From deep within the labs of scientific inquiry the science of beards has been put the test. There are many studies and research papers on the nature of beards. Our faithful manes are an extension of ourselves. Throughout the years, scientists have wondered and postulated about the role that beards play in our biology and even society. Some of this research can tell you what other people think about you when they look at your beard. Here were a few key takeaways from some of the studies on our quest to find out why men have beards.
Science of Beards
Men with distinctive facial hair are associated with aggression, dominance and maturity. Now don’t go beating your chest just yet if your personality doesn’t match up with any of these traits. Beards are an active sign of testosterone in the body, which the brain of others then associates with the potential for increased aggression. The study that came up with this hypothesis used photographs of bearded and non-bearded men for their experiment. Both men used the same aggressive facial expressions (baring teeth, scowling, growling, etc.) and then were compared. The participants rated the men in levels of aggression and intimidation. Each time the bearded men won out. Nice. Correlated research to this study pointed towards the fact that beards most likely evolved in men to help men boost their interaction among and over other men. More dominant men are most likely to get further mating opportunities when they intimidate their rivals and put them aside.
The Lion and the Man
In a fascinating study titled: Of Lion Manes and Human Beards: Some Unusual Effects of the Interaction between Aggression and Sociality, researchers compared the need for a lion’s mane and the human beard. Lions and men both develop beards for social reasons. Only male lions develop manes and only male humans develop beards. Beards and manes are an identifier of gender, advertises dominance and is seen as more sexually attractive for some females. The study went on to talk about the benefits of a beard in battle between other men or intraspecies attacks. “Humans also have unusual structural protections for the head, face and neck, areas that are especially accessible during intraspecies attack, and highly vulnerable to damage. One of these, the beard, consists of coarse hairs that grow indefinitely, but only for males, and only during and following puberty; suggesting that it, like the lion's mane, may serve as protection in intraspecies male fights". Take that Alexander the Great. Beards are good for battle and more.
Facial Hair as a Sign of Maturity & Attraction
Since you’re not going to be seeing any little kids or women sporting beards, it’s a known identifier as physical maturity in men. In a similar study to the beard aggression one, it was found that beards are associated with maturity and higher social status by both sexes. People perceive men with longer and well-groomed beards as more mature and masculine than men without. Another study gathered information from 8,520 women, who judged images of men with clean shaven faces, light and heavy stubble and a beard grown for one month. Now this doesn’t take into account much larger beards past a month – so remember that with this study. Each group of women were asked different questions about the male’s attractiveness. This line of questioning was also broken down to account for short-term attractiveness or one-night stands. Another separate question was about long-term prospects – basically if the man was a good match for a long-term commitment that might lead to marriage. The final results were published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. Women rated clean-shaven men asthe least attractive. Light and heavy stubble would likely result in a short term fling. Women looking for a long-term partner are more interested with a man with a bigger beard.
Additional Scientific Beard Facts
Beards aren’t just great for attraction and looking more masculine. They do a whole host of other things as well. Fun fact: it's estimated that once a man reaches 55 years of age, he'll have spent 3,350 hours or 139 days in the bathroom shaving his face. You’ll drastically cut that number down when you just need to groom your beard. Beards will also help protect you against harmful UV Rays. An Oxford Journal research paper found that the places where your beard is on your skin blocks 90 to 95 percent of all UV rays. You’re also less likely to get ingrown hairs once you stop shaving. It’s the actual cutting into the skin that creates these bumps that turn into pesky ingrown hairs. Once you’ve had your beard long enough – say goodbye to the pain! The beard isn’t just a flashy ornament, but something ingrained into the biological structure of man. There is still a lot more we have to learn about beards, and we’ll probably have a few more questions along the way. But for now we know a few reasons why men have these glorious things on our face we call beards!