Single & Clueless asks… Why do most men love facial hair, and most women hate it?

By Dr. Helen Fisher, Chief Scientific Advisor for Chemistry.com

At one time, designer stubble, hairy upper lips, bristly chins, and bushy beards were reserved for long weekends, winter vacations, or bouts of unemployment. Now this hairy trend can be spotted everywhere from corporate boardrooms to hipster bars.  I don’t know how women feel in other cultures, particularly those where almost all men have beards (you might write in and tell me).   But the American women I know don’t like facial hair on a man.  I’m among them and we are not alone.  Based on a Happen Magazine poll from last June, the only other popular men’s style trend women disliked more than coiffed facial hair was polo shirts….with  popped collars… particularly of the Ed Hardy variety.

Years ago, I had a boyfriend who loved his beard.  He looked fashionable, I suppose; but I looked like a pumpkin.  My raw face tingled in the shower; and after a particularly sexy evening together, I was embarrassed to show up at work.  Even worse, his beard was a walking menu; it retained the smells of former meals.   But men like beards.   They think beards are manly.  And they’re right.  In a famous experiment, a young lighthouse keeper on an isolated island measured his shaving trimmings daily.  On Fridays, in anticipation of his trip to the mainland to spend the weekend with his girlfriend, he noticed that his beard hair had grown substantially over night.  Testosterone fuels the growth of men’s facial hair—probably an evolutionary tactic to signal sexual availability.   Beards also signal sexual maturity.    Like women’s breasts that develop at puberty and shrink with menopause, little boys can’t grow beards while older men’s gray beards confirm that the height of their virility has passed.­­

But on the more conscious level, men also grow beards to accentuate their jawline. Male jawline turn women on!  Take a look at almost any male actor’s chin (hello George Clooney: it’s rugged—because it has been built by testosterone. Indeed, ovulating women regard a man’s rugged jawline as particularly attractive; while they are more likely to choose a “baby faced” man at other times of the menstrual cycle.  And to further accentuate this facial advertisement of testosterone, men stroke their jaw or beard when they get nervous–a primordial gesture to show off their masculinity.

Like the lion’s mane: facial hair signals testosterone, lots of it, along with youth, virility, assertiveness and readiness.  So I’m not surprised that some women love a beard.   Beneath this smelly, itchy hair is a primal hunter and provider—something men want to be and women want to have.

Are you single and clueless or just need a little relationship guidance? Send us your questions. If we decide to post on the blog your email and name will not be published: chemistrysm@match.com

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  • Odana2

    I love a three to five day growth of facial hair on a man.

  • Matildatestoni

    agreed. scruffiness that is almost a beard is very sexy. it does distinguish men from boys, but it also distinguishes creative or alternative types from board room fellows. so maybe my perchant for facial hair come from a tendency towards the artistic men. I mean lawyers and bankers don’t have beards, but academics and musicians do. facial hair is a clear statement of where you stand in society. just look at biker gangs.

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  • Jdm2jdm

    I presume guys grow mustaches and beards, often, because they are balding/bald.
    Or have a weak chin. Or a long upper lip. Or is ‘lipless’ (= thin lips). Or gunmetal-blue facial stubs
    by the afternoon; Facial hair tends to draw attention away from such deficiencies. So I do tend to imagine that frequently facial hair is covering facial demerits.

    – - – jdm2jdm@sbcglobal.net

  • Jdm2jdm

    It is well-known in the world of litigation: trial lawyers eschew beards or mustaches; their premiere
    concern is the effect of appearances on the jury. Re a guy with a beard/mustaches who nevertheless persists in wearing facial hair while appearing before a jury, I have heard an experienced litigator say that, in his imagination, when the jury ponders its view of that person, the litigator has said, the jury may ask “What Is It He Is Hiding . . .? “

  • Hunternatasha4

    I like men with beards, because it makes them look more handsome and mature. Why are black women attracted to white men with white beards. (The bikers, Santa claus)?? Bad boys and/or good boys. Or do they they look saintly – answer back? Natasha Hunter

  • Hunternatasha4

    i love the scruffy beard on a nice well-groomed man .

  • Skholtglass

    I once knew a guy with a lovely blonde beard who looked like an adorable teddy bear. While at work a stranger said hi. He was the homeliest most ugly guy i have ever seen. Yes, it was teddy bear guy. The article said women in the USA don’t like facial hair? Nobody asked me!

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