In recent years, the moustache has exploded. What was first documented in an Iranian painting in 300 B.C. took over Brooklyn for a few years, and now the rest of the country. (Movember, the month of November when men were encouraged to grow out moustaches, was celebrated in Los Angeles for the first time last year, helps charities and promotes men's health.) The moustache is not merely an aesthetic choice, though it has that in its favor as well, researchers have determined that the moustache has health benefits as well.

Researchers from Australia used dosimetric techniques to verify whether facial hair was of any use in the fight against ultraviolet rays. Dosimetry is the measurement and calculation of the amount of radiation matter and tissue absorbs, both directly and indirectly.

Alfio Parisi and his colleagues found that facial hair reduced skin's exposure to the sun by an average of one-third, and therefore helped reduce the risk of skin cancer. These findings were dependent on facial hair length and the angle of the sun or other ultraviolet source. They found that longer facial hair was slightly better at protecting against ultraviolet rays, but the difference changes depending on the person's angle to the sun.

But for those of us who either cannot grow moustaches or are women and are hampered by society, all hope is not lost. This study is an expansion of Parisi's earlier work in which he found that human hair on the head also protected against cancer-causing rays from the sun and other ultraviolet rays. The 2009 study on head hair was published in Photochemistry and Photobiology. Interestingly, they found that longer hair (an average of 109.5 millimeters, or 4.3 inches) was worse than short hair (49.1 mm, or 1.9 inches) at protecting against ultraviolet rays.

In both cases, he said the benefits were minimal at best. Parisi also said in his study's abstract that it would still be easy and quick to exceed UV exposure limits to the scalp.

The study on facial hair was published in the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry.