Do beards make you look old? [What the science says]

When you are thinking about growing a beard there are many questions that pop into your mind. Will a beard make me more attractive? Will beard suit my face and hair growth density? And, the subject of this article: do beards make you look old? Some people actually want to look older whilst other people want to make sure their beard won’t add unnecessary years to their age. In this article we are going to have a look at all of the different ways that a beard can make you look older and younger. And importantly the factors that primarily decide if you will look older when you grow a beard.

Having a beard has been scientifically proven to make you look older. A study which was published in 2013 finds that men with beards can look up to 8 years older than men without beards. The longer the beard, the older they looked. Other studies have shown that celebrities with beards look up to 10 years older.

A common demographic that asks this question is teenagers. While you are growing a beard in your teenage years it can feel like for ever before you are able to grow beard that you like. If you would like to know how to grow a beard faster as a teenager check out my other article – how to grow beard faster for a teenager – everything you need to know! – Click here.

Many teenagers want to grow a beard to look older so let’s take a look at that question right now.

Does having a beard makes a teenager look old?

Having a beard is something that can quickly position new in society’s eyes as someone who is a little bit older than their peers. For example, I had a friend in high school who had a full thick beard at the age of 16. He was very often mistaken for an adult over the age of 18 and was therefore able to access things like pubs and clubs before the rest of our friendship group.

So, I have some anecdotal evidence of whether or not having a beard makes a teenager look older. But, does having a beard make a teenager look older? There is no doubt that having a little bit of stubble around your face separates out the children from the adolescents.

So a beard can add years to your age as a teenager but isn’t necessarily the thing that makes you automatically look old. The quality and density of the beard will also play a significant role in determining your perceived age. If you only have a little bit of sparse hair on your face it could actually make you look younger than you are.

If you have a baby face where you have bigger cheeks and you are of a relatively small body type this could play against your beard and it can actually make you look younger than your age.

In summary, if you have a good even coverage of facial hair and you can grow the stubble to the point where it is obvious then adding facial hair to your face can actually make you look older. The science seems to back this up to where in 2012 a study published in behavioural ecology showed that women and men from European and New Zealand heritage rate men with bearded faces to be older whilst also ascribing them higher social status and the men who were clean-shaven.

What can make you look older with a beard?

Whether or not I beard will make you look older depends on a variety of factors. It depends on whether or not your beard has certain characteristics that society perceives as making you look older than you are. In this section we are going to go over all of the aspects of what you can do to make your beard look older. Some of them you will be able to control and some of them you will not be able to control as they will be determined by your genetics. The first thing that makes a beard look old is grey hair.

Gray beard hairs

In my other article, I go over the important question of our greybeards attractive? And I reveal the results from a number of online polls. So that you don’t feel bad about including graying hairs I have some great news for you! There is a huge portion of people who think the grey makes a man look more attractive!

Grey beard hairs are one way of making sure that your beard adds years to your age. Having a number of grey hairs in your beard means that you are over the age of approximately 30 and that you are entering middle age.

Greybeard hairs can be annoying for some people but if you keep your greybeard hairs untouched and undyed you will be able to give the impression that you have many more years under your belt! If you want more grey hairs there is not much you can do other than wait. Stress is not a cause of grey hair and Professor Rodney Sinclair from the University of Melbourne told the daily mail that this stress doesn’t cause hair or beards to go gray.

Professor Sinclair says that the genetic factor is the single biggest determinant in causing graying of head and beard hair. Despite many studies looking into it, there is nothing to suggest that stress, diet or lifestyle has any impact on the colour of hair.

Societal assumptions and wisdom

Growing your beard really long allows you to play on the fact that societal assumptions are that someone with a long beard is wise and therefore old. We know from the studies mentioned above that the longer the beard the older the person is perceived to be. Growing a long beard is a game of patience and therefore you may actually get old as you’re waiting for your beard to grow out.

In my other article you can learn everything you need to know about growing along beard and the five simple tips that you should follow – click here.

For growing a long beard breakage is one of the worst enemies. Hair breakthrough or a wide range of reasons and maintaining healthy hair will be the way to keep it strong and able to get through the time required to be long. You need to keep the outer cuticle of your hair completely healthy by following some very simple beard maintenance rules.

On average, the growth rate for human hair is about 1.25 centimeters or 0.5 inches per month, or about 15 centimeters or 6 inches per year. The rate is about 0.35 millimeters daily – think of it like this and it won’t be really annoying for you.

The actual “length” of your beard will also depend on if your hair is straight, wavy or really curly as the length will be as long as your beard falls from your face.

The average person can expect to grow anywhere between 12 and 36 inches before their hair stops growing and falls out.

A scruffy beard

Having a scruffy or scraggly beard can be a thing that adds years to your face. In my YouTube video I look at all of the fixes for a scraggly beard and go through all of the symptoms of having a scraggly beard and what you can do to stop it from looking unkempt:

Having a scruffy beard can very easily add many years to your age because it simply bushes out and causes you to look more weathered than without a beard. On the other side of the coin, you can also make your beard look much younger by getting rid of all of the scraggly features and cutting back to the point of maximum density of your beard.

It’s unfortunate that a scruffy beard is synonymous with someone that doesn’t necessarily care about their beard and that level of confidence comes with age. In your early teens you are very conscious about what you look like words as you get older (30+) I have certainly sensed that I care less about what people think of my appearance and much rather choose my beard styles and grooming routines for convenience rather than looks.

This scruffy nurse could be your secret weapon in making your beard make you look older.

Young face with stubble

There is no doubt that some people are blessed (or cursed) with a young baby face. Having a baby face is something that you really hate when you are younger but it pays dividends when you are older as typically people want to look younger when they are in their 40s and having a baby face is the easiest way to do that.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to age a young looking face is to grow a decent amount of stubble. If you add stubble to a baby face it can easily soften the roundness and the bigger cheeks and add a good amount of age to the wearer.

A full beard

Lastly, the one way to make a beard add years to your age is to grow a full and dense beard. In this video I talk about how you beard growth increases with age and the roadmap from teen to adult sized beard.

You see, having a full beard is something that only adults can grow quite often. A full beard is probably one of the only ways that someone can display their age on their face. When I was much younger (about 17 years old) I really struggle to grow a big thick beard. However, as I progress through my 20s and now mid 30s I am able to grow a much thicker and denser beard than I ever was able to during my teenage years.

If you can, and you want to look older than you are, growing a big thick beard is one of the most effective ways of doing so.

Even though beards can actually make you look older and the science seems to back up the people’s perception of the beard is of an older man, beards can actually help you look younger. In the next section we can go over all of the things that beards can do in your favour to make you look younger than you are.

Beards can help make you look younger by…

Growing a beard isn’t all about making you look older. If you are on the other end of the age spectrum and you want to usual beard to make you look younger there are some very important things that a beard can bring to the table. Here, we are going to go over all of the different things that beards can cover up and provide to make you look younger.

Covering up sun damage

Firstly, beards are great way to mask things about your face that you don’t want to show. Throughout our life we are exposed to the harsh UV rays that are radiating from the sun. These harsh UV rays cause a whole load of damage to our skin. UV rays are split into three different types of rays depending on the frequency of the light.

  • UVA rays have the least energy but they can cause long-term damage to skin cells such as ageing (making you have more wrinkles) and it can also cause some types of skin cancers.
  • UVB rays can cause damage to skin cells and the DNA they contain. This level of radiation causes sunburns and most of the skin cancers that we get.
  • UVC rays have the most energy but they don’t reach our atmosphere naturally. There are some man-made sources of UVC rays as they are generated by UV light bulbs to kill germs.

Growing a beard is a fantastic way to hide all of the damage caused by these three types of UV rays.

Covering wrinkles

As you get older your face becomes a record of how much fun you have had. Your face as it contorts and changes introduces a range of different wrinkles. These wrinkles can be caused by exposure to the sun as well as simple “laughter lines” which are caused by the continuous creasing and stretching of the skin. Also, if you are a smoker you will be familiar with the lines that appear around the mouth. This is because of the continued puckering of the lips to smoke the cigarette. Also, tobacco and smoke damage can catalyse the persistence of these fine lines around your mouth.

Growing a beard is a fantastic way to cover up the wrinkles which appear on your top lip (due to smoking all sun exposure) as well as the lines that appear on the side of your face. They can also cover up any dimples which have become more creased over time.

Cutting in younger styles

One of the last ways to ensure that your beard makes you look younger is to choose a beard style that is more popular and fashionable with younger people. The great thing about growing a beard is the way that you can express yourself with a varying array of beard styles throughout your life.

Choosing a beard style that is “modern” is a way to reduce the ageing effect that having a beard can impart. If you want to know about all of the different foundational beard styles that you can choose from check out my other article – beard styles – click here. In this article I go through everything you need to know about short, medium, and long beard styles that can actually change the way that your perceived and can be used to balance out some of the less desirable aspects of your face.

Ultimately, no one is more critical of your beard then you are. It is important that you wear your beard with confidence and it is something that you are comfortable taking out into the world. An attractive beard is not because of the beard necessarily but because of the confidence of the person wearing that beard.

What the science says

In 2012 there was a study published where they looked at beards as well as the perception of the beard on men’s age, social status, and aggressiveness. They did not look at attractiveness. The study used 10 New Zealand men of European descent and nine Samoan men for the study. Participants were recruited with full beards, defined not as having trimmed or shaved in the last six weeks. These men were photographed with a full beard and then again clean-shaven and were posing with neutral, smiling, and angry facial expressions.

Participant’s were then asked to rate each of the photographs in terms of different aspects like attractiveness, aggressiveness, social ranking, and they were asked to assess the perceived age (in years) of the men photographed posing with neutral facial expressions with beards and the same person with a cleanly shaved face.

The study found that the men with beards were perceived as significantly older than without beards. This backs up a paper from 1973 where undergraduates were rating men’s faces with different types of beard styles and were found to be better looking as well as more masculine, dominant, self-confident, courageous, liberal, industrious, and older.

Another study from 1991 involved undergraduates found that clean-shaven men were also seen as younger, more attractive, and more sociable than the beard version of the same man. So the science seems to support the fact that growing a beard makes you appear older.

The final word

Growing a beard does make you look older and there are a few characteristics that you can use to make your self look older or younger compare to your current age. Some of this is dependent on you being able to grow a good beard whilst other things are styling and trimming choice.

The science seems to back up the fact that growing a beard does actually make you look older and shaving makes you look younger. Use this knowledge to your advantage to get the desired outcome and perceived age that you are looking for.

Happy beard growing and I hope that you find the perfect beard style that matches the age that you want to be perceived at.

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!