Photos: Famous men and their beards

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  1. Matthew McConaughey

    The men around you may stop shaving for a variety of reasons throughout the year, especially in "Movember," the month dedicated to increasing awareness aroud men's health. For male celebrities, facial may be required for a role, or it may just add to the mystique of being a star.

    Honoree Matthew McConaughey looks all right while attending the 28th American Cinematheque Award event at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Oct. 21, 2014. His laid back persona is only accentuated when he stops shaving. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Charlie Hunnam

    "Sons of Anarchy" star Charlie Hunnam attends the season six premiere of the FX series at Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, on Sept. 7, 2013. The blond leading man's pointy biker beard fits his California character well. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Brad Pitt

    Brad Pitt attends a private reception as costumes and props from Disney's "Maleficent," starring his wife Angelina Jolie, are exhibited at Kensington Palace in London on May 8, 2014. Pitt's beard has fluctuated over the years from full-on scraggly to well-groomed goatee. He is rarely clean-shaven. (Anthony Harvey / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Christian Bale

    "The Dark Knight" star Christian Bale arrives on the red carpet for the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House in London on Feb. 16, 2014. Batman Bale clearly lurks in darker shadows than 5 o'clock ones. (Andrew Cowie / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Andrew Lincoln

    "The Walking Dead" star Andrew Lincoln arrives at an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences event in Beverly Hills, California, on Oct. 4, 2013. Who has time to shave when zombies who look a lot worse are on your tail? (Valerie Macon / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Hugh Jackman

    Australian actor Hugh Jackman appears on stage during an event before the Japanese premiere of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" in Tokyo on May 27, 2014. Jackman is always messing with his handsome mug, growing carefully crafted facial hair for assorted roles. Wolverine muttonchops anyone? (Toru Yamanaka / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Jake Gyllenhaal

    Normally clean-cut actor Jake Gyllenhaal is in full-beard mode as he attends the "Enemy" premiere at the Palafox cinema in Madrid, Spain, on March 20, 2014. "Enemy" of a razor, apparently. (Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Ryan Reynolds

    Actor Ryan Reynolds attends Angel Ball 2014 hosted by Gabrielle's Angel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street in New York on Oct. 20, 2014. Reynolds is going to be a new dad with wife Blake Lively. Baby might have to get used to daddy's scruffy whiskers. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Tom Hardy

    Another "Dark Knight" actor with a tendancy to get scruffy is Tom Hardy, here attending "The Drop" premiere during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on Sept. 5, 2014. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Jon Hamm

    Perhaps playing a clean-shaven 1950s ad man on "Mad Men" is what drives Jon Hamm to go beard-o so often, like here at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Idris Elba

    Actor Idris Elba can have grey in his beard or pink or green for all we care -- it always looks good. Here he attends the 8th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards at Sheraton Times Square in New York on Sept. 21, 2014. (Michael Loccisano / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Jeff Bridges

    Dude! Actor Jeff Bridges just wouldn't bein character as himself if he didn't have a beard. Bridges attends a premiere on Sept. 9, 2014, in Hollywood, California. (Charley Gallay / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Seth Rogen

    What's funnier than a funny guy with a beard? Actor Seth Rogen speaks at an event during The New Yorker Festival on Oct. 10, 2014, in New York. (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Duck Dynasty'

    Phil Robertson, Jase Robertson, Si Robertson and Willie Robertson from, "Duck Dynasty." The family tradition was to grow their beards out during hunting season but it became the show's signature. (A&E via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. George Clooney

    Actor George Clooney, seen here arriving at the Oscars on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles told US Weekly that his salt-and-pepper beard makes him look and feel older. (John Shearer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Zach Galifianakis

    Zach Galifianakis of "The Hangover" movie series has previously shaved his trademark beard, but once kept a handlebar mustache for an upcoming movie. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck shaved his beard after winning the Best Picture Oscar for "Argo." (Jason Merritt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Joaquin Phoenix

    Actor Joaquin Phoenix grew his scruffy beard when he claimed he was quitting acting to become a rapper a few years ago. (Michael Loccisano / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. ZZ Top

    Bassist Dusty Hill, drummer Frank Beard and guitarist Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Their beards are in a class by themselves. (C Flanigan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Jerry Garcia

    Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead performs on Nov. 11, 1978. His grizzly beard could be called "hippie classic." (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. John Lennon

    In 1969 Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono held Bed-Ins for Peace. The weeklong event seen here took place in Amsterdam. A well-known Lennon quote, "The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight," was recirculated in 2011 during the Occupy Wall Street movement. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. 28th American Cinematheque Award Honoring Matthew McConaughey - Arrivals
    Jason Merritt / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (21) Famous men and their beards
  2. 28th American Cinematheque Award Honoring Matthew McConaughey - Arrivals
    Jason Merritt / Getty Images
    Slideshow (21) Famous men and their beards
By
NBC News
updated 6/28/2013 8:17:05 PM ET 2013-06-29T00:17:05

Maybe Ben Affleck shouldn't have shaved his burly beard after winning the Oscar for "Argo." A beard and bushy mustache is the preferred look of Hollywood hunks, hipsters and lumberjacks. They may also protect a man’s face from some of the ravages of the sun.

Researchers in Australia – the continent with the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world – looked at how much UV protection men’s facial hair offered and found that it actually did help -- a little.

For a man with full-on facial scruff the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) can range from 2 to 21 out of a max of UPF 50, according to Alfio Parisi, a professor of radiation physics at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, Australia. “This is a reduction in the UV of 50 to 95 percent,” he says. As a comparison, the sun protection factor (SPF) provided by correctly applied sunscreen is about 30.

Parisi and his team tested for erythemal or “sunburning UV” which has been linked to increased of non-melanoma skin cancer.

“This has a higher effectiveness in the UVB and it extends with a much lower effectiveness into the UVA,” he says. Exposure to UVA is linked to skin cancer and aging, while exposure to UVB is associated with burning.

The research involved three mannequin heads. Tiny ultraviolet “dosimeters” (instruments that measure the amount of X-rays or radiation absorbed in a given period) were attached to the mannequins’ faces in several spots: the upper lip, upper jaw, middle jaw, lower jaw and chin. Then the mannequins were given beards.

One was decked out with a big beard (let’s call it the Joaquin Phoenix); one was given a shorter beard (think Justin Timberlake). The third “control” mannequin (Justin Bieber, anyone?) remained clean-shaven.

The three heads were then mounted on a rotating platform and placed outside on the campus of the University of Southern Queensland. Measurements of ultraviolet radiation were taken on each facial site after an hour’s exposure. Data was gathered over the course of a year.

Results showed that facial hair did reduce the amount of ultraviolet radiation exposure to the “skin” under the beards and mustaches, although the protection depended on the length and density of the facial hair, the angle of the sun in the sky and the “facial site” (the upper lip, for instance, received the highest exposure to ultraviolet rays).

The study doesn’t mean hirsute types can skimp on the sunscreen.

“Although there is protection provided by beards and moustaches, the presence of facial hair should not be taken as a reason to spend extended periods of time in sunlight,”Parisi says.

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Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical offer for the American Cancer Society says the study – with its bearded mannequins mounted on what appears to be the world’s strangest merry-go-round -- may sound funny, but it’s actually quite important.

“There’s a very real question being raised here,” he says. “People do ask this question a lot and this is providing an answer. Unfortunately, the research doesn’t show that facial hair has much benefit. There’s some protection offered by facial hair but it’s not significant.”

Slideshow: Famous men and their beards (on this page)

If anything, Lichtenfeld says the study confirms that hair – whether it’s on your face or your head – is not really an effective sunscreen.

“If you go outside to mow the lawn and you don’t have protection, you can get burned very quickly on the scalp, even with a full head of hair,” he says. “Don’t believe that because you have hair on your head, you’re protecting yourself from the potential impact of ultraviolet radiation. You can still develop sunburn and even skin cancers later in life.”

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, with melanoma – the most serious type of skin cancer – accounting for more than 75,000 skin cancer cases and 9,000 skin cancer deaths in 2012. “Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning booths” as the number one risk factor for skin cancer, the ACS website says.

Bald guys -- or those rocking a shaved Bruce Willis look-- need to be particularly careful when it comes to the sun’s rays, says Lichtenfeld.

“They definitely need to be concerned,” he says. “They need to be cautious. People tend to forget the scalp is at risk.”

Both Lichtenfeld and Parisi recommend the use of sunscreen on any exposed skin. 

Lichtenfeld also suggests a much healthier -- albeit a little less manly --  trend than a big burly beard for outdoorsy types: a wide-brimmed hat.

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This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

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