Manu Bennett at the Spartacus season finale at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, January 2013

If you find yourself inexplicably enamored of the scritchy feel of a few days of scruffy facial hair growth, you’re in good company. A new study from researchers at the University of New South Wales has finally addressed the pressing question, “How much beard is the most sexy?”

For the study, which appeared in the May issue of Evolution and Human Behavior, 10 men were photographed freshly shaved, with “light stubble” after five days of growth, “heavy stubble” after 10 days, and with a full beard. Then 351 heterosexual women and 177 heterosexual men were asked to look at the photos. The researchers, who are now probably sporting exactly 10 days of sexy stubble, asked the subjects to rate the men in the photographs for attractiveness, “masculinity”, health, and parenting skills.

Obviously dudes should just have whatever kind of facial hair they want, and beard density doesn’t seem likely to have anything useful to say about a guy’s parenting skills. But if any guys out there are currently holding razors and thinking, “Man, I really wish I had some data points to help me figure out when to shave,” the study authors say the women who participated in the study voted men with heavy stubble the most attractive, with clean-shaven and bearded looks being roughly equal and closely followed by light stubble. Male test subjects voted full beards and heavy stubble to be the most attractive, followed by the clean-shaven look.

None of the study participants thought very much of the light stubble look, though, which the researchers took to mean, “a threshold of density and distribution may be necessary for beards to function as an attractive signal.” In other words, nobody was particularly turned on by the look of patchy, uneven stubble.

Via Jezebel/Photo: WENN