Could it be that men’s beards are there for a reason? A new study argues that similar to a lion’s mane, a human’s beard could help protect him against deadly attacks by absorbing forces directed at the jaw, the facial bone that breaks most often during combat. The study authors argue that hairs in a beard would collectively diffuse the force of a blow and may have evolved in response to the need to win male-to-male battles.
This is supported by a growing body of evidence that hints human skeletons and muscles evolved to support specializations linked to male fighting. Their experiment showed that “bearded” test items absorbed nearly 30 percent more energy than items that were sheared or plucked. The scientists add, “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.”