To beard or not to beard? That is the question many guys seem unable to answer when it comes to women’s preferences. Do women like full beards? Or, do women prefer clean-shaven men? Well, despite articles heralding the end of the beard age, the science is in…and apparently, so are beards.
In 2016, a study was published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology titled “The masculinity paradox: facial masculinity and beardedness interact to determine women’s ratings of men’s facial attractiveness”. Yeah, I know. It’s a mouthful. That’s science, for you. It does give you the general gist of the study, however. Among the 8500 women interviewed for the study, a common theme occurred: how attractive they found a man was dependent both on how masculine they perceived him to be and whether he had a beard. Those traits also interacted so that bearded men were perceived as inherently more masculine.
The researchers split pictures of men into four categories: clean shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, and full beard. They then used image editing software to alter the femininity/masculinity of the men’s faces. Then, they showed the pictures to women and asked them to rate the men on general attractiveness and the type of relationship they’d be more likely to pursue with each of the men. Here’s what they found.
- Heavy Stubble. Men with heavy stubble were consistently rated as the most attractive in all aspects.
- Full Beard. Women found men with full beards to be slightly more attractive than men with light stubble in both general attractiveness and attractiveness for long term relationships.
- Light Stubble. Women rated men with light stubble as slightly more attractive for short term relationships than men with full beards. If you’re looking for a fling, the Don Johnson look may be your best bet.
- Clean Shaven. Men with no facial hair at all were seen as least attractive of all the groups, especially when the men’s faces had more feminine features.
What does this mean for me?
Honestly, if you have a preference one way or the other about your facial hair, stick with it. There are plenty of women out there that like each of these facial types. It’s your face, and you definitely shouldn’t let societal beauty standards dictate what you do with your own body.
That being said, if you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to grow a beard, this may be a good incentive to do so. You’ll be seen as more masculine, intelligent, and loyal than your unbearded compatriots. If you’re going to go with stubble, though, let it grow out a bit instead of going for the five o’clock shadow. It is rated higher for appearance and it’ll be less abrasive on your partner’s skin.
See the following pictures for examples of the four beard types used in this study. (These are not actual pictures used in the study, just my own examples of the type of facial hair each category represents)
In the end, you’re the only one who really needs to be comfortable with your facial hair choices. If you’re happier with a bald face, then go for it. If you like to keep a full beard, do that. Please don’t take this post as me attempting to influence whether or not you grow a beard. This entire article has been really nothing more than what I hope is an interesting look at how women feel about beards and men’s facial hair in general. After all, as a famously clean-shaven intellectual once admonished, knowing is half the battle.
Citation: “The masculinity paradox: facial masculinity and beardedness interact to determine women’s ratings of men’s facial attractiveness” B. J. W. Dixson, D. Sulikowski, A. Gouda‐Vossos, M. J. Rantala, R. C. Brooks https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jeb.12958