Researchers from the University of Queensland have surveyed the sexual attractiveness of men with varying lengths of facial hair to both straight women and gay men.
The researchers photoshopped varying levels of facial hair – clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble and full beards – onto photos of male faces for the study and found facial hair produced a stronger sexual response in participants than the clean-shaven stimuli.
But among the women, length seemed to be important: they preferred light stubble on men for a fling or one-night stand.
A full beard was judged as less sexy but ranked far better for a long-term mate, which the study’s authors theorised was because on a primal level it “indicates a male’s ability to compete for resources,” the New York Times reported.
But the gay men the researchers surveyed reported an even stronger preference than the women for facial hair.
“Homosexual men preferred hairier stimuli than heterosexual women, supporting past findings that homosexual men have strong preferences for masculine traits,” the researchers wrote.
“Including homosexual individuals provides a unique opportunity to investigate whether evolved mating psychologies are specific to the sex of the individual or sex of the partner.”
The gay men indicated an attraction to partners with a “self-similar degree of beardedness,” but the quantity of facial hair they said they desired was thicker than their actual partner’s.
The study’s authors surveyed 1,577 men and women in the Czech Republic and Brazil. The research was published in March in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.