Man with beard

Beard, stubble or smooth: what’s hotter?

By Sarah Wednesday, July 25, 2018 - 03:00
Hipster beard, movie-star stubble or smooth cheeks? Recent research reveals whether reaching for the razor will help or hinder your sex appeal.

Whether it’s Ranveer Kapoor’s handlebar moustache or Ranbir Kapoor’s full-on beard, everyone loves to talk about what’s hot in men’s facial hair. Why do women find certain looks more attractive?

Some US researchers decided to look into this crucial matter properly. Do girls fall for a clean-shaven look, stubble or a beard? Is their preference hardwired, or are tastes constantly changing?

The researchers recruited around 1450 girls and 210 guys from different ethnic backgrounds. They showed them pictures of men with different levels of facial hair growth – clean shaven, light or heavy stubble, or full-grown beards. The participants were then asked to rate how attractive the men were.

Negative frequency-dependent preferences and variation in male facial hair Zinnia, J. Janif, Robert C. Brooks and Barnaby J. Dixson


Try it yourself with the example above – one of the models used in the study, clean-shaven, with light stubble, heavy stubble and full beard. Which version do you find more attractive?

To shave or not to shave?

The clean-shaven look doesn’t do it for most women nowadays, the study found. Baby-faced guys were rated as the least attractive over all. Stubble, on the other hand, was seen as super desirable, even more so than full-grown beards.

Yet when it was the guys’ turn to rate the attractiveness of their peers, they were surprisingly more in favour of the clean-shaven look than women, the research revealed.

So, to maximise male sex appeal, go easy with the razor, but don’t opt for a full beard? Apparently, it’s not that simple…

Follow fashion?

How attractive a guy or girl is in any given culture can depend not only on their own physical features, but on how they compare to other people. Facial hair is apparently no exception. When it comes to the way a guy grooms, standing out seems to matter more than the style he chooses.

Women dig beards when there aren’t too many of them around, the study found. In the same way, they’re more into the clean-shaven look or a little bit of stubble when beards are all the rage.

This could explain why certain styles – think the ‘hipster’ beard – fall in and then out of fashion, say the researchers. Men might begin to groom their beards in a way that sets them apart from the rest of the pack. Maybe they’re copying the style of top-flight stubble-wearers like Hrithik Roshan when they come out with a new look. Women might find these guys more attractive, but as more and more men groom their facial hair that way, the novelty wears off and gives rise to a new style, the researchers suggest.

Source: Negative frequency-dependent preferences and variation in male facial hair, Janif ZJ, Brooks RC, Dixson BJ. Illustration taken from the article.

This article was first published on August 8, 2015. 

What do you think is more attractive – clean-shaven, stubble or beard? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.

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