Beards pack a bigger punch than making you feel good.
While your kids might think your beard is gross, facial hair is more than just a stylistic accessory, according to one study, which found that over time beards evolved to help humans soften the impact of jabs and punches while protecting people from harm.
The study, published in the journal Integrative Organismal Biology, created a fiber epoxy composite skull covered in three different styles of sheep skin, including one used to look like a full beard. They used the sample to see whether hair follicles would provide protection compared to a hairless jaw. To mimic a punch, researchers dropped a weight on the composite chin to measure force.
“The results of this study indicate that hair is indeed capable of significantly reducing the force of impact from a blunt strike and absorbing energy, thereby reducing the incidence of failure,” the researchers said, via The Independent. “If the same is true for human facial hair, then having a full beard may help protect vulnerable regions of the facial skeleton from damaging strikes, such as the jaw.
“Presumably, full beards also reduce injury, laceration, and contusion, to the skin and muscle of the face.”
Researchers found that having a layer of hair on your face helped absorb blows, as “peak force was 16% greater and total energy absorbed was 37% greater in the furred compared to the plucked samples,” according to the study. They said that a beard is somewhat similar to a mane of a lion, where it can protect the “throat and jaw from lethal attacks.”
While having a beard now seems like a shield, researchers said how it protects you varies depending on the type of facial hair humans have, which differs across parts of the world based on coarseness, density, and thickness.