Many, many years ago, Charles Darwin hypothesized that it was the process of sexual selection that may have led to beards. Scientists from the Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand explored that theory in the early 21st century, publishing an article in the Annual Review of Sex Research in 2005 on the role of sexual selection in "the evolution of visually conspicuous sexually dimorphic traits" of male primates, including human beings. The study concluded that women do find bearded men more attractive than clean-shaven ones.
And if that reason is not enough to grow a beard, here is a list of 5 health benefits of beards, published by the Mother Nature Network:
1. Beards protect against the sun, lowering the risk of melanoma. Scientists from the University of Southern Queensland (located in Australia, which has the highest incidence of skin cancers) found that a beard blocks 90-95% of UV radiation.
2. Beards preserve the skin's moisture, as the hair prevents the skin from drying out. This delays the aging process.
3. Beards play the part of a makeshift filter. Dense hair in the nose area cannot be penetrated even by the smallest pollen or dust particles. Therefore, beards are especially important for men suffering from allergies, hay fever, and/or asthma.
4. According to Carol Walker, owner of the Birmingham Trichology Centre in England, thick, bushy beards may help battle colds by insulating the neck and the area under the chin. The beard hair blocks cold air coming in and raises the temperature of the neck. It's like having a cushy scarf that never needs removing. (Trichology is the study of hair and scalp).
5. Dr Martin Wade, consultant dermatologist at the London Skin and Hair Clinic, says shaving is the main cause of infections in the beard area, as it causes skin irritations, ingrown hairs, and folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle). Having a beard, and not needing to shave, reduces infections.
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Bonus: Did you know that hair can be tested to assess a person's stress level and the duration of that level of stress? Scientists from the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands say this is a particularly important test for the elderly, as high levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are correlated with an increased risk of heart problems and stroke.
And there you have it: a list of good reasons not to shave, so as to keep healthy.