Does Shaving Make Your Hair Grow Back Thicker?

Does Shaving Make Your Hair Grow Back Thicker?

By Daniel Broadley

Does Shaving Make Your Hair Grow Back Thicker?

Think back to the Leave It To Beaver days. Back when television was still in black and white, it was seen as good manners and good grooming to have a smooth and hairless face. 

Mothers would tell their teen boys that shaving would make their hair grow back thicker, and the teen boys wanted to rebel. They thought if they kept shaving, their wimpy beards would bulk up. They’d look more masculine and edgy.

Some mothers may have believed that. Other mothers were simply being slick. They wanted their boys to be clean cut, and encouraged them to shave. They wanted their daughters to avoid shaving too young. Telling both boys and girls that their hair would grow back thicker simultaneously solved both problems. 

This may have been a ploy in some circumstances, but there’s a good chance that common misconceptions led people to believe that it was the truth. Shaving doesn’t make your hair grow back thicker, even if it really seems like that’s the case. 

Your Hair Isn’t That Smart

Your skin has several layers. Your epidermis is the layer of skin that you see, and where your hair emerges. Below the epidermis is the dermis, a softer layer that supports the epidermis and holds many of its blood vessels. Below the dermis is the hypodermis, the subcutaneous layer that contains your fat cells. 

Your hair follicles rest right above your hypodermis. They have no idea what’s going on several layers above them. They get their nourishment from your body and perform their functions, sending the hair up and out of the surface of your skin.

Your hair, nails, and the top layer of  your skin are made of keratin, a hard protein your body expels. Keratin is already dead. It can’t communicate with any of your cells, and it doesn’t directly receive a blood supply. Only your nail beds, skin surface, and hair follicles directly interact with cues from your body. 

Keratin never knows what’s happening to it, and it’s incapable of relaying messages through neurotransmitters to the rest of your body. Your nails won’t grow back thicker if you clip them, your face won’t grow back thicker if you wash it, and your hair won’t grow back thicker if you shave. 

So Why Does It Look Thicker After You Shave?

Your hair has to travel a very long way to get from the follicle to the surface of your skin. If you’ve ever plucked an errant hair with tweezers and taken a good look at it, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a lot longer than you expected it to be. That’s because you ripped it out of the follicle, and uncovered the whole length of the hair in the process.

When you shave, you’re nowhere near the follicle. You aren’t actually removing the hair, but clipping it off at the surface of the skin. It might look like it’s gone, but if your hair grows fast, you’ll notice that your five o’clock shadow is already right around the corner. 

That shadow may appear thicker in some places than others, but that effect is due to an uneven shave or poor technique. The hair wasn’t cut evenly, and didn’t grow back evenly.

When hair emerges from the follicle, it’s thinner and more tapered at the tip.The hair starts as a fine point that allows it to gently travel upwards, almost like the head of a needle. When you’re cutting a hair that’s freshly emerged from a follicle, you’re only clipping off that thin tip. The wider diameter of the hair shaft will continue to emerge through the surface of your skin. 

This might make your hair appear to grow back thicker, but nothing has actually grown back. 

It’s the exact same shaft of hair that you just shaved that’s continuing to emerge through the skin. It will only come back thinner and tapered once that particular strand of hair has fully lived out its lifespan and regenerates from the follicle. At some point, it’s going to do that. The hair produced by that follicle will always grow at the same thickness until that follicle is no longer capable of producing hair. 

While We’re On The Subject, Let’s Correct Some Myths About Waxing

The other side of this same coin is the idea that waxing makes your hair grow back finer and softer. Unlike shaving, waxing is designed to rip the hair from the follicle. It isn’t always completely successful. 

Sometimes, particularly when the area of hair being waxed is very thick, waxing will break the hair off somewhere between the layers of skin.

When you have your hair waxed off, it may grow back patchy. Some of those patches will look thin and fine because the hair that grew back is tapered and new. If you continually wax the same places, there’s a chance that the constant ripping will damage the fragile hair follicle to the point where it’s no longer capable of producing a hair, contributing to the appearance of the hair growing back thinner and finer. That isn’t what’s happening. The hair is simply incapable of growing back from the extensive damage.

How Can I Make My Beard Thicker?

If you’d like a thicker beard, there are very few things you can do to accomplish that. Hair transplants are a bit dramatic. Some medications, like minoxidil, may encourage hair growth. 

They require daily application for a prolonged period of time to begin working, and they sometimes pose side effects. Before you start using a hair growth product for your beard, talk to your doctor. 

The Takeaway

Shaving might appear to make your hair grow back thicker, but that’s not exactly what’s going on. It’s an illusion of perspective that occurs when a hair is cut in the middle of the shaft. If your shaving technique isn’t effective or your razor is dull, you may notice a patchier, thicker appearance a few days after you shave. 

If you want your beard to regrow in a uniform way, the only thing you can do is give yourself a close, optimal shave. 

Always use a sharp blade and shave when your skin is warm and wet. This helps to reduce irritation and invigorate your hair shafts, making it easier for the razor to cut them away at the same length in just a pass or two. 

LTHR’s hot lather machine and shaving cream work to keep your skin warm and moisturized while you shave. Take your time, relax, practice your technique, and take excellent care of your skin. When everything is perfectly removed, everything will perfectly grow back. 

Take some extra time to pamper yourself. You get to relax, and you avoid a patchy shave. It’s good news all around. 


Structure & Function of Your Skin | American Osteopathic College of Dermatology

Keratin: Structure, Mechanical Properties, Occurrence | Science Direct

Waxing | DermNet NZ