5 Scientific Things That Happen to Men When They Grow Beards

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

Beards can make men more attractive, and not just by covering up weaker chins. Studies have shown that facial hair is still widely considered a symbol of manliness, that it might even protect men from some diseases.

Here’s what science has to say about your beard:

Beards May Protect Men From Skin Cancer

Beards can protect men from exposure to 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. “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. Think of it as the opposite of a sunburned bald spot.

They Are a Symbol of Manliness

Men with beards may be seen as more mature and having higher social status, one study found. There’s also evidence that men with beards exhibit more dominance, and some controversial research suggesting that bearded men are prone to sexist behaviors. Although that final study has since been disputed, beards sure seem to embody masculinity. For better or worse.

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Beards Could Make Some Men More Attractive

Bearded men may be more attractive to women, studies suggest, but this depends on whether that woman’s father had a beard. Scientists suspect this may have something to sexual imprinting, or the theory that future mate preferences are formed at a young age and modeled after parents. It sounds creepy, but it can actually make buying for beard balm in bulk more fun for the whole family.

Your Beard Probably Doesn’t Have Poop in It

Recent headlines claiming that most beards probably have fecal matter in them were not quite scientific in nature — they were based on a local news report. 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 scientific study. Just because a couple of guys in New Mexico have poop in their beards doesn’t mean you do.

But Beards Have Been Linked With Dying Younger

It’s not all roses for bearded folk. One study found that infrequent shaving of facial hair was linked with early deaths from all causes, but 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.