Women REALLY don’t like beards: And they also make men seem older and more aggressive, say psychologists

It is a finding that Brad Pitt might do best to take on the chin: women don’t find beards attractive.

Men were rated more highly when they shaved their beards off, a study found.

Being bearded also made them seem older and more aggressive.

But there is some good news for gents who are fond of their facial hair – having a beard commands respect, particularly from other males.

In recent years, Brad Pitt has swopped the clean-cut look for a scraggily, matted beard.

Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves have gone from fresh-faced to hirsute, while David Beckham and even Prince William have flirted with facial fuzz.

Science gives us various theories as to why men are able to grow beards, from protecting the delicate facial skin from sunlight to buffering blows to the jaw in a fight.

It is even suggested that a beard is a sign of a strong immune system.  The theory goes that disease-carrying parasites thrive in body hair and so if a man can sport a beard without getting ill, he must be extra healthy.

Women are supposed to be drawn to strong, healthy men but previous research into whether beards are attractive has produced mixed results, so scientists from New Zealand and Canada decided to conduct their own research.

The found 19 men with full beards – defined as six weeks of growth without any shaving or trimming – who agreed to help and photographed them as they were and when making an angry expression.

Beards where then shaved off and the men photographed again.

The pictures of the men – who were from New Zealand and Samoa – were then shown to more than 200 women, who were asked to rate them for attractiveness.

Women from both countries rated the clean-shaven look as significantly more attractive, the journal Behavioral Ecology reports.

When other men were asked their opinion, they said that men pictured looked older and angrier when bearded.

However, both sexes said that facial hair added gravitas, with bearded men perceived to have a higher social status and command more respect from other men.

The results suggest that beards send a signal of masculinity to other men but do little to attract women.

Researcher Paul Vasey, of the University of Lethbridge in Canada, who has sported a goatee for more than 20 years, said the findings were made more sound by the inclusion of men from different cultures.

While the women from New Zealand may have been swayed by the current fashion in western films and media for clean-shaven faces, magazines, billboards and cinemas are few and far between in Samoa.

Even internet access is relatively sparse.

Nick Neave, a Northumbria University psychologist, who never goes past the ‘heavy stubble’ stage, said: ‘We are often of the assumption that male characteristics are to do with females and females choosing them.

‘The other way of looking at it is that males’ faces and bodies are probably mostly designed to fend off other males and what females like is neither here nor there.’

Dr Neave’s own research in the topic found light stubble to get the highest ratings from women.

He said: ‘It was almost as if women preferred a man who could grow a beard but hadn’t.’