At least once a year, my kid brother texts me to ask how he can grow more facial hair. Like me, he’s got a patchy beard, and every single year I say the exact same thing: If you’re not meant to grow the hair, you’re not going to grow the hair. Sure, it may fill in as you age, but that’s as much a part of your genetics as the fact that you’re patchy to begin with.
While you can make a patchy beard look more full, the first thing you’ve got to do is embrace the beard you’ve got. You won’t make it fuller by wishing for new hairs.
I think two examples of perfectly executed patchy beards are Dev Patel and Keanu Reeves. Patel’s is more sparse, and he wears it that way. Keanu’s, when short, showcases lots of uneven density, which fills in a little more as it grows out. But they both wear it with real confidence, and they look great. Keanu also shows how much you can do: on the rare occasion he has a full beard, it looks exactly that—bushy, bountiful, beautiful—but on the way there, he (or his groomer) knows how to make the most of his whiskers.
You can follow the below tips in order to make the most of your beard. But also: know that what you’re capable of growing is something the big, bushy guys couldn’t dream of, either. Not to mention, anyone who has to kiss those guys either gets a sandpaper rash on their face, or the remnants of yesterday’s lunch. Remember that when the next time you wish your patchy beard was fuller.
How to Make Patchy Beards Look Thicker
1. Let It Grow
As obvious as it is, this one needs to be top of the list. You might be a few weeks, or even months away from your beard looking like a real beard, by simply letting your hair cover more real estate. “Don’t shave” is the number-one rule of having a beard.
2. Keep It Stubbly
If the goal is a show-stopper of a beard, then of course you need to let it grow out. But if you simply prefer to wear the facial hair short (without emphasizing the patches), then embrace the perma-stubble look with a good electric shaver, or with your beard trimmer on its lower guards. The sparseness won’t be nearly as noticeable.
3. Use a Beard Balm
If and when you do grow it out, you should opt for higher-hold conditioning and styling products. A hefty balm helps control stubborn hairs and allows you to style those longer strands over top the patchy spots. (It’s like a combover, but for beards.) Plus, balms are typically packed with nourishing ingredients like shea butter and essential oils that might help promote growth by keeping everything healthy.
4. Brush It Out
A beard brush’s main function is to distribute the natural oils that collect at the shaft of the hair, and it’s not typically a styling tool. (Brushing is a good nightly habit, as part of any beard regimen.) However, while the beard is still in its short-to-medium stages, you could also brush it during your morning styling routine, to help cover up the patches. Then, apply your beard balm and style into place by hand.A couple quick swipes in the same direction should suffice.
5. If All Else Fails, Dye It!
This isn’t a tip that will work for everyone, but if your patchiness is less of a baldness and more of a blond-ness (or a grey-ness), then consider dyeing your facial hair. This is especially effective for the guys who grow two-toned beards—super light, blond hairs alongside dark brown ones, for example. A little natural-color hair dye will bring out one uniform color that in turn makes the beard look thicker and fuller. The keyword is natural: Pick something that matches the rest of your whiskers, or at least the hair on your head. (Going a shade or two lighter can help, or picking a brand that promises to subtly dye the hairs, instead of a shoe-polish finish.)