When it comes to love, as the song says, birds, bees and even educated fleas do.
But this old, catchy Cole Porter tune certainly didn’t take into account the impact of fleas – whether educated or not – and other creepy hair crawlers on a woman’s ability to love a man with a beard.
According to a new study, it is likely that a woman will find men with beards less attractive if she runs away screaming from creatures living in the hair, such as lice, ticks, fleas and the like.
It is of course on an unconscious level. But from the perspective of their inner animal brains, who wants to twist into a mouth lined with thick hair that could contain tiny, windy, maggot-like creatures?
Very masculine features
Nature has programmed us on a deep, visceral level to be attracted to partners who have the most masculine and feminine characteristics for reproduction.
For a man, it has everything to do with testosterone – bigger, bigger muscles and more facial hair.
A 2013 study looked at the amount of hair that women consider the most attractive. Women made faces with heavy stubble the most attractive; Light stubble, heavy beards, and clean-shaven faces were classified as less attractive.
In this new study, published Tuesday in the Royal Society Open Science Journal, very male and bearded faces were rated as more attractive than female-looking male or smooth-shaven faces. This was true regardless of whether the woman was looking for a short-term or long-term relationship.
In fact, men with masculine features such as a wide jaw and a strong forehead that had beards were most attractive to both types of relationships.
But when our innate disgust at parasitic creatures was included in the equation, things changed. The study found that women who were more disgusting with parasites and other pathogens were more likely to rate a man’s beard as unattractive.
This could make sense in the theory of evolution. It is believed that people have less hair on our bodies, in part because the risk of spreading disease-causing parasites is reduced.
Today surveys show that hairless breasts are preferred for women from the United States, China, New Zealand, Finland, Brazil, Slovakia, Czechoslovakia and Turkey (but not for women from Great Britain and Cameroon).
However, research in this area is confusing: studies have shown that a woman who grew up with a bearded father is more likely to find beards attractive. Women who are in current relationships with men with facial hair also like them more.
While science does that, you might as well play it safe. If you are considering growing a beard and your partner feels bad about ticks, fleas, lice and other hairy creatures, your stubble can get you in trouble.