Facial hair is a secondary sex characteristic in human males. Men often start developing facial hair in the later years of puberty or adolescence, approximately between 17–20 years of age, and most do not finish developing a fully adult beard until their early 20s or even later. This varies, as boys may first develop facial hair between 14–16 years of age, and boys as young as 11 have been known to develop facial hair. In addition, the patches of hair can vary between bushy and bristly. Women are also capable of developing facial hair, especially after menopause, though typically significantly less than men.
Male pogonotrophy (the growing of facial hair; i.e., beardedness) is often culturally associated with wisdom and virility. Men may style their facial hair into beards, moustaches, goatees or sideburns; others completely shave their facial hair. The term "whiskers," used when referring to human facial hair indicates the hair on the chin and cheeks.
In male adolescence
The moustache forms its own stage in the development of facial hair in adolescent males. Facial hair in males does not always appear in a specific order during puberty and varies among some individuals but may follow this process:
- The first facial hair to appear tends to grow at the corners of the upper lip,
- It then spreads to form a moustache over the entire upper lip,
- This is followed by the appearance of hair on the upper part of the cheeks, and the area under the lower lip,
- It eventually spreads to the sides and lower border of the chin and the rest of the lower face to form a full beard.
- Although this order is commonly seen, it can vary widely, with some facial hair starting from the chin and up towards the sideburns.
Depending on the periods and countries, facial hair was prohibited in the army or, on the contrary, an integral part of the uniform.
Many religious male figures are recorded to have had facial hair; for example, all the Prophets mentioned in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were known to grow their beards. Other religions, such as Hinduism and Sikhism, encourage growing beards. Some scholars among Sunni Muslims see growing the beard to be an obligatory act as it was preferred by the Prophet Mohammed himself, while other scholars see it as encouraged but optional. Conversely, other religions, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, implicitly prohibit men from growing their facial hair.
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