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What Is the Fear of Beards?

By Henry Gaudet
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pongonophobia is the fear of beards and people who wear facial hair. Severe pongonophobiacs may experience intense anxiety or panic attacks when dealing with bearded faces. In its mildest form, the sight of a beard may cause mistrust or repulsion, with the sufferer often drawing irrational associations regarding the bearded man’s cleanliness, civility, or trustworthiness. Some psychologists suggest that the aversion to beards may be more widespread, advice that has led many men to shave in an effort to appear more youthful, energetic and honest.

While a complex interaction of many factors may contribute to phobias such as a fear of beards, some causal connections can sometimes be identified. Heredity may play a role, making some predisposed to developing irrational fears. Environment and culture may lead an individual to making assumptions about beards and the people who wear them. Traumatic events where the image of a beard is prominent may also cause the association of facial hair with anxiety or fear.

In modern western society, the beard is not especially popular. Facial hair tends to make a man appear more mature, and teens and young men may grow beards to appear a little older. In a culture that values youth, however, a beard could become a liability for men past their college years.

Beards have many cultural associations, encouraging people to make assumptions about people who wear them. For millions of men, shaving is a part of daily hygiene, and men who do not include this step in their daily grooming may appear scruffy and unkempt. This may lead people to make unfounded assumptions about the man’s reliability and personal habits.

Fear of beards can sometimes be traced back to an association between facial hair and homelessness. In the minds of these pongonophobiacs, beards are identified with poor hygiene and some of the more dangerous aspects of homelessness such as substance abuse and crime. Many organizations and some governmental agencies require employees and representatives to maintain a clean shaven appearance to avoid negative stereotypes.

Treatment for a fear of beards is often determined by the severity of symptoms. A mild discomfort may be confronted through self-help techniques. If symptoms are especially mild, the sufferer may decide to live with the condition, avoiding interaction with bearded men when possible. Severe panic attacks and anxiety may require more formal treatment such as consultation with a mental health professional.

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Discussion Comments
By umbra21 — On Mar 07, 2014

@MrsPramm - I hate to say it, but I do understand the impulse to worry about someone approaching you who has a big beard. It isn't about race or poverty exactly. Men who grow beards, particularly without caring for them, often seem to be the kind of people who don't care very much about society and rules and I just wouldn't want to meet one in a dark alley.

I understand that that is a form of prejudice, and that not all men who happen to grow a beard are going to be like that. But I can't help but associate it with a kind of lawless violence, probably because that is the intended effect for some people.

By MrsPramm — On Mar 06, 2014

@irontoenail - It's not just about race. There is also the fact that homeless men and often poor men as well will be more likely to wear a beard for a variety of reasons. People with money are more likely to shave their facial hair in an attempt to look younger.

They might even just trim or shape their hair which is something that a person who works two jobs is not going to have the time or money to do. I'll bet people who are afraid of beards are less afraid of beards that have been trimmed and shaped until they look manicured.

By irontoenail — On Mar 06, 2014

I wonder if this has some kind of roots in racial prejudice as well. There are several religions that encourage beard growth, or outright ban men from shaving. If you are the kind of person who dislikes foreigners you could quickly come to associate them with beards, and have a sort of them vs. us mentality when it comes to beards in general.

I mean, I don't think these people are afraid of the beard itself, of course. They are afraid of the kind of person who goes against their own cultural trends in order to grow one.

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