A Beard Is Only as Sexy as It Is Rare

By Carl Engelking | April 16, 2014 8:44 am


It’s not just Williamsburg anymore — young people across the U.S. revere the beard. The facial hair craze is so popular that some men are paying as much as $7,000 for a beard transplant. However, if the trend continues, new research indicates why it will eventually reverse course: We find beards attractive only when they’re rare.

Testing the Beard’s Bravado

To test the sexual power of the beard, 36 men’s faces were captured in a series of photographs that followed them through various stages of beard growth, from a clean shave to a full beard. Then they rounded up 1,453 heterosexual women and 213 homosexual or bisexual men to rate the faces.

Participants saw two rounds of faces: The first contained 12 men who were either all clean-shaven or all bearded; the second contained a mixture of both. Participants rated the attractiveness of faces on a Likert’s scale where -4 was very unattractive and 4 was very attractive.

The researchers found that participants valued whichever facial hair was rarer. When bearded men dominated the first round, clean-shaven men were rated more attractive in the second. Conversely, when clean-shaven men were shown initially, bearded men got the higher scores. Basically, men whose faces most stood out from the crowd were most desirable. Researchers published their findings Tuesday in the Royal Society’s journal Biology Letters.

So if you’re on the fence about growing a chin garden, you may want to hold off. Based on these findings, the more popular a hirsute face becomes, the more attractive a clean-shaven man appears. Our prediction? Hang in there baby-faced men: your star is rising.


Photo credit: MishelVerini/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.anziulewicz PolishBear

    All I know is that I have had a weakness for bearded men for as long as I can remember. This is not to say that I haven’t seen plenty of incredibly sexy clean-shaven men. But I believe that any man who is genetically capable of growing a dense yet well-trimmed beard has sacred obligation to do so.

    • Lurch47

      Say WHAT??

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

    My plan:

    1. Become dictator of world
    2. Ban beards for everyone else
    3. Grow beard.

  • Shiloh1428

    As a woman, I have always found beards, particularly well groomed ones, very sexy. Some of the most important and influential men have had them; two of my favorites are Jesus and Lincoln. To me, beards symbolize wisdom and strength.

    • Truth Teller

      How do you know Jesus had a beard?

      • donl

        Everybody had beards back then,,you have any idea how hard it was to keep clean shaven without scraping the skin off your face as well??. i Should have said all guys! but hey..one never knows!..and to me JC was just a regular ,jewish born guy, probably a prophet..

      • AmericanMuse

        Most people think he did. It doesn’t matter if the guy had one or not.

  • ontime2011

    It was necessary to do all that research??. It is SIMPLE to know that the beard thing is just a fashion ! It will vanish at some time and -of course- will come back and some other moment too. it is like a wave, like miniskirts

  • donl

    I subscribe and it gets to me 8 days later? crisake I don’t live on the moon!!..this was to the staff of Discover..


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