Looking for a Fight? Grow a Beard

Wednesday May 20, 2020

You might think that beards are a grooming trend that caught on for men to make themselves more attractive. But a study from the University of Utah concludes they have evolved in culture for more practical reasons.

In other words, if you get in a bar fight, have a beard.

That is because beards act as a protective layer in absorbing the impact of physical blows according to the University of Utah study in which "researchers set out to see if they could prove a beard was good at softening blows sustained in a melee," reports the Daily Mail.

"According to the researchers, considering 'the mandible, which is superficially covered by the beard, is one of the most commonly fractured facial bones in interpersonal violence,' it seemed likely beards are possible of providing 'physical protection from strikes that would cause blunt trauma,' adds the Independent.

To do so they made models of the human jaw from epoxy resin, then covered it in three-kinds of sheepskin and various levels of fur: hairless, trimmed and a full-blown beard. To best emulate human conditions, the skin was kept moist while the fur was kept dry during the experiments.

20 models were made, then researchers dropped a 10.3lbs (4.7 kg) metal weight onto the skin that was fixed to an anvil.

"Writing in their study, the scientists say the experiment would be improved if they could use actual human skin with facial hair still in place, however, admit it 'was not practical," the Daily Mail observes.

When the weight fell on human chin models, a machine recorded "how much force went through the bone and how much was absorbed.

"We found that fully furred samples were capable of absorbing more energy than plucked and sheared samples," the researchers write in their study published in the journal Integrative Organismal Biology.

"The energy of an impact, whether from a falling weight on an anvil or a well-aimed uppercut, is spread out by the bushy facial hair," reports the Daily Mail.

"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 wrote. "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."

According to The Independent, the researchers also suggested that the findings may "also explain why facial hair is associated with high masculinity, social dominance, and behavioural aggressiveness, as it may function as a true indicator of level of invulnerability to facial injury".

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