Clean shaven vs beard – what is better?

The ultimate question that every beard grower faces – should I be clean shaven or grow a beard. It’s the dichotomy that keeps us up at night. Is life better when you have a beard? Are you seen as more attractive if you are clean-shaven? Here we want to put an end to the rumors and let you know the real battle between clean-shaven vs beard!

Having a beard gets you viewed as more aggressive and socially dominant and 42% of men have some form of facial hair. Despite this, women still prefer a clean shaven man and it is seen as more professional in the workplace.

In my other posts, I think that is is really important that every person makes the decision for themselves on whether or not THEY like their facial choices. It is not up to other people to determine what looks good on other people.

Confidence comes from within and it shouldn’t really matter…but it does! Why is that?

Why should it matter?

There has been a load of reports on whether beards are better than shaven faces. They look at a range of details such as attractiveness and trustworthiness. But can you believe them?

YouGov Poll

A YouGov report from 2017 shows that beards are becoming more popular:

YouGov research shows that over the five years from August 2011 to November 2016 Britons has seen an increase in the proportion of men sporting facial hair. In mid-2011, 37% of men had some form of facial hair – by late 2016 this had risen to 42%

YouGov Website

And importantly (arguably) the beards are growing on British women.

When women were asked in 2011, 66% said that they preferred the appearance of a man without a beard, but when we asked at the end of last year this had dropped to 46%.

But it is the younger demographic of women that are coming around to bearded men. Whilst just 7% of women aged 18-39 preferred a man with a beard in 2011, this has since tripled to 21%.

Also, 34% of 18-39-year-old women say they prefer the appearance of a man without a beard, less than half the level it was in 2011 (71%).

So the starts seem to be moving in our direction! but there are a could of things that you need to know about being both clean-shaven and bearded!

Being clean-shaven

clean shaven vs beard - shaving stuff

Now, this is a beard growing site, right! So surely there are NO benefits to being clean-shaven…

Well in the interest of balance here are 5 reasons that being clean-shaven is good for you…

The benefits of being clean-shaven

  1. Overall, women love it. – The facts don’t lie. When push comes to shove women actually prefer a clean-shaven man. However, remember that this conclusion is drawn from a range of opinions so maybe your special person loves a beard…and that is all that should really matter!
  2. It is easier to keep clean – There is no doubt that it is easier to exfoliate and clear clogged pores on your face if there isn’t a mountain of hair in the way! That being said it’s not any less hygienic to have a beard!
  3. It is great for a professional setting – I’ve talked about this before in another blog but there are some reasons that people just cannot grow a beard. That includes the fact that some professions just don’t allow it. The idea that there is some sort of look that is ‘professional’ is a little ridiculous to me. Nonetheless, you need to make sure that a beard won’t hurt your career.
  4. It is less maintenance – I spend about 10 minutes every morning washing, blow-drying and styling my beard. I do sometimes miss the days where I could just hack away at my face and be domes with it.
  5. Less irritation – the early stages of beard growth can be full of itchiness and facial irritation! if you are careful when you are choosing your razor blades daily shaving can be irritation-free!

The downsides of clean shaving

Shaving daily can have a detrimental effect on the health and quality of your skin. Quite often we are only taught how to shave by our dads and that is really not good enough for most people. Dad’s pass on bad habits like shaving against the grain.

Here are the downsides of going to a clean shaven look:

  1. Barbers rash – Puss filled bumps that appear after taking a sharp bit of metal to your face are a common side-effect of shaving! The hair follicle becomes infected with strep or staph. Stop with a bacteria-free blade and clean towel!
  2. You have to do it every day – having that clean shaven look means being clean shaven! Hair grows at different rates on the face and so if you go a couple of days without shaving your face can look rubbish!
  3. Acne – shaving is very tough when you have acne on your face. You need to apply a preshave oil and warm water to make sure you are not doing more damage than good!
  4. Ingrown hairs – This is probably the worst of the bunch! they are caused by a broken bit of hair (caused by shaving) growing under the skin. They are easy enough to deal with but can cause issues if you are prone to them!
  5. Razor burn – We have all seen that red rash! There are a load of reasons that this happens but is typically caused by blunt razors, sensitive skin, shaving too fast, dry shaving and going against the grain!

There we have it there are upsides and downside to being clean shaven and the decision is a personal one. I have chosen to grow a beard and here are the ups and downs that I have encountered during my beard growing journey…

Having a beard

clean shaven vs beard - bearded

The benefits of having a beard

Maybe you’ve been thinking about growing a beard for some time now? Beards have been around since the beginning of time but their popularity goes in and out.

We may have passed peak hipster beard but growing facial hair of any sort is becoming more and more popular!

Here are a few reasons you may want to consider growing a beard:

1. Protects against skin cancer

This is probably the top reason beards are good for your skin! With hardly any hyperbole I can say that it may actually save your life…

UV rays cause all sorts of problems for your skin. From sunburn to making you age faster. A study performed at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, published in the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry, looked at how well a beard absorbed UV rays through a process called through dosimetry. Dosimetry is the measurement of the absorbed amount of UV radiation.

The studies showed that beards can help prevent skin cancer with an estimated 90 to 95 percent protection against harmful UV rays.

Beards are better at protecting against UVB rays rather than UVA rays. UVB rays are responsible for the red skin that we associate with sunburn and can increase the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer.

However, it’s important that bearded men do not think their beard provides superhuman cancer protection – you should still wear sunscreen!

2. Reduces skin infections

Okay, bear with me on this one! There are two things to consider with how beards can reduce skin infections

Beards and bacteria

Beards have been shown to have lower bacterial levels than those found on a clean face! A team of researchers swabbed the beards of 408 male hospital workers from two different teaching hospitals and compared the results to clean-shaven men.

Clean-shaven men were three times more likely to carry harmful bacteria, including Methicillin-resistant Staphlyococcus aureus (MRSA), than their bearded colleagues.

Researchers think that it has to do with the “microtrauma” men put their faces through when they shave. You know – the nicks, cuts, and scratches you give yourself when rushing through your morning routine! These cuts and nicks help bacterial colonies grow and spread on the skin.

Beards and acne

Shaving regularly increases the risk of you cutting your face. These cuts can act as a place where bacteria can enter your skin.

Shaving related risks include the likes of skin irritation, razor burn and folliculitis, which is the infection of hair follicles leading to acne spots on the face and neck.

It’s clear that because your skin is no longer put through as much trauma it reduces the risk of getting any sort of bacterial infection.

3. It is a natural moisturizer

Beards can trap all sorts of things! However, it’s not just gross things that a beard can keep close to your face. A beard is a great way to keep natural oils from leaving your face which helps you maintain a moisturized face!

Dry beards can occur for a number of reasons such as cold weather, stress, a bad diet or over washing of a beard! This can result in beardruff (or beard dandruff) and it can become a real issue for a load of men.

While you should wash your beard every couple of days with a specially formulated beard wash. You need to make sure that you are not stripping the beneficial oils away from your skin.

Not over washing and allowing your ace to reach its own natural balance can help with dryness.

Let’s look at another reason why beard growing is great for your skin!

4. Fewer wrinkles

As we saw above, beards are a great way to protect your face from the sun.

As such your face will be less exposed to harmful UV rays and the aging effects will be lowered. A beard is an equivalent of wearing factor 2 to 21, depending on the length of the beard. The longer you have a beard the more likely these beneficial factors will come into play.

It can be hard to quantify at which stage during your beard growing journey your beard is performing best at protecting you from UV rays. The studies have shown that the shortest length is 0.4 inches. So it needs to be a little longer than stubble for you to get the 2 SPF factor.

The longer you wear your beard the longer it can protect your face from the sun. there are fewer chances of you getting wrinkles on your face.

So, all of you want to protect your face from wrinkles start growing your beard. You will look much younger and cool – maybe a biased opinion!

5. Protection from the cold

Let’s look at the other side of the weather coin now!

If you live in a cold climate, a beard is a fantastic way to protect your skin from the harsh cold blowing at your face. A beard will act as thermal protection by trapping a layer of warm air next to your skin.

With cold weather comes dryness! This dry air sucks the moisture from your skin and causes flakey, ashy or irritated skin. This condition is known as xerosis and, although very common, it is very treatable.

The downsides of having a beard

There are very few reasons that I could see for growing a beard – obviously a very biased opinion!

But here are a few things that I think you need to consider if you are looking to grow a beard:

  1. You need to wait a long time – There’s no doubt that growing a beard requires patience. There’s going to be stages of the growth that look horrible! But if you can weather the storm a luxurious and healthy-looking beard is waiting for you on the other side!
  2. Everyone will start talking about it – do not grow a beard unless you want it to be part of nearly every conversation that you have with people. My close friends now don’t talk about it as much but it is certainly an easy topic at networking events. I kind of like it but it is definitely something that has changed about my life…
  3. Maintenance – Beards can be a little bit of a time sink. I can spend quite a while in the mornings. Furthermore, having it shaped and styled by a barber can take a long time and regular visits is what separates the stylish from the scruffiest.
  4. Kissing is different – really this is one I was not expecting. My partner can now only kiss my bottom lip. I have to keep the mustache short otherwise it gets in the way – a lot! I can’t blame anyone for not wanting a mouth full of hair! Be warned if you have a partner that your kissing will change!
  5. Keeping it “perfect” is a chore – there is no such thing as a perfect beard but it won’t stop you from trying! Products, styles, and trimming can sometimes feel like a massive chore but overall I enjoy the process…

Final word

Clean-shaven vs beard? It’s a personal choice but you need to consider all of the factors that are discussed above. If you don’t you may regret your decision!

Now that you know the difference between the two ends of the facial hair spectrum you are in a much better position to make your choice!

The Author

Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialling different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!