Women only find facial hair attractive when it's OUT of fashion Attractive beard styles.
Survey finds women - and men - prefer clean-shaven look when beards are in vogue
Researchers quizzed 1,453 bisexual or heterosexual women and 213 straight men
The phenomenon, known as 'negative frequency dependent sexual selection', equates rarity to attractiveness
Published: 16:16 GMT, 16 April 2014 | Updated: 20:09 GMT, 16 April 2014
The best time for a single man to grow a beard is when they are out of fashion, according to a new study.
Researchers found women are more attracted to facial fuzz - as sported by stars including Russell Brand, David Beckham and Brad Pitt - when it is a fashion rarity, rather than the norm.
A survey found women, as well as men, voted the hirsute look more attractive than clean shaven faces when presented with a scenario where it was uncommon. In other words, in a bar full of clean-shaven men, someone with a beard looks most attractive. But if that bar is filled with bearded men, the opposite is true.
One of the UK's most beard-committed celebrities, Russell Brand's been linked with some of he world's most beautiful stars
Previous studies have found men with beards look tougher, more aggressive and masculine and would make better romantic partners.
Most attractive beard styles
Australian researchers asked 1,453 bisexual or heterosexual women, along with 213 straight men, to rate 36 white men with varying levels of facial hair growth - from clean shaven, through to five- and ten-day stubble to full beards.
In four experiments reported in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, the number of times bearded faces featured as the best looking varied.
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Dr Barnaby Dixson, of the University of New South Wales, said: 'We first showed participants a suite of faces, within which we manipulated the frequency of beard thicknesses and then measured preferences for four standard levels of beardedness.
'Women and men judged heavy stubble and full beards more attractive when presented in treatments where beards were rare than when they were common, with intermediate preferences when intermediate frequencies of beardedness were presented.
Hollywood hunks Brad Pitt and George Clooney have both opted for the bearded look during their careers
But both have opted for a more clean-shaven look now, which should probably be a hint for the rest of us
'Likewise, clean shaven faces were least attractive when clean shaven faces were commonest and more attractive when rare.'
There is a common phenomenon in the animal kingdom - known as 'negative frequency dependent sexual selection' - where the fitness of an organism's particular characteristic improves as it becomes rarer.
Dr Dixson said that men's facial hair is a sexual trait subject to considerable cultural variation.
He said: 'Negative frequency dependent preferences may therefore play a role in maintaining variation in men's beards and contributing to changing fashions.'
In the wild, males bearing unusual colour patterns are more likely to survive, and enjoy better mating success.
Dr Dixson said: 'In humans, traits that can be manipulated via grooming, and cosmetics, might also be expected to converge on a single optimum and yet fashions in hairstyles and beards change regularly.
'Men can easily groom or remove their beards, suggesting cultural influences determine the attractiveness of facial hair.'
With beards 'in fashion', men like Michael Legge - who last week won the title of Yorkshire's Best Beard for the third consecutive year - might want to buy a razor if they want to appear more attractive to the opposite sex
In earlier research women preferred light stubble, in another heavy stubble, and both - as well as the clean shaven look - over full beards in a third.
However, Dr Dixson and colleagues showed the most significant factor in attractiveness for styles of facial hair depended on whether they were in, or out, of fashion.
He said: 'When beards were rare, hirsute faces were more attractive than when beards were common, and beards achieved intermediate attractiveness in the even treatment.
'Conversely, when clean shaven faces were rare, clean shaven faces and light stubble enjoyed their greatest attractiveness, and beards became less attractive.
Most attractive beard styles
'There was not an inversion of preferences, such as clean shaven faces becoming more attractive than beards when rare and clean shaven faces were rated lowest in all treatments.
'However, the mean attractiveness of a suite of faces is altered by the frequency of beards, suggesting negative frequency dependence could alter the cultural dynamics by which facial hair fashions vary.'
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