Waiting for a beard to grow in can feel a lot like watching grass grow. This may be frustrating if you’re trying to grow a full beard.

The younger you are, the longer it may take you to hit your beard goals. Men’s facial hair starts coming in during puberty. Many men will sport the beginnings of a mustache and a few sprigs of chin hair years before the rest of their beard starts to surface.

Some men see their full beard come in when they’re as young as 18 or 19. Others may continue to have sparse areas of growth until their mid-to-late 20s or even later.

Some men may never achieve the beard of their dreams. Genetics and hormones play a large role in determining how quickly and fully your beard will ultimately grow. Health and lifestyle habits can also play a part.

Facial hair growth is largely propelled by testosterone, a hormone. Testosterone levels can vary. For men between 19 and 38, the normal range is 264 to 916 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). This represents about the 3rd through 98th percentile for testosterone.

Having low testosterone can negatively affect beard growth. For men with clinically low testosterone, taking supplements under a doctor’s supervision may help increase beard growth. If your testosterone is within the normal range, taking supplements will most likely not help.

You can also be genetically predetermined for a scant beard, even if your testosterone is normal. This is largely due to genetic variations, ethnicity, and heredity.

Keep in mind that you inherit genes from both parents. Your dad’s beard may indicate what yours will be like, but so may your maternal grandfather’s.

Beard growth fullness may also be affected by testosterone. There is that linear hair growth rate, meaning how fast your beard grows, is determined by the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) you produce.

DHT is a byproduct of testosterone, activated by an enzyme in the hair follicle’s oil glands. Beard growth rates can vary considerably. Once your beard growth pattern has become fully established, you may notice that your beard grows about 1/2 inch per month.

Your overall health affects everything, including your beard. You can’t alter your genetics, but there are lifestyle habits that may make you healthier and help you achieve a fuller beard quicker.

Exercise

Exercise improves blood flow, which helps to stimulate hair follicle growth. Exercises like weightlifting and strength training may also temporarily boost testosterone. Try varying the workouts you do, as well as the time of day you do them. , spiking in the morning and ebbing in the afternoon.

Diet

Good nutrition from eating a healthy, balanced diet may benefit your beard as well as your body. It’s important to keep your body mass index in the normal range, since obesity can lower testosterone.

Certain nutrients, such as zinc, may also be beneficial for testosterone levels. A healthy diet won’t override genetics, but it may help your existing hair grow healthier and more lustrous. Include the following:

Beard growth vitamins and supplements

Many supplements are specifically targeted toward beard growth. As with diet, there is no miracle cure that’s able to override heredity.

If you’re unable to get all the nutrients you need through diet, taking a supplement or multivitamin complete with iron and zinc may be just as beneficial.

Sleep

Sleep is essential for optimal overall health. It can be beneficial for beard growth, too.

The testosterone in your system is primarily released during sleep. Not getting enough rest, sleep apnea, and fragmented sleep can all adversely affect this process.

A found that daily sleep restriction lowered testosterone levels in healthy young men. Another study found that at around the start of the first REM sleep cycle, and remain at that level until you wake up.

Washing and moisturizing

Keeping your skin and beard clean and moisturized can have a positive effect on beard appearance.

Keep your pores open by exfoliating your face. This will help remove dead skin cells and debris from around each hair follicle. It will also help reduce ingrown hairs from occurring under your beard.

Leave-in conditioners designed specifically for beards can help nourish the hair, keeping it soft and moisturized. This will eliminate beard dandruff and make your beard appear fuller. You can experiment with creams, oils, and lotions to see which kind is best for your skin type and beard.

Shaving your beard is helpful for making it appear uniform and neat. Shaving does not, however, make beard hair grow faster. It also does not thicken it.

Keeping your beard clean and moisturized helps it appear thicker. There is no specific regimen that has been scientifically proven to thicken beard hair, however. Anecdotal evidence points to olive oil and avocado oil as potential beard thickeners.

It’s possible, however, that these rich moisturizers work the same way leave-in conditioners do — by keeping beard hair nourished, making it look lusher and thicker.

Minoxidil (Rogaine) is a product designed to stimulate hair growth on the scalp. While it may also work on the face, it’s not meant to be used for this purpose. It may also not be practical to use in this way, since it must remain on the skin for around four hours at a time.

The rate at which your beard will grow in, as well as its fullness, is largely determined by genetics. Testosterone and DHT also play important roles.

Keeping yourself healthy through diet and exercise may help your beard be healthier, too. Getting enough sleep and maintaining good hygiene may also help.