Big, full beards have sprouted up everywhere in recent years, and are no longer just the domain of weathered sea captains and fish finger proprietors.
Many modern blokes will invest significant time and energy into maintaining a luxuriant brush, and will quite rightly take pride in their impressive, hipster-café-style bristles.
But how attractive are beards when it comes to the dating scene? And can your chin mane be used to entice a potential romantic partner?
This is the question researchers from the University of Queensland and the University of Stirling have addressed in a new study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
In this study, 919 predominantly heterosexual women between the ages of 18 and 70 were shown three male faces and asked to rate their attractiveness for both potential short and long-term relationships.
Each of the three faces was shown both bearded and clean-shaven and presented with five levels of ‘masculinity’, with the trait defined by features such as full beards, a prominent jawline and brow, and deep set narrow eyes.
The women also completed questionnaires measuring attitudes such as their revulsion in response to parasites that live on the body, and their desire to have children.
Participants generally found ‘masculine’ faces more fanciable than ‘feminine’ ones, with this trend recorded, whether or not the participant was considering a short or long-term relationship, or whether the face was bearded or clean-shaven.
Bearded men were found to be more attractive than clean-shaven men, with the hairiest faces receiving the most positive responses. This is apparently because they were perceived to exude greater physical and social dominance.
However – before you ditch the razor – not every participant was a fan of the fuzz. Interestingly, the team found women who reported higher levels of disgust for ectoparasites (fleas and lice) found beards less appealing, despite the reverse being true for those worried about harmful bacteria or viruses.
According to the results of this study:
This could be interpreted as evidence that facial hair is preferred as a marker of health among women with high pathogen concerns, or that facial hair masks areas of the face that would communicate ill health.
As reported by The Guardian, study co-author Anthony Lee, from the University of Stirling, said these findings could well be rooted in evolutionary fears:
This is likely to be the case for the majority of our evolutionary past. In modern times, with increased grooming and overall better hygiene, this link between hairiness and carrying ectoparasites may no longer exist, but the evolved tendency may still persist.
Lee went on the clarify that men should just opt for what feels right for them when it comes to facial hair, noting, ‘I wouldn’t base the decision to grow a beard on the results of a single study.’
So don’t fret too much about whether your chin is sending out the right or wrong signals. The right person for you is out there, and will love you bacteria and all.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.