A few 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 stately 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 per cent 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 Dixon, “it is less attractive than when it is rare.” Everything points to “peak beard” being almost upon us. Get growing before it’s too late.