The Health Benefits of Moustaches

By James Hamblin

Protection from cancer, lavish sexual prosperity, and engendering trust in one's fellow man -- "Let the young man, therefore, never become a slave to the false and pernicious fashion which compels him to shave off the beard."

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If you listen, facial hair says a lot: Where someone's going, where they've been, what they ate. Do they maybe have something to hide, or are they perhaps lazy? Why don't you want me to see your face? Why won't you open yourself to me? Am I not good enough for you? Take me!

Sure, you can get scabies nesting in your moustache. There's no reason to dance around the scabies nesting issue. But we also have substantial evidence in favor of moustaches and beards.

If you or someone you know has been struggling to justify their facial hair choices, enduring coercive objections from friends, family, clergy; consider the following benefits to bolster the pro-stache position.

1. Decrease risk of cancer 

Covering one's face with a beard or moustache decreases effective ultraviolet radiation to the underlying skin, which lowers the risk of skin cancer. Depending on the angle of the sun (or whatever other radiation source you may be dealing with -- do you sleep with radon under your pillow? Face-down?) and depending on the length of the hair, the average moustache reduces exposure ratios to one-third.

Also, Movember implements moustaches in November as a means of emblematically raising awareness for prostate and testicular cancer.

2. Foster trust 

According to the Journal of Marketing Communications, men with beards in commercials elicited more trust in the product they were endorsing than did men without. Being genuinely trusted -- and allowing yourself to trust -- are the backbone of healthy relationships.

Of note, the beards in that study were all medium-length and nicely maintained. They were not the sort that warrant incessant scratching, which can quickly undermine one's trustworthiness. Nor were they braided, waxed, smelly, French-forked, ducktailed, chin-curtained, Worfed, or Super Mario-ed.

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3. Increase attractiveness 

Facial symmetry has been repeatedly demonstrated as one of the primary criteria in human aesthetic attractiveness. It's ingrained in our instincts to be drawn to symmetric faces because, evolutionarily, facial symmetry was indicative of health. Beards and moustaches are a widely used method of disguising subtle facial asymmetry, thus increasing attractiveness. 

Prominent jawlines and chins are also proven to increase a man's attractivenss. Short of jaw and chin implants, facial hair can be used to create the overall appearance of a more prominent, squared jaw. Attractive people are, on the whole, more confident and earn more money, which buys them access to health care.

There's even Have Sex With a Guy With a Moustache Day, a correlate of Movember. The benefits of a healthy sex life (which, in most cases, is enhanced by increasing one's attractiveness), are numerous.

4. Decrease risk of cutting face, untimely death 

The less you shave, the less you cut your face. Without proper antibiotics, a shaving knick that becomes infected can easily kill a person. You can get septic and pass away in short order. Henry David Thoreau's brother John died that way, as did Lord Carnarvon, shortly after discovering the burial chamber of Tutankhamen in 1922.

5. Earn tax refunds 

A movement is afoot that - if adopted by Congress - would provide up to $250.00 in tax refunds for moustached Americans. They could then apply that money towards a gym membership or vital medication. You can sign the STACHE Act here.

6. Protect vocal apparatus / Appease vengeful God 

According to a poorly-contextualized but nonetheless provocative argument from someone calling him/herself Dr. Ruddock:

The beard and the moustache should be permitted to grow as they afford an excellent protection to the delicate organs of the voice of those in whom it is subjected to undue or irregular exercise. After a public address, the tissues in the vicinity of the throat become relaxed and on leaving the place of assembly and entering the open air, inflammatory action commences, and if repeated, chronic affections of the throat and bronchial tubes are often induced; but the unshorn natural respirator, which our Maker intended to be one of the distinguishing features of the male seed, effectively protects these important parts.

The hair planted on the human face by the wisdom and goodness of our Creator, has its uses, and we may add, its beauties. Let the young man, therefore, never become a slave to the false and pernicious fashion which compels him to shave off the beard, as it is found contributory to the health, if not the personal improvement, of those who wear it.

7. Eliminate boring conversations 

For people with scars or other facial deformities, growing a beard can be a path out of the world of people asking "Hey, fellow - what happened there?" "I hit my face on a table when I was a kid. My mom feels awful about it. Can we not?" or "I was born without that part of my face. My mom feels awful about it. Can we not?" That monotonous exchange might be replaced by question or compliments about the fullness of their beard or moustache, but those conversations never get old. Show me one person who would rather talk about the weather or traffic or politics than about his or her own appearance. 

Avoiding stressfully tedious conversations and replacing them with ego-enhancing compliments lowers blood pressure, decreasing risk of stroke, heart disease, and depression.

8. Decrease cosmetic costs 

The less you shave, the less money you spend on shaving cream and razors. Sure, you'll probably buy an electric trimmer, but that's a small, one-time cost that will pay for itself many times over. There is also an economy of time. The average American spends 0-16% of their lifetime shaving themselves or others.* Not having to shave every morning will let you spend more time eating kale and jogging. Among Americans of low economic status, every step away from poverty decreases stress and risk of obesity.

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9. Get free pancakes 

In retirement, I plan to open a gritty pancake shop in the North woods. It will be called Pancake Lodge. An important part of the business model -- and presently the only part of the business model -- is to give it an authentically gritty atmosphere. That starts with attracting the right clientele. I will absolutely offer free pancakes to people with exemplary beards or moustaches, and I think people cultivating burly pancake dispensaries across the country will shortly follow suit. Imagine the disconcerted surprise of tourists who wander in and start eating, only to slowly pan the room and realize that it's completely full of gorgeous beards and moustaches. They'll Yelp it, Instagram it, tag themselves on Facebook and say something to the effect of, "What the hell is going on in this pancake restaurant?" Then all of their friends, and the rest of their Facebook friends, will have to come check it out. Right? Whose business model is ridiculous now, Frank?

Also, if you argue that access to unlimited free pancakes represents not a health benefit but a health risk: that's good instinct. Pancakes contain a lot of processed sugars and not much nutritional value. But the benefit of being able to eat without worrying about cost -- in a place where you foster a neighborly, collegial environment of friends who also come to the same restaurant regularly -- assuredly confers benefits of stress reduction (economic and decision-making stresses), healthy social behavior, and admiration from people who come to the pancake shop just to see and touch nice beards like yours.

First inset photo: Tom Selleck [via Flickr]
Second inset photo: Alexis Madrigal [via Kasia Cieplak-Mayr Von Baldegg]


*Estimated statistic


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/08/the-health-benefits-of-moustaches/260737/