The Scientific Reason Women Like Men With Beards

Straight women seem to find men with beards more attractive than clean-shaven men, and there is now a study to prove it. If you're one of them, you probably cheer when no-shave November comes around. 

2016 study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology found that heterosexual women seeking a long-term relationship prefer men with full beards. The study included 8,520 straight women who were shown photos of 16 different men in four different stages of facial hair growth: cleanly shaven, five days without shaving, 10 days without shaving, and four weeks without shaving. The women then rated the men on how attractive they were in general, how attractive they were for short-term relationships, and how attractive they were for long-term relationships. 

The cleanly-shaven dudes came in last in overall attractiveness, with the full beards in third, the five-day stubble in second, and the 10-day stubble in first place. However, women found the men with full beards the most attractive for long-term relationships.

Masculine vs. feminine features

Another part of the study looked at how attracted women were to feminine and masculine versions of the same men. The researchers had the men's features altered to look more masculine or more feminine and surveyed the female participants. The results were that the women found the men in the middle more attractive. However, this could be because some of the participants like men with feminine features and some like men with masculine features, making the survey results fall in the middle — it's not necessarily because the women found the men in between feminine and masculine the most attractive.

The researchers learned that men with stubble and beards hide some of those masculine and feminine features, meaning that it didn't matter whether they had the features the women preferred if they were hidden by a beard. The women were just more attracted to men with beards. It's science!

A sense of maturity

In addition to being perceived as more masculine, beards may communicate characteristics associated with fatherhood. Throughout the evolution of humans, women and men have naturally gravitated toward sexual partners they believe would be the most successful at reproducing. In a 2019 study published in Hormones and Behavior, a sample of 2,103 women were evaluated on their perceptions of facial hair in relation to fatherly qualities. To gauge whether reproductive status played a role in these perceptions, the study included women who weren't using hormonal contraceptives, women who were using them, mothers with a child under one year old, and pregnant women. 

The women were shown photographs of the same men with either a beard or a clean-shaven face. They were asked which face looked stronger, older, more masculine, and more sexually attractive. Additionally, they were asked who they thought would be a better father. The researchers discovered that women who were mothers believed that men with facial hair would have superior fathering abilities. Men with beards were also perceived to be older and more masculine among the women who were mothers. However, the non-pregnant women who were taking contraceptives judged the bearded faces as being more attractive than the mothers did. 

There's a sense of protection that some women may feel when a man has masculine features, like facial hair and a deep voice, as these qualities imply a dominant personality, according to a 2010 article published in Evolution and Human Behavior. 

Do all women prefer beards?

Though many women enjoy a scruffy face, not all of them do. In fact, some women are downright disgusted by beards, and you may be interested to learn why. 

In a 2020 study published in Royal Society Open Science, 919 women were asked to rate the attractiveness of men with beards or clean-shaven faces. The researchers found that women who had a strong aversion to ectoparasites — like fleas, ticks, and lice — were less likely to be attracted to men with beards.

"This could be due to the increased cultural trends for men and women to remove hair in more regions of the body including their faces, chests, arms, legs, and pubic region," Dr. Barnaby Dixson, anthropologist and senior author of the study, reported in an article published by the University of Queensland Australia. According to the researchers, practicing hairlessness may have originally evolved to avoid parasites that carry diseases. 

Some women's lack of attraction to bearded men may be due to the belief that beards are dirty and full of bacteria. However, the risk of disease isn't increased for men who regularly clean their beards, according to UPMC Health Beat. It's recommended that men shampoo and condition their beards several times a week, trim their beards, and avoid getting food in their beards when eating. 

If you're unsure whether your date prefers a full-on beard, stubble, or a clean-shaven face, perhaps you could discuss the subject on your next romantic outing.