It was a couple of years ago that a scientific journal, European Radiology, dropped the bomb on the beard.
A study showed that men’s beards have more germs than dog hairs.
To reach that conclusion, the team took bacterial samples from the coat and mouth of 30 dogs that had been taken to a hospital for an MRI.
To make the comparison, the researchers chose 18 bearded men who also went to a hospital for the same reason, and took samples of their beards.
More germs in beards than in dogs?
The results of the human beard versus dog hair microbial count, more out of curiosity than scientific importance, are described in the study as follows:
– All the males, 18 out of 18, exhibited high microbial counts, while 7 dogs exhibited moderate microbial counts and 23 dogs had high microbial counts.
– More human pathogenic bacteria were found on men’s beards than on dogs’ skin. In 7 of the 18 humans and in only 4 of the 30 dogs, we found human pathogenic bacteria.
On top of that, the team also took samples from MRI scanners to compare whether those used for dogs end up with a higher level of microbes than those used exclusively for humans.
And the result was very good… for the dogs.
Yes, the beard is full of germs And?
Of course that doesn’t mean anything bad. Our skin is covered in germs, but most of them are harmless to us and some bacteria are even beneficial.
But what about the beard? Does it carry germs that can cause illness?
If we take good care of it and wash it no less than 3 times a week, our beard will be as good as the face of anyone shaved. With the same microbes that we have “stuck” all the time.
As one dermatologist says: “It is no different from what we usually have on our skin, where a complex microbiome is housed, always in constant change.”
And what does that mean?
Well, aerobic bacteria such as staphylococci and streptococci, viruses, yeasts and even small mites called Demodex that live in or near the hair follicles travel on our skin. They are harmless and are known to some as “the unknown inhabitant of the eyelashes.”
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More germs on your face with a beard or without a beard?
A 2014 study published in “The Journal of Hospital Infection” compared the bacterial ecology of the facial hair of 408 male workers to determine whether those with beards had more bacteria.
The researchers found that bacterial colonization in both groups was comparable, with a prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus actually slightly lower (41.2%) in those with beards than in those who were clean-shaven (52.6%).
These are germs that are transmitted by contact and mainly cause skin infections, although sometimes they can be worse.
But the reality is that the differences between shaved and unshaved are quite small. Understanding, of course, that the study has been done with people who have a job and have their beards usually clean.
Otherwise, we could talk about lice or more serious diseases.
How to keep the beard “hygienically clean”?
Let’s start by saying that the way microbes get into our beards is neither mysterious nor easily avoidable. Because as in other parts of the body, germs “stick” to us through the hands and the air, which is full of them.
But starting from that base, the beard is an aesthetic element like any other, which depends on the taste of each one and which is perfectly accepted by dermatologists.
It is not mandatory to shave facial hair, nor is it necessary to shave our head.
What is important is to keep your beards clean and well groomed.
And how is it achieved? Well, the dermatologist recommends that we wash it with the same frequency and good practice with which we wash our scalp, generally a few times a week.
They also recommend brushing it frequently because this way we will be able to eliminate dead skin cells that can get tangled between the hairs.
Better with an antibacterial shampoo?
It is not necessary and the dermatologists we have spoken with do not consider it essential. Because what they insist on is the need to wash and clean it, much more than the type of shampoo we use.
The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), which is responsible for protecting the public health of the country, says there is not enough evidence to say that an antibacterial soap when washing hands is better at killing germs .
And the same goes for washing the beard. With the clarification, for both cases, that you have to massage well, rinse well and dry well.
Not forgetting, in addition, that good hand hygiene is an essential complement to have a beard as clean as possible. Because we touch our faces thousands of times every day, with even more beards, and we are bringing everything we touch towards those hairs.
Of course, if we were talking about a shaved person we would have to say the same.
And now with the mask?
Indeed, at this time it is an added concern for people who have beards, because medically it can be a problem.
We already know that with the safest models, such as the FFP2, a good fit is as important as the mask itself.
And if the facial hair does not allow the mask to create a secure seal, we should change the beard model.
Already in 2017, long before the pandemic, the American CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) made the attached infographic to explain the beards and mustaches that those who needed a mask might or might not wear at work.
It’s fun and enlightening, and it certainly shows that they prefer the mustache.