Going bald? According to these scientists, you can blame your beard.

By Seriously Science | November 20, 2014 10:15 am
Photo: Flickr/Mark Berry

Photo: Flickr/Mark Berry

Let’s face it, the vast majority of people who both go bald and have beards are men. Is this a coincidence?

These scientists think not! In fact, they believe that the reason men go bald is to compensate for the heat they retain by growing a beard. In support of this idea, their study from 1988 found that the area of skin covered by men’s beard hair correlates with the area of skin with sweat glands on the forehead and calvaria (the top of the head).

Furthermore, for men, the rate of sweat evaporation was higher on the forehead than the beard area, while the evaporation rate for women and boys was about the same for the two areas. They took another measurement of the men’s beard area and sweat areas 10 years later (after the balding had proceeded apace, see second abstract below), and found that the same correlation between beard and sweat areas held.

Overall, the more of a beard a man grows, the more sweaty area he has on the top of his head. Which is pretty cool… at least for his head temperature!

Beards, baldness, and sweat secretion.

“The hypothesis according to which male common baldness has developed in the human species as a compensation for the growth of a beard in order to achieve heat loss has been tested. In 100 clean-shaven men direct measurement of the area of glabrous skin on the forehead and calvaria was found to be proportional to that of the hairy skin on the lips, cheeks, chin and neck. During light hyperthermia the evaporation rate on the bald scalp was 2 to 3 times higher than on the hairy scalp. Conversely the evaporation rate was practically equal on the foreheads and chins of women and unbearded young men, while in adult clean-shaven bearded men it was 40% less on the chin than the forehead. These results support the hypothesis that male baldness is a thermoregulatory compensation for the growth of a beard in adults.”

Beard vs. forehead, ten years later.

Ten years ago (1988), we observed in a sample of 100 men that the area of the glabrous skin above the eyebrows was proportional to the area of the hairy skin on the cheeks, lips, and chin. Ten to 11 years later, we measured again 39 of the former subjects to check longitudinally whether the relationship would still be valid. In the group of 39 subjects, the correlation was again significant and the regression was practically the same as that obtained in the same sample 10 years earlier. This would tend to show that ontogeny follows phylogeny. This results is understood as indirect evidence in favor of selective brain cooling in humans.

Related content:
Innocent until proven bearded.
Robust computational beard identification, FTW!
NCBI ROFL: If you want to get hired, better shave that beard.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: holy correlation batman!, rated G
  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    If this were true, men living in frigid climes should be heavily bearded and suffer anomalously rare baldness – Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada and Nunavut; Iceland, Greenland, northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, Tierra del Fuego.

    Equatorial lowland males should be bald. Is this true?

    • HotDang

      I lived in Scandinavia for 13 years. I never once saw a bald man. Now that I’ve moved to Ecuador it’s a stunning difference. Upwards of 90% of the men are bald, especially the bearded ones!

      • leonffs


      • Richard

        Errr… I am Norwegian, as in I live here and my family is pretty much 100% Norwegian and there are PLENTY of bald people in my family and where I live. I wonder where you lived in “Scandinavia”, because they must know something we don’t!

    • Ryanmcel

      Except that the majority of people spend little time outside, no matter where they live, since we are no longer cavemen, which makes your theory completely invalid

    • Carl Winslow

      Shoddy logic because you’re comparing people with different genetics, different diets, different cultures. The proper analysis would be to use subjects in the same country and compare those who do and do not have beards and hope that the differences between subjects are random and the sample size is large enough to mitigate that randomness.

  • Sanguinocrat

    I’m not buying this one.

  • Brunskii

    What a load of .. time wasting.

    • Mark Askins

      I agree. I honestly think its McDonalds. Just going there clogs my pores.

  • http://sidsavenue.blogspot.com/ Sid

    interesting…might need more research though…math doesnt always give the complete picture

  • Aldon

    So why do shavers go bald?

    • Haywood Jablowmie

      Bad aim?

  • kburd

    Bad hypothesis.

    • HotDang

      *Bald hypothesis.

  • Ray Tort

    Why are all my half-Norwegian uncles both bald and beardless?

    • bob bill

      Because being bald doesn’t inhibit your chances of survival in cold climates. This trait is to do with survival in hot climates so your brain doesn’t overheat and since Humans originated in hot climates the trait was just carried with humans who went into cold climates. But being bald doesn’t inhibit your chances of survival in cold climates so the trait persists and isn’t removed form the gene pool. A caveman never dropped dead from being bald lol.

  • Carlos

    So that explains why I’m going bald with a full beard at 19, huh? If that were the case I wonder why some people I know have also beard but not going bald yet. Perhaps something is really wrong with me as I have been told.

  • Rob

    I’d would believe more along the lines that the beard hairs are longer than the stubble would be if kept shaved so those longer hairs must be taking up the nutrients needed that would otherwise be going to the hairs on the head. This is just something I thought of; I have no way to scientifically prove it.

  • Charles

    Did anyone else catch the nonsensical-ness of the first sentence? “the vast majority of people who both go bald and have beards are men” –
    uhh… I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people who have beards are men… haven’t really met many bearded ladies…

    • Dave

      Wow your dumb. Seriously… you shouldn’t be allowed to cross the road by yourself.

      • Charles

        That was uncalled for. And you just thoroughly proved your lack of understanding of the English language – you said “your” instead of “you’re”, and you don’t understand the obvious problem with the wording in the sentance I was referring to. It should have said “the vast majority of men who have beards go bald”.

        • Dave

          Ok your right I’m sorry but he was obviously joking

          • Charles

            Maybe he was, but it didn’t seem obvious to me.

          • Gary

            It was obvious.

          • mick metalhead

            Haha, you did that “your” thing on purpose, didn’t you?

  • Ako Kikalia

    this is bullsh*t… DHT is responsible for male baldness. DHT gets rid of hair but makes beard fuller… so if you test subjects with full beard they are more likely to be bald, but clean shaven people are more likely to have full head of hair beacause they didn’t search for clean shaven people with ability to grow beard…

  • Alex Schmidt

    Actually, Uncle Al, since this is true, it makes more sense that equatorial groups have more baldness as they’re more likely to overheat than in these cold climates.

    • bob bill

      Evolution doesn’t work like that, you only adapt/evolve if the environmental pressure is strong enough.

      Humans originate from hot climates which is where this genetic trait became proliferant in the human gene pool. And since going bald doesn’t inhibit your chances of survival in cold climates (humans can just go indoors [caves in cold northern climates] or wear more clothes (animal skins) to keep warm) the environmental pressure would never be strong enough to get rid of this genetic trait in the gene pool of humans in cold climates.

  • Amy Dunn

    The only way this could be valid is if they did long term experiments with identical twins where one was to never grow a beard, and one was allowed to.

  • Ornob Ornob

    Wtf !!why dont we get beard in our whole face to keep up the proportion when we get full bald ??

  • http://www.arcx13.com/ Asfan Ash

    not gonna tell us who conducted this study huh?

  • Albert

    Nonsense. The myth that men with more facial and body hair bald more. Absolute rubbish. There are a lot of patterns you come across; men who are completely hairless on their faces and chest who bald by 20, and very hairy men (like my uncle) who keep a full head of hair for the rest of their lives.
    Stick this into your head, once and for all: what makes you bald in male pattern baldness is the sensitivity of your hair follicles to DHT, and this is a genetic trait. Your body hair is a different genetic trait, there is no correlation between the two

    • Kamrul Miah

      So why are some hair follicles so much more sensitive to DHT?

      • Ronnie Graham

        My thought exactly!!

      • Handsome Jack

        Because DNA makes them more sensitive.

  • James Givot

    Why don’t women in burkas go bald? I’d be sweating a lot more in one of those than with a beard on a hot summer day. Also, no other species normally bald, despite them having much more fur/body hair than humans. An intriguing theory but it simply is incomplete and contradictory.

    A more compelling theory: how foods in Western diet contribute to hormonal imbalance and hyper-inflammatory autoimmune response, which lead to the targeting of DHT-marked hair follicles and ergo the acceleration of baldness.

    • Handsome Jack

      Diet doesn’t have much to do with it. Bald men are born with hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT, because their genes code for DHT sensitive hair. Once puberty hits, DHT bombards these hair follicles until they can no longer function. This can take a few years to a few decades depending on follicle sensitivity. Plenty of cheeseburger eating diabetics have full heads of hair.

  • Handsome Jack

    Not everything has an evolutionary reason. MPB is a mutation that just happened by chance and has been passed on because it usually shows up after a man has already reproduced. It does not have any real evolutionary advantage. MPB is just a benign set of genes that natural selection is not able to eradicate.


Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]gmail.com.

See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar