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5 Scientific Things That Happen to Men When They Grow Beards

To beard or not to beard? The science is prickly.

Beards come with baggage. They’ve been accused of harboring bacteria and grossing out women, but the pursuit of growing a beard persists among many guys. The reasons men grow beards vary, but the effects are real. Research shows that men with beards are seen as more attractive, are protected from certain diseases, and convey a quiet yet confident sense of masculinity. However, that doesn’t mean all dudes with beards have it better. In fact, men’s facial hair is a mixed (and bristled) bag. Here’s what scientists have discovered about the benefits and drawbacks of being a man with a beard.  

Beards May Protect Men From Skin Cancer

Beards can protect men from exposure to about 90 percent of harmful ultraviolet rays, according to research out of the University of Queensland in Australia. As a result, bearded guys may be less prone to skin cancer, at least on a very specific patch of their face and neck. “While beards will never be as sun-safe as sunscreen, they certainly are a factor in blocking UV rays,” study author Alfio Parisi, the associate dean for the school of Health, Engineering and Sciences, told The Independent. So while bearded guys may need a little less sunscreen than their counterparts without facial hair, they still risk burns on the rest of their body. Think of it as the opposite of a sunburned bald spot.

Guys With Beards Are Seen as More Manly

Men with beards may be seen as more mature and as having a higher social status, one study found. There’s also evidence that dudes with beards exhibit more dominance, and some controversial research suggests that bearded men are prone to sexist behaviors. Although that final study has since been disputed, beard men do seem to portray outward masculinity that’s hard to replicate sans facial hair.

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Men With Beards Are More Attractive (Sometimes)

Women may find bearded men more attractive, studies suggest, but this depends on whether that woman’s father had a beard. Scientists suspect this may have something to do with sexual imprinting or the theory that future mate preferences are formed at a young age and modeled after parents. It makes buying beard balm in bulk more fun for the whole family!

Guys With Beards Die Young

It’s not all roses for guys with beards. One study found that infrequent shaving of facial hair was linked with early deaths from all causes, most notably cardiovascular disease. Researchers suspect that this increased death risk is mainly due to lifestyle differences, because bearded men were more likely to be shorter, less likely to be married, had fewer orgasms, and were more prone to smoking. Still, there may be hormonal factors at play. So live it up while you can, bearded guys.

Beards Probably Don’t Have Poop In Them (But They’re Still Dirty)

Past reports that beards were laced with fecal matter were based on a local news report and not exactly scientific in nature. Although a spokesperson from Quest Diagnostics lab in Albuquerque did tell a reporter that a few bearded volunteers did have trace amounts of fecal matter in their beards, these observations were not a part of any rigorous academic study. In other words, just because a couple of guys in New Mexico have poop in their beards doesn’t mean you do. But more recent research found that beards have more bacteria than dogs, so having a beard may warrant some extra time in the shower.