Men's Health

5 Scientific Things That Happen To Men With Beards

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

Originally Published: 
A man touching his beard while looking in a mirror.
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Men with beards come with baggage. They’ve been accused of harboring bacteria and grossing out women. But nevertheless, men persist in growing out their whiskers. The reasons why men with beards grow out their facial hair may vary, but the effects of keeping a beard are real. Research shows that guys with beards are seen as more attractive, are protected from certain diseases, and convey a quiet yet confident sense of masculinity a la Nick Offerman. (Lagavulin forever.) However, that doesn’t mean all men with beards have it better. In fact, men’s facial hair is a mixed (and occasionally itchy) bag.

So, should you sport a beard or no beard? Here’s what scientists have discovered about the benefits and drawbacks of being a man with a beard.

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

First, gross. But past reports that beards were laced with fecal matter were based on a single, solitary local news report, not rigorous scientific study. Although a spokesperson from Quest Diagnostics lab in Albuquerque did tell a reporter that a few bearded volunteers had trace amounts of fecal matter in their beards (how? HOW?), these observations were not a part of any national trend. 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 has found that beards have more bacteria than dogs do. So having a beard may warrant some extra time in the shower.

Beards May Protect Men From Skin Cancer

Beards can protect men from exposure to about 90% of harmful ultraviolet rays, according to research from 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 although a man with a beard may need a little less sunscreen than his counterparts without facial hair, he still risks burns on the rest of his body, with special emphasis on the nose and ears. But for those with a full face sweater, think of it as the opposite of a sunburned bald spot.

Men With Beards Are More Attractive (Sometimes)

Women may find bearded men more attractive, studies suggest (awesome). But this depends on whether that woman’s father had a beard (weird). 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 are modeled after parents. If you believe it’s worth exploiting this somewhat strange loophole, it’s time to get access to your prospective’s old family albums.

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, men with beards do seem to portray outward masculinity that’s hard to replicate sans facial hair.

Guys With Beards Tend to 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, hormonal factors may be at play.

So live it up while you can, bearded guys, and count James Dean as an outlier.

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