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Heavy Stubble Is Most Attractive, Research Finds

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What does facial hair say about you?

BEARDIt’s not quite clear why human males continue to have facial hair. There are other ways to keep warm, and we’ve lost our hair over most of the rest of our bodies (or they’re at best residual). But facial hair serves another important purpose—determining male attractiveness to females.

Women found heavy stubble to be the most attractive, while heavy beards, light stubble and no beard were all equally less attractive.

But even types of facial hair trigger different types of reaction among women, who consciously or unconsciously make decisions on mate selection, parenting ability, health, and masculinity based on how thick a beard is. However, these exact decisions often have contradicted each other in studies on attractiveness. Barnaby Dixson and Robert Brooks from the University of New South Wales published a study in Evolution and Human Behavior that quantitated women’s and men’s impression of facial hair, and attempted to make sense of previous, confusing results.

Women found heavy stubble to be the most attractive, while heavy beards, light stubble and no beard were all equally less attractive. Men, however, found full beards and heavy beards as most attractive. Light stubble was rated least attractive by both genders. For parenting ability and healthiness, both men and women rated full beards as the best choice. Masculinity assessments increased with facial hair (the more hair, the more masculine the viewer thought of the weaver). And while masculinity ratings of heavy beard-wearers were particularly high among women in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycles, overall attractiveness did not depend on the woman’s fertility. “An intermediate level of beardedness of most attractive, while full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring,” the authors wrote.

Dixson and Brooks presented photographs of 10 smiling men, in various stages of beard growth to 177 heterosexual men and 351 women, 80 percent of whom were of European descent.

The study indicates the evolutionary role played by facial hair in selecting mates, and suggests that decisions based on these characteristics is ongoing. The researchers also noted significant differences in how men and women interpret facial hair. “Facial hair correlates not only with maturity and masculinity, but also with dominance and aggression,” Dixson and Brooks wrote. “Men, judging other men, might be sensitive to the overall level of masculine threat and aggression signaled through full beards. Women, by contrast, may balance…a competitive masculine partner against the costs of mating with a too-masculine partner.”

Fertility also wasn’t related to attractiveness ratings of beards, which showed the separation of preferences from reproductive status; this is unusual because most sexual traits that are based on hormones are closely tied to reproductive status. The researchers state that more work is needed to understand the relationships between female fertility status and impressions of sexual characteristics.

Photo: Flickr

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

beards on men, attractiveness in men, what is a full beard

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  • thinker

    one word, fashion.

  • Megan

    Males continue to have facial hair
    due to testosterone production. The continuous
    interpersonal engagement may stimulations testosterone production in
    males. Maybe the female and emotional and
    physiological arousal triggers autonomic neurons system has an effect on male testosterone
    production.

    On the cultural norm values the
    male according to level of masculinity where testosterone production is
    stimulated by interpersonal engagement

  • Spriser

    From a very early age, we are able to identify ourselves as boys or girls. Through the years little girls watch the boys grow up playing with trucks, blocks, action figures. They are rough and tough. Little girls watch their daddy’s shave their face and dress for work. Although not all men shave, some experience the trimming of the facial hair. Girls growing up do not care if they are called a “tom boy” but boys are to be rigid and never referred to as a sissy. Maybe the direct result of gender roles as we are growing up is subconsciously causing women to look for that rough, rigid man who will take care of her, provide for the family and the beard just reassures her of the kind of man her father was. Maybe not in every case, but I’m sure a majority of them. The fertility factor, possibly could be a result of that. You see the boys mature to men, and its a “milestone” women see them as a “man”. Just a thought. Psychology and the Gender specific roles in development and behavior can really make a person over think and analyze.

  • Klinefelter Syndrome

    Unless you’ve got the Klinefelter Syndrome.. you’ve got no facial hair. 1 on the 500 males got Klinefelter. A lot of them do have small shoulders and a big ass, much more look like a woman than a man, that is because they have 47 XXY-chromosomes… and because most woman want baby’s this kind of male fall between two stools.