• Facial hair can block harmful UV rays that cause skin cancer, researchers found
  • They found beards can stop up to 95% of rays from infiltrating the skin it covers
  • The research was based on leaving mannequin heads out in the scorching sun
  • Trendy facial hair was discovered to have a UPF of anywhere from two to 21

Stephen Matthews For Mailonline

Having a beard isn’t just fashionable, it could well be a life-saver.

Facial hair, sported by Hollywood star George Clooney and footballing icon David Beckham, can protect men from skin cancer, research suggests.

The trendy facial accessory can block harmful UV rays that cause the disease.

Australian researchers discovered beards can stop up to 95 per cent of rays from infiltrating the skin it covers.

Facial hair, sported by Hollywood star George Clooney, can protect men from skin cancer, research suggests

Facial hair, sported by Hollywood star George Clooney, can protect men from skin cancer, research suggests

The trendy accessory, also rocked by footballing icon David Beckham, can block harmful UV rays that cause the disease

The trendy accessory, also rocked by footballing icon David Beckham, can block harmful UV rays that cause the disease

Facial hair, sported by Hollywood star George Clooney and footballing icon David Beckham, can protect men from skin cancer, research suggests

How was the study carried out?

The study, led by the University of Southern Queensland, was based on leaving mannequin heads out in the scorching sun.

Lead author Professor Alfio Parisi said: ‘While beards will never be as sun-safe as sunscreen, they certainly are a factor in blocking UV rays.’

At the time, he told Mens Journal that facial hair has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of anywhere from two to 21. 

But how much UPF, which explains how many rays can be absorbed, was given by facial hair was affected by the time of day.

Overexposure to UV light is considered to be the main cause of both non-melanoma skin cancer and melanomas

Overexposure to UV light is considered to be the main cause of both non-melanoma skin cancer and melanomas

Overexposure to UV light is considered to be the main cause of both non-melanoma skin cancer and melanomas

When did beards have the least protection? 

The researchers discovered that when the sun was high in the sky, such as the hot periods of an afternoon, facial hair had the least effect.

Some of the mannequins were dressed with full beards, some partial facial hair and the others were left bare-faced. 

BUT BEARDS ARE JUST A ‘BACTERIAL SPONGE’

But some experts have warned beards are nothing more than a ‘bacterial sponge’, riddled with thousands of bacteria – and a perfect way to pass on germs. 

Carol Walker, from the Birmingham Trichology Centre, previously said having facial hair can lead to more frequent skin infections.

Beards harbour more germs because facial hair is courser than other hair, so traps dirt and germs more easily, she explained.

She told MailOnline at the time: ‘Beard hair; it’s courser. It has the shape of a bayonet, a round, convexed bottom and then comes up the side to a point.

‘It becomes curly and smooth, it tends to have more bends and kinks which trap dirt.

‘The cuticles on the hair – which are like layers of tiles on a roof – trap the germs and grease. Hair around nostrils and mouth is well-placed to harbour bacteria. 

In the trial published in the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry, the mannequins were frequently rotated to face different UV exposures.

But don’t rely on a beard… 

Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson told MailOnline beards can ‘play a small part’ in blocking UV rays.

She added: ‘However, they will never be a match for high SPF sunscreen, which should always be worn to protect the skin from sun damage and skin cancer.’

Overexposure to UV light is considered to be the main cause of both non-melanoma skin cancer and melanomas.

People are advised to use high-factor sunscreen and dress sensibly to lower their risk of developing the disease.

Beards make you attractive 

The news comes after a study in March discovered that women are more attracted to men with beards than those who are clean-shaven.

Glasgow University scientists said this is because facial hair accentuates jaw size and thus widens the face – considered a sign of masculinity and sex appeal.

University of Queensland researchers made similar findings on why women love facial hair just months before.

Those with stubble are judged as the most attractive, perhaps due to the bad-boy image that the five-o’clock shadow can give, they said. 

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