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New Beard Study Suggests Hipsters Should Think Twice About Weird Facial Hair

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What kind of facial hair makes men most attractive to women?

It's complicated.

In 2013 a pair of Australian researchers showed that gals prefer guys with heavy stubble. But a new study by the same researchers suggests that context is everything.

When most men are clean-shaven, the new study showed, women (and men) rate heavy stubble and full beards more attractive than the beardless look. But when most guys in town are sporting some sort of facial hair, clean-shaven guys have an edge.

And not just by a whisker. Guys who buck the prevailing facial hair trend enjoy "a significant premium by attractiveness ratings," Prof. Rob Brooks, director of the Evolution and Ecology Research Center at the University of New South Wales and a co-author of the new study, wrote in The Conversation.

The new facial hair study was published April 16 in the journal Biology Letters.

Brooks and his collaborators drew their conclusion from the results of an experiment in which people recruited via the Internet rated the attractiveness of 36 men, each of whom had been photographed when clean-shaven, with light stubble (five days' growth), heavy stubble (10 days' growth), and a full beard (at least four weeks of untrimmed growth).

What does the study mean for guys trying to attract a mate?

"It suggests that beard styles are likely to grow less attractive as they become more popular," Brooks wrote. "And that innovative new styles may enjoy a premium while they are still rare."

Of course, innovative styles of facial hair have their detractors. One blogger called out by Brooks wrote recently on the "beard aficionado" website Beardsy:

The beard has turned into the padded bra of masculinity. Sure it looks sexy, but whatcha got under there? There's a whole generation running around looking like lumberjacks, and most of you can't change a fucking tire.

Sheesh, that’s enough to give a guy pogonophobia—and something men may want to consider next time they’re face-to-face with the man in the mirror.

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