From a full mountain-man beard to a clean-shaven, office-appropriate look, there are plenty of ways to wear your facial hair. But women favor one style in particular: heavy stubble, or about 10 days’ worth of growth, according to a new study published in Evolution & Human Behavior.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia photographed 10 men, each at four different stages of facial hair growth, from clean-shaven to fully-bearded. Then, study participants—351 women and 177 heterosexual men—rated the photos based on attractiveness, healthiness, masculinity, and potential parenting abilities. The biggest take-away: Women rated men with heavy stubble as significantly more desirable than those with bare faces, light stubble or full beards.
Why? Researchers suggest that facial hair correlates with maturity—you probably weren’t rocking a beard at 14—and also dominance and aggression. In short, women view a man with heavy stubble as the perfect middle ground between a weakling and a man’s man.
If you’re tempted to take advantage of these findings and give your razor some time off this summer, use these tips from John Scala, founder and president of The New York Shaving Company.
4 Steps to Heavy Stubble
1. Fill in the blanks
First things first—let your facial hair grow in. “If you experience itching, keep your skin clean and shampoo your beard daily,” suggests Scala. “Your skin will eventually adjust to the new situation.”
2. Wash and moisturize
Once your stubble fills in, you’ll need to get acquainted with a new daily routine. “Continue to wash your beard regularly, just like you do your hair,” says Scala. Opt for a mild shampoo to reduce skin irritation and apply conditioner to make your beard feel softer. Just make sure to rinse thoroughly or you could end up with flakes. If your skin is dry after using shampoo and conditioner, apply a facial moisturizer.
3. Towel dry
After washing, use a towel to gently pat your face dry. It might be tempting to hit your beard with the blow dryer while you’re tending to what’s on the top of your head, but the excess heat is harsh on your skin, so skip it.
4. Comb and trim
Comb through your stubble with a wide-toothed comb to remove any tangles. Then use a beard or mustache trimmer set on “short” to maintain heavy stubble.
And when you’re ready for a change…
“The best thing about growing your beard is eventually shaving it off. It feels great,” says Scala. So when you’ve had enough of attracting the opposite sex by shear force of facial topiary, you’ve got something to look forward to.
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