EXCLUSIVE: new report reveals the truth about facial hair

MAN WITH BEARDIn grooming terms, 2013 has been all about one thing: the beard. In fact, so huge has the trend for facial hair been that it has prompted Remington to analyse the chins, cheeks and upper lips of 470 infulential men culled from a whole series of independent lists  – like Forbes’ Highest Paid Sportsmen one –  to create a kind of “Facial Hair Index”. From actors, musicians and sporting heroes to academics, magazine editors and leading businessmen, no man escaped their scrutiny (don’t you just love the fact people actually get paid to do that kind of stuff?) and what they discovered is fascinating…

FACT: More men have a beard than don’t. 

For sure, it’s a close call but 54% of the men looked at for the report had a beard or at least some designer stubble. Smoothies, you’re in the minority!

FACT: Beards are favoured by cool, creative types (except magazine editors).

According to the report three quarters of leading actors and 70% of musicians have sported a beard in the last year. The vast majority of magazine editors and authors, however, are clean shaven. In fact, 80% of them are. Mark Twain and Earnest Hemingway must be turning in their graves.

FACT: Sportsmen think facial hair is a winner.

A whopping 80% of our sporting heroes have, er, ‘sported’ stubble or a beard in the last 12 months. Bad news for companies wanting to promote their razor blades with a tennis/football/F1 star huh?

CTk21Qm3JvMFA2RujoQ11NLEVpFamJPDqxYc8IH20AUFACT: Beards still don’t mean business.

Despite the popularity of facial hair, being clean shaven is still seen as the ‘professional option’ with 76% of CEOs preferring to be clean shaven.

FACT: The richer you are the more likely you are to be clean shaven.  

70% of the billionaires or millionaires analysed were clean shaven. They can afford the razors clearly. And probably people to shave them.

FACT:  Beards aren’t seen as the intelligent option. 

There was a time when no self-respecting professor or corduroy-clad university lecturer would be seen dead without a beard. How times have changed. These days 73% of leading professors are clean shaven. What’s more, 63% of men with the highest IQs also shun the face fungus.

So what does all this mean? Well, I guess it reinforces what many suspect about facial hair: that even though it’s been this year’s most popular fashion accessory it’s still very much the preserve of hispsters, creative types and (though the survey doesn’t mention it it) burly gay ‘bears’.

Much to my dismay, as a facial hair fan, it also shows that beards are still regarded with considerable suspicion. The fact that academia and business shun them re-inforces the idea that men who sport beards aren’t serious or dynamic (though clearly facial hair hasn’t held Sirs Sugar and Branson back). But hey, don’t despair if you have a beard, goatee or ‘tache – one thing the study does highlight is that beards are still fantastically cool.

Cidofovir: an end to facial hair forever? I don’t think so…

I read with interest yesterday that tests have been taking place at the University of Pennsylvania into using the drug cidofovir to stop stubble in its tracks and put an end to men’s need to shave once and for all.

An anti-viral drug previously used to treat people living with HIV cidofovir has the side-effect of ‘local alopecia’ and, as was the case with Minoxidil (the active ingredient in Regaine and one originally used to treat high blood pressure), its alternative money-spinning usage is clearly a big draw to its manufacturers.

The study, published in Archives of Dermatology, appeared to show a reduced hair count in the men who used a 3% dosage of the cream, opening the door for a product that could prevent stubble once and for all. The big question, of course, is will men use it?

It’s one I’ve asked numerous times in articles and on message boards and the resounding answer has always been no. Creams and balms already exist (Clarins and Clinique both do them) that reduce stubble growth a little but they’re hardly hero products men are falling over themselves to have in their grooming armoury.

Sure, on paper a life sans stubble sounds like a great idea: no more five o’clock shadow, no more boring daily shave, no more expensive blades to shell out on, but in practice I’ve discovered men are remarkably attached to their facial hair. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, an end to all the down sides also means and end to the main upside too which is that a beard, ‘tache or goatee is a cheap and effective way to change your look whenever you fancy. Women have make-up to play with and men have facial hair.

And let’s not forget that facial hair is fundamentally a secondary sexual characteristic – there to indicate masculinity and the presence of testosterone. It isn’t just about fashion: Anthropologically speaking it has function too. In fact I believe research has shown that women are programmed to find three days’ worth of stubble particularly attractive.

There will be those, I’m sure, who find my attitudes decidedly retrosexual and, since I have beardage myself I am slightly biased, but the day I’ll believe men want to live without facial hair is the day women say they want to live with it. Now there’s a thought – a cream that makes women grow facial hair…