How Germy Is A Man's Beard?

Beards are a study in contradictions. Their effect is sometimes magic, often tragic, sometimes gainful, often painful. Whether you grow one yourself or are merely subjected to them, opting to let a face forest grow wild triggers a series of events beyond one's control. If the forested face in question is one that receives kisses, the kisser will now be subjected to routine contact with humanity's version of a used Brillo pad. That's right, used, not clean.

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal European Radiology found that male beards are on average far dirtier than a dog's fur, despite the fact that dogs like to roll in poo and never shower. The report sampled 30 dog coats from between the shoulder blades, a particularly dirty region where skin infections often occur, and sampled 18 male beards from below the mouth. The results found high microbial counts in 23 of the dogs, compared to all 18 of the men, and the report noted that "on the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as 'clean' compared with bearded men." If you're wondering why this merited study, the stated objective was to "determine whether it would be hygienic to evaluate dogs and humans in the same MRI scanner." But...

Is a beard really that germy?

Before you dial 911 and ask for a barber, consider this 2014 study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, which sampled a much larger population of 408 male healthcare workers. The results showed that those with facial hair were less likely to be colonized with methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA),  a particularly nasty bacteria prone to antibiotic resistance.

Medical News Today also notes that another study which involved swabbing beards of men off the streets of London found beards have antibiotic qualities themselves, containing bacteria that will kill its more harmful brethren.

So fear not, and keep growing those roughly 30,000 hairs around your face hole. While they can get dirty, proper hygiene and common sense will keep your beard from becoming a biohazard. We are an incredibly complex web of bacterial interactions, and while beards provide certain growth opportunities for these bacteria, so does literally every other part of your body