Beards go in and out of fashion every few years. Right now, they're in according to Dapper Confidential. "Beards have been popular for the last few years and many men have embraced facial hair," the male grooming website reads. But what if beards could be bad for our health?
According to new research from Switzerland's Hirslanden Clinic, beards are crawling with bacteria. And nearly half had bugs that were hazardous to human health. To make matters even worse, the clinic used the same technique on the hair of dogs and found that they often contained less harmful bacteria.
So, are beards dirty?
In the study, scientists wanted to discover whether humans would risk picking up dog-borne diseases if they used an MRI scanner which was also used by vets. Researchers took swabs from the beards of 18 men and 30 dogs, and compared the results.
Professor Andreas Gutzeit explained to The Daily Mail:
"The researchers found a significantly higher bacterial load in specimens taken from the men's beards compared with the dogs' fur. The study found all of the bearded men, aged from 18 to 76, showed high microbial counts, but only 23 out of 30 dogs had high counts. The remainder had moderate levels."
In addition, seven men were found to have beards that contained microbes dangerous to human health. The researchers found that the scanners which were used by dogs and then disinfected had "significantly" lower bacteria count compared with levels seen when used by humans.
"On the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as clean compared with bearded men," Dr Gutzeit said.
Keith Flett, founder of the Beard Liberation Front, seems to disagree, telling the Mail:
"I think it's possible to find all sorts of unpleasant things if you took swabs from people's hair and hands and then tested them. I don't believe that beards in themselves are unhygienic."
"There seems to be a constant stream of negative stories about beards that suggest it's more about pogonophobia than anything else."
But, could beards actually be good for your health?
While this may seem worrying at first, it's important to remember that with proper care, beards could actually be more hygienic than shaved faces.
A study by the Journal of Hospital Infection swabbed the faces of 408 hospital staff with and without facial hair to identify whether beards could be a source of infections. The researchers were surprised to find that it was the clean-shaven staff who carried more bacteria on their faces.
The beardless group were more than three times as likely to be harbouring a species known as methicillin-resistant staph aureus, which is resistant to many current antibiotics.
The researches concluded that shaving might cause micro-abrasions in the skin "which may support bacterial colonisation and proliferation".
Dr Adam Roberts also found bacteria in beards. but to his surprise, he found one strain of bacteria that was killing bad bacteria. When he tested them against a particularly drug-resistant form of E. coli, the beard bacteria also killed that.