Men's Health (UK) - - MH Classified -

Afew years ago, re­porters in New Mex­ico swabbed the faces of bearded Amer­i­cans and sent the sam­ples for anal­y­sis. Bi­ol­o­gists peered into their mi­cro­scopes and found “en­ter­ics” – bac­te­ria that usu­ally live in the di­ges­tive sys­tem. “These are the types of things you find in fae­ces,” they said, ap­palled.

Let’s face it: beards can get messy and they’re a has­sle to main­tain. Be­sides, aren’t they “over”? Even the Wall Street Jour­nal seems to think that fa­cial hair has be­come “bor­ingly nor­mal”.

But don’t reach for your ra­zor just yet. For all their faults, beards re­main a pow­er­ful ally. Ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Evo­lu­tion­ary Biology, women look­ing for a long-term part­ner ex­hibit a sig­nif­i­cant pref­er­ence for hairier men: the thicker the beard, the more at­trac­tive. Cu­ri­ously, Dr Barn­aby Dix­son, co-au­thor of the study, at­tributes this to beards’ an­ti­so­cial con­no­ta­tions of ag­gres­sion and dom­i­nance. He sus­pects that such traits would have helped early man to fend off preda­tors, mak­ing him more of a catch.

It’s not just women who find beards at­trac­tive: em­ploy­ers do, too. A study in­volv­ing 228 man­agers pub­lished in the jour­nal So­cial Be­hav­ior and Per­son­al­ity found that bearded job ap­pli­cants were far more likely to get the po­si­tion on of­fer, and were rated higher for “per­son­al­ity, com­pe­tency and com­po­sure”.

Add to this the Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land’s dis­cov­ery that beards can pro­tect your face from 95% of harm­ful UV rays, low­er­ing your can­cer risk, and a few ex­tra mi­cro­scopic germs liv­ing on your face seem like a small price to pay. If you haven’t al­ready got a beard, though, hurry. “When beard­ed­ness becomes too com­mon,” says Dix­son, “it is less at­trac­tive than when it is rare.” Right now, 44% of Bri­tons un­der 40 have the full Sean Con­nery. “Peak beard” is al­most upon us. Get grow­ing be­fore it’s too late.

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