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The Science of Why You Are (Or Aren't) Attracted To Men With Beards

Closeup portrait of a cool man with a beard smiling on white
Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy
January 15, 2020

A new study published by The Royal Society set out to find out how beards, or lack thereof, affect the perception of a man's attractiveness as a potential partner, specifically by women.

The researchers concluded that facial hair had a "significant main effect" on women's evaluations of men's potential for short- and long-term relationships. That impact? Overall, women found faces with facial hair more attractive than clean-shaven, and especially in terms of considering the man as a long-term partner.

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The study also sought to find cause for these associations between beardedness and attractiveness, from a scientific level, and set out a few hypotheses to test this. One of the big ones? The relationship between beards, attractiveness, and parasites.

Yes, parasites.

Some theories, according to the study, propose that "beards may augment male attractiveness via signaling an individual's ability to withstand the costs of ectoparasites." Essentially, by having a beard, the man is indicating that he is able to fight off any parasites that may lodge in his beard.

Other theories propose the opposite, that our culture's habit for grooming and trimming body hair would result in the existence of a beard, and therefore the potential for these parasites, to be discouraging enough to cause some individuals to find beards less attractive.

But there's reasons beyond the potential dangers of beards that influence their perceived attractiveness, according to the study. Women found beards particularly attractive for long-term partners, which may tie into the conditioning of behavioral and social norms.

According to the study, beards "amplify masculine features, particularly jaw size." They are also able to camouflage traditionally less masculine features, which can contribute to an improved perception of attractiveness in conventional relationships.

Beards were also associated with more attractiveness in a partner for parentally investing relationships and were rated as more attractive. This is likely due to what the researchers saw as "the positive effects of facial hair on ratings of social dominance and sexual maturity." This was especially true for women who were already mothers, while women who were single but wanted to have children preferred clean-shaven faces. 

One of the paradoxes of the study was that while some groups rated bearded faces highly for things such as parenting and masculinity, they also rated those lower for "sexual attractiveness," implying the wide variety of factors that go into how we judge a partner's compatibility and attractiveness.

The big take-away of the study is that, while overall men with beards were deemed more attractive, we can't make too many sweeping generalizations. While different groups did show trends when asked specific questions, there's definitely more to who we choose as our partner than their facial grooming habits.

Finding your perfect match—or even a soul mate—is about more than just looks and attractiveness (intelligence is a big component too), and there's a wide array of compatibility factors you should be taking into consideration when you're looking for your ideal person.

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