Women often find men with beards to be sexy, more masculine and more attractive than clean-shaven men. However, a recent study published in the Royal Society Biology Letters has thrown a curveball that alters this observation.
Researchers have found that when there is an abundance of men sporting beards, then having a beard is perceived as being less attractive.
Previous studies testing women’s facial hair preferences have shown that a variety of types of facial hair or lack of facial hair have been found to be alluring.
In some studies it was a full beard and in others it has been a light layer of stubble or a heavy layer of stubble. Pinpointing exactly what the look was that appeared to be attractive has been inconsistent.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales hypothesized that it was not the presence or lack of a beard that made a man attractive but how rare it was to see a man with a beard.
So, when fashion trends or style influences many men to have beards, then the attractiveness of a beard was found to be less desirable than when women less frequently encounter a man who has a beard.
To test this hypothesis, researchers photographed 36 men with different levels of beardedness.
Each man was photographed four times as clean-shaven, with light stubble after 5 days of re-growth, with heavy stubble after 10 days, and with full beards that had grown untrimmed for at least four weeks.
The team sorted the photos into three groups based on beardedness.
One group contained photos of all the clean-shaven men. The next was only the full-bearded men. The last contained photos of each of the original four groups, representing all types of men with or without facial hair.
The volunteers, 1,453 women and 213 men, were asked to rank the attractiveness of men in photos.
Randomly assigned, the volunteers ranked the attractiveness of one of the three groups that contained 12 photos. They either looked at men who were all clean-shaven, all full bearded or a mixed group with photos from all four groups of men.