Do women's preferences for men's facial hair change with reproductive status?

Barnaby J. Dixson*, Jamie C. Tam, Monica Awasthy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Women's preferences for masculine traits are reported to be greater among young reproductively capable women, particularly just prior to ovulation, than among pregnant and postmenopausal women. This study is the first to investigate whether women's preferences for men's facial hair follow this pattern. We conducted surveys quantifying reproductive status and attractiveness ratings for facial hair (clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, and full beards) among 426 women from Wellington City, New Zealand. Results showed that pregnant, pre-and postmenopausal women rated faces that were clean-shaven, or with light and heavy stubble, as more attractive than full beards. Postmenopausal women gave higher scores for all degrees of facial hair, including full beards, than premenopausal and pregnant women. Premenopausal women at the high fertility phases of the menstrual cycle gave higher ratings for heavy stubble than participants at the low fertility phase or who were using contraceptives. However, these differences were not statistically significant, and the main effects were driven primarily by the low ratings ascribed to full beards. Women with partners that were clean-shaven judged clean-shaven faces as most attractive, whereas women with partners with heavy stubble or full beards judged heavy stubble as most attractive. Although women's current partner and father's degree of beardedness were positively correlated, their fathers' beardedness showed little relationship to attractiveness judgments of facial hair. These results demonstrate that all women by no means consider beards unattractive. However, preferences vary only subtly with respect to hormonal, reproductive, and relationship status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-716
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


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