We're still a month away from all your guy friends flooding Facebook with No-Shave November selfies, but, if you're a heterosexual woman, November might be your cuffing season. A new study found that straight women find men with beards more attractive for long-term partnership than short-term partnership. Interestingly, though, the women surveyed didn't find beards most attractive overall.
The study out of University of Queensland, Charles Sturt University, and the University of New South Wales in Australia, was published last month in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology . Researchers surveyed 8,520 heterosexual women by showing them photos of 16 different men in four stages of facial hair growth. Each man would be depicted in photographs showing his clean-shaven face, his face with five days of stubble, 10 days of stubble, and his face with at least four weeks of full beard growth. Participants were then asked to rate the men on how attractive they were overall, how attractive they'd be for a short-term relationship, and how attractive they'd be for a long-term relationship.
In the overall attractiveness findings, women rated men with ten-day stubble the most attractive, followed by five-day stubble, full beards, and, in last place, the clean-shaven guys. Full beards were seen as much more attractive, however, for long-term relationships than they were for short-term relationships.
The second part of the study assessed how attracted women were to "feminized" and "masculinized" versions of the same male face. The results would up in the middle, but researchers cautioned against assuming that women preferred dudes that way. Dr. Danielle Sulikowski, a researcher on the study, told news.com.au:
"It’s not because everyone preferences the ‘in the middle’ guys, it’s because some women have a strong preference for masculine features and some women have a strong preference for feminine features, so when the data evens out you get that medium results."
What the study found, instead, was that women have strongly split preferences between highly feminine and highly masculine faces, and it concluded that "stubble and beards dampened the polarizing effects of extreme masculinity and femininity." That way, even if a woman was very attracted to feminine features, she could still find someone whose more masculine features were being hidden by a beard attractive. In this way, women were most likely to be attracted to subjects with beards, even if they didn't have the gendered facial characteristics the women preferred.
So the reason you're more likely to go for a guy with a beard, if you're a straight woman, may actually have very little to do with what it says about his manly man persona. It may simply be that you think it's more attractive when his face is hidden.