The Sun Shielding Power of Beards and Mustaches

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Beards and mustaches are not just the fashion statement of the moment for men here in New Haven, they also offer sun protection and support a man’s skin health.

Men in Australia have a high risk for skin cancer. At the country’s University of Queensland, researchers wanted to know the level of sun protection provided by a man’s facial hair. So they placed mannequin heads in the sun, fully equipped with devices that measure UV radiation.

The first mannequin had a long wizard-like beard, another had a relatively short beard, and a third mannequin was cleanly shaven. Hourly measurements were taken for an entire year as the heads rotated outside in the sun.

When the data was finally collected, they found that facial hair did provide protection, but the level of protection varied depending on the beard’s thickness and length. “Protection from UVR is provided by facial hair” said the researchers, “however, it is not very high, particularly at the higher SZA (solar zenith angle).”

Maybe you’re ready to stop shaving and grow a beard like Joaquin Phoenix. Feel free, but don’t skip the sunblock each morning, since a beard can only partially protect you from the sun’s damaging rays.

Photo by Loren Kerns

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