Are bearded men more attractive to women?
I was a little surprised when while having lunch with some of my female colleagues in Juba, Rita* frowned upon a middle-aged man who sauntered into the establishment with a bushy beard, despite being well-kempt.
“I thought all women find bearded men attractive?” I asked.
“If some research was done here in Juba or South Sudan, then I can bet my last coin that I was not in the sample,” she said, tongue in the cheek no doubt.
In short, she was saying that when it comes to the beard, she is not open to any engagement.
“But this is only limiting to dating. If you are my boss, colleague or client I have no problem with your beard,” she added.
She is not alone. Maria* suspects she got this ‘beard phobia’ from her father, who was in the category of men who live and die without spotting a single strand of hair in the name of a beard.
“We had that good chemistry between a daughter and a father if you know what I mean. He would hug us, kiss us on the cheek, we could cuddle for all we care while growing up, of course until that age when some of these fatherly affections were no longer socially acceptable,” says Maria.
Yet there are those like Doreen* who is a manager at one of the hotels in Juba who does not care about whether someone is bearded or not, as long as they are clean, calm and respectful.
“You better have good looks and a brain that can sustain a conversation. Whether you have a beard the size of Congo Forest or not, just be clean and we are good to go. Anything else is an automatic turn-off, whether one is bearded or not,” she says.
A beard can be a personal style move, it can fit in nicely with any sort of personal style or wardrobe — depending on the type of beard you’re sporting, of course — and it can be a nice change of pace for your overall look if ever you’ve wanted to try out a refreshed grooming routine.
According to a new study, if a woman runs screaming from hair-dwelling creatures such as lice, ticks, fleas and the like, she’s likely to find men with beards much less attractive.
It’s on an unconscious level, of course. But from the viewpoint of her inner animal brain, who wants to pucker up to a mouth fringed by a thicket of hair that might contain tiny, squirmy, maggot-like creatures?
Highly masculine features
Nature has programmed us on a deep, visceral level to be attracted to mates who show the most masculine and feminine qualities for reproduction.
For a man, that has to do with anything testosterone related – taller, with bigger muscles and more facial hair.
A 2013 study explored the amount of hair considered by females to be the most attractive. Women ranked faces with heavy stubble most attractive; light stubble, heavy beards and clean-shaven faces were judged less attractive.
In this study, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, very masculine faces and those with beards were rated more attractive than feminine-looking male faces or clean-shaven faces. This held true regardless if the woman was looking for short-term or long-term relationships.
In fact, men with masculine features such as a wide jaw and strong brows who had beards were the most attractive for both types of relationships.
But when our innate disgust toward parasitic creatures was factored into the equation, things changed. The study found women who expressed higher levels of disgust toward parasites and other pathogens were more likely to judge a man’s beard as unattractive.
In evolutionary theory, this could make sense. It’s thought humans evolved to have less hair on their bodies partly because it lessened the risk of disease-carrying parasites to proliferate.
Today, surveys show hairless chests are preferred among women from the USA, China, New Zealand, Finland, Brazil, Slovakia, Czechoslovakia and Turkey (but not among women from the UK and Cameroon).
Still, research in the area is confusing: Studies have shown that if a woman grew up with a bearded father they are more likely to find beards attractive; women who are in current relationships with men with facial hair also tend to like it more.
While science sorts it out, guys, you might as well play it safe. If you’re considering growing a beard and your partner finds ticks, fleas, lice and other hair-dwelling creatures nauseating, your stubble could get you into trouble.
The science of beards
Beards are undeniably manly. Facial hair growth is primarily propelled by testosterone, a hormone most often associated with sex drive and plays a vital role in sperm production. It also affects bone and muscle mass.
The production of testosterone starts to increase significantly during puberty and begins to dip after age 30 or so.
Having low testosterone can negatively affect beard growth. For men with clinically low testosterone, taking supplements under a doctor’s supervision may help increase beard growth.
You can be genetically predetermined for a scant beard, even if your testosterone is normal. This is largely due to genetic variations, ethnicity, and heredity.
Keep in mind that you inherit genes from both parents. Your dad’s beard may indicate what yours will be like, but so may your maternal grandfather’s.
Women with beards
You have probably seen a woman who has excessive growth of dark or coarse hair in a male-like pattern — face, chest and back. This is called hirsutism, and the extra hair growth often arises from excess male hormones (androgens), primarily testosterone.