Your Beard Could Change How People Perceive You, According To Research

When you are young, there's a sense of embarrassment that arises when you can't grow a beard. This becomes more pronounced, naturally, when everyone around you manages to sport some decent stubble while you're left looking clean-shaven. As you grow older, a beard becomes many things to you — a sign of maturity, a way to impress the ladies, and even something you need for confidence. 

Did you ever stop to think, however, how having a beard could change the way other people perceive you? According to a 2019 study published in Psychological Science, there's a marked difference in how people see emotions like anger, sadness, and happiness in people who have beards and people who don't. "These were the emotions that were relevant for our study as they related to interpersonal threat and signaling aggressiveness and status," shared one of the authors of the study, an assistant psychology professor at the University of New England, Dr. Belinda Craig. 

Participants involved in the research were asked to recognize anger, sadness, and joy in both clean-shaven and bearded faces. What researchers found was that while anger was picked up faster in the faces of men with beards, sadness wasn't. "We think it's because the beard emphasizes the jaw which makes it easier to recognize anger but it is concealing some of the signals of sadness," said Craig. 

Interestingly, this wasn't the only finding of the research. Craig's research also uncovered that faces that had beards on them were thought to be more "prosocial." Craig told the University of New England, "By prosocial we mean friendlier and more helpful."

Men with beards are also perceived as more attractive

Facial hair has additionally been studied in relation to perceived attractiveness. A 2013 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior, which sought to find out how women perceived men at different stages of beard growth — namely, clean-shaven, 5-day stubble (light), 10-day stubble (heavy), and fully bearded — found that heavily stubbled faces came out on top as being the most attractive. Those with light stubble, on the other hand, were ranked as least attractive. According to the researchers, 5-day growth might be too patchy, suggesting that "a threshold of density and distribution may be necessary for beards to function as an attractive signal."

Consider the attractiveness level of your favorite male celebs — two who get more than a few thumbs up from fans are Ryan Reynolds and Chris Hemsworth, for example.

Anthropologist Sarah Ford told Fashionbeans that being able to cover up blemishes or flaws can also be an added benefit when it comes to beards and how they make you appear attractive. "Men are lucky because beards can hide a multitude of lower face-related sins (double chin, weak chin). I wish I could grow a beard," she shared. 

Attractiveness wasn't the only focus of the 2013 study. It also uncovered something interesting about full beards and how men ranked on perceived parenting skills. While lightly stubbled men ranked low overall, those with full beards scored higher when it came to perceived parenting skills. Does this mean that a full-bearded man is considered more mature and responsible too?

A beard could make people think you're more mature, too

If you want to look mature, socially dominant, and masculine, growing a beard might help, according to Barnaby Dixson, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia (via Global News). "Facial hair enhances masculine facial features. It gives the appearance of having a longer face and a bigger jawline, and it frames the mouth and emphasizes the eyes," explained Dixson, who has co-authored studies on the topic. Jason Momoa certainly looks more mature due to his impressive facial hair.

In fact, perceived maturity is one of the scientific reasons women like men with beards. Perhaps this may also have to do with the fact that bearded men can look significantly older than their actual age. A 2012 study published in Behavioral Ecology, co-authored by Dixson, seemed to confirm this theory. The research involved both men and women being shown photos of European- or Samoan-descendant men. When the participants were asked to guess their ages, the full-bearded men were perceived to be much older than they actually were. British hair transplant surgeon, Dr. Asim Shahmalak told Daily Mail, "There is no doubt that facial hair and beards in particular do tend to make men look older." Even when it came to something like social status, bearded men ranked higher than their clean-shaven counterparts in the 2012 study. 

But, be this as it may, how people perceive you is only one half of the coin. If a beard adds to who you are, it might be a reason to invest in growing one. If it doesn't, there are also plenty of pleasures (like less grooming time) in taking the clean-shaven route.