A study from 2013 (The role of facial hair in women’s perceptions of men’s attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities
Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013) 236-241. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003) looked at men’s and women’s judgments of attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities for photographs of men who were clean-shaven, lightly or heavily stubbled and fully bearded. They also tested the effect of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive use on women’s ratings. Women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive. In contrast, men rated full beards and heavy stubble as most attractive, followed closely by clean-shaven and light stubble as least attractive. Men and women rated full beards highest for parenting ability and healthiness.
But, to confuse, a Darwinian selection process called “negative frequency-dependent sexual selection”seems to be the force behind the fashion of having a beard or a clean shaven face, according to Australian scientists Zinnia J. Janif, Robert C. Brooks and Barnaby J. Dixson, which recently published their results in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
The conclusion was that both beards and clean-shaven faces became more attractive when they were rare, a pattern mirroring an evolutionary phenomenon – “negative frequency-dependent sexual selection”, or to put it more simply “an advantage to rare traits”.
See an excerpt of the study here: