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Fact or fiction: Does a man’s beard grow faster when he is anticipating sex?

On Twitter – a reputable source of indisputable fact – I came across an account claiming there is a link between sexual activity and facial hair growth. So is there?

Not that I don’t trust the legitimacy of UberFacts, it’s just that I prefer my information with some traceable evidence, sources and preferably delivered in more than one sentence.

With that in mind, I donned my researcher’s cap and set out to find out if there was any truth behind the claim that beards grow faster when men are anticipating sex.

It turns out that the theory was first posited in a series of letters called “Effects of sexual activity on beard growth in man” in Nature, a reputable science journal. The anonymous author was writing after spending a few weeks isolated on a remote island.

He wrote, “In these conditions I noticed that my beard growth diminished, but the day before I was due to leave the island it increased again, to reach unusually high rates during the first day or two on the mainland.”

“Intrigued by these initial observations, I have carried out a more detailed study and have come to the conclusion that the stimulus for increased beard growth is related to the resumption of sexual activity.”

It seems like a bit of a stretch of the imagination by Anon, but he goes on to reveal his evidence. Over a period of weeks, he would shave once every 24 hours and measure his beard growth by collecting and weighing the shavings. Apparently he was pretty bored on the island.

Anon said that he learned two things. Firstly, during the days preceding the resumption of sexual activity, his beard grew way faster. Secondly, within a few days of resuming sexual activities, his beard growth drastically slowed.

After publishing his findings, Nature was bombarded with letters questioning the study’s validity. Written by the likes of Hardistry, Huxley, Bullough and Parsons – all bearded British men with skin in the game – the letters were published under ‘Sexual activity and beard growth’.

Hardisty wondered whether Anon had perhaps given himself a closer shave before sex, Huxley inquired whether Anon measured his beard at the exact same time every day and Parsons suggested he should also measure the fluid content of his facial skin.

But it was Cook, an employee at the Clinic for Nervous Disorders in London, who offered a promising theory. He wrote that “slight emotional stress may have a stimulating effect on beard growth”.

It stands to reason that a return to civilisation after weeks spent on an isolated village would relieve some emotional stress – just as much as getting back into the sack.

The reality is that there’s not much we can take from Anon’s pioneering theory. Luckily, since the letters were written in 1970, scientists have made progress on the relationship between beards and sex.

Researchers have found that testosterone levels stimulate hair growth, and that both the anticipation of sex and increased sexual activity can, in turn, boost testosterone levels.

From these widely accepted maxims we can draw the following conclusion:

  1. If having/anticipating sex boosts testosterone levels; and
  2. Testosterone stimulates hair growth; then
  3. Then anticipating sex makes facial hair grow faster.

While it’s a bit more complicated than UberFacts and hundreds of beard-related blogs would have you think, anticipating or having sex does, in fact, increase facial hair growth.

[Feature image by RawPixel]

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