Beauty Beat: In the Rough

The science behind designer stubble, and how to get it.

By Matthew Hutson, published on November 1, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Beards. They're the ultimate statement of masculinity. Some women even find them quite fetching. But there's a big difference between the Colin Farrell and the Rip Van Winkle, and two British psychologists decided to establish the ideal setting on that trimmer.

Sixty college women rated 15 male faces on several factors. The faces conformed to one of five conditions: clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, light beard, and full beard. The longer the facial hair, the more masculine, dominant, aggressive, and socially mature the men looked. Hairy faces also looked older, with light stubble adding about three years and a full beard adding five and a half.

But if you're looking for love, there's a sweet spot. Women found men with stubble or light beards the most attractive, and also the most suitable for both short-term and long-term relationships. That may be because evincing the ability to grow a beard signals maturity, but rocking a full beard signals aggression.

One caveat: According to Nick Neave of Northumbria University, "A few participants mentioned that while clean-shaven was not as attractive, they preferred their own partners to be smooth for kissing and sexual activity." So guys, once you've found a match, clean up before you cozy up. —Matthew Hutson

The Buzz on Fuzz

PT's News Editor tried two vibrating tools for maintaining face.

  • Norelco All-in-1 Grooming Kit, $30

    The shortest of the nine beard-trimming settings left a nice days-old-looking scruff.

  • Gillette M3 Power Razor, $11

    The vibrating handle helped the triple blade erase my neckbeard with ease.