hair experiences shorter anagenic phases, which is why it never grows as long.
Beard vs hair grooming: tips and tricks
So, beard and scalp hair are, it turns out, very different. But does this really mean you need to buy two separate suites of products? The answer is... maybe.
Scruffy Jack's Beard Oil and Scruffy Jack's Beard Wax are both packed with conditioning natural oils that will add luster to the hair, wherever on your body it grows. The most important difference between the two is their differing levels of control. Waxes are stiff, and better for giving shape than oils; shorter beards may not need this level of control, while longer ones probably will. Both are perfectly safe for use on scalp hair: the former can be used as a shine serum or leave-in conditioner, the latter as a pomade. But since head hair is generally much finer than beard hair, a light touch is recommended to avoid greasiness.
However – and this is a big however – while many beard products, like ours, can be used on the hair, most hair styling products should not be used on the beard. This is because hair styling products, even lightweight ones, tend to contain ingredients like PVP or isopropyl myristate that are notorious for clogging pores and causing irritation.
Luckily, Scruffy Jack's products are always formulated to be just as skin-friendly as they are hair-friendly. That, for us, is what it means to make simple, honest skin and hair care.