Beard science

This post combines two things I enjoy in life – science and men. Men with beards precisely.

Facial hair has always been one of those things that has fascinated me. I’m a girl so any amount of facial hair sprouting randomly from my face is just, no. It might as well be a mortal sin. Everyone knows a woman with an odd hairy mole. It’s something you can’t stop looking at. Western (modern) society has deemed hair on women unacceptable. Why else do women discretely slip into the hair removal aisle of the pharmacy and stock up on wax, bleach and hair dissolving chemicals?


However, on men, it is a different story. Most women like facial hair on men. It has been asserted by recent studies that women, consciously or unconsciously, make decisions on mate selection, parenting ability, health, and masculinity based on how thick a beard is. However, studies of attractiveness have contradicted each other.

What makes a man… manly?
It has now been demonstrated that what women and men perceive to be the most attractive on men involves facial hair. Or at least the ability to grow it (I once had a boyfriend who could only grow hair out of a discrete region on his upper lip. He was 19 though).

To demonstrate this, a study was conducted in Rob Brookes’ lab at UNSW that quantitated women’s and men’s impression of facial hair, and attempted to make sense of previous, confusing results. The study involved the presentation of photographs of 10 smiling men, in various stages of beard growth, which were presented to 177 heterosexual men and 351 women, 80 percent of whom were of European descent.

The outcome of this study may enlighten us to the eternal question – What do women want?

Apparently women want heavy stubble. And for once I’m in the majority. I will demonstrate this with the use of Hugh Jackman. Heavy stubble = heck yes. Heavy beards, light stubble and no beard were all ranked equally less attractive.
I still would.
Probably not.

Although this depends on whether women are in the fertile stage of their menstrual cycle where masculinity ratings of heavy beard-wearers were particularly high (maybe my beard love is my throbbing hormones). But this did not influence overall attractiveness. “An intermediate level of beardedness was rated most attractive, while full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring,” the authors wrote.

Holy heck, get your strong arms around me oh bearded protectors of my future offspring.

A man’s man
Men, however, found full beards and heavy beards as most attractive. Light stubble was rated least attractive by both genders.

I’ve noticed personally that men recently have been sporting a lot more facial hair (maybe due to my recent move to hipster heaven, or Surry Hills). It doesn’t seem to be viewed as unkempt or scruffy to rock up at work sporting a beard. “Facial hair correlates not only with maturity and masculinity, but also with dominance and aggression” – traits that are ideal in a leader. As long as it’s a manly beard, not one that makes you look like a magician (however, wizard = awesome), a full beard is a sign of dominance and strength, and potentially wood chopping skills, or at least the ability to assemble flat-pack furniture.


Just say… Mo
Which brought my thoughts to Movember. The time of the year when men sport some form of upper lip restricted face fluff regardless of their beard growing abilities.
I think that Movember (aside from the charitable aspects) is popular because it allows men to truly embrace their facial hair growing potential, whilst simultaneously combining two facial hair styles women dislike – a clean shave and full beard (albeit restricted), and as it’s in the name of “charity” women don’t get the chance to place our complaints legitimately. Which we do so very well. I personally don’t like mustaches because my dad had one in the 80s and somehow I feel that I was the offspring of a Cuban cigar dealer (ask me about it).

Dixson, B., & Brooks, R. (2013). The role of facial hair in women’s perceptions of men’s attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities Evolution and Human Behavior, 34 (3), 236-241 DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003

And also just my unashamed enjoyment of beards (FYI – I want heavy stubble to full beard regardless of my fertility status). And Ron Swanson is just awesome.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s