Beards. Who would’ve thought facial hair could provoke such strong reactions from people? Lately, it seems that you either love them or you hate them.
My father has a sunken chin and as a result he always wears a beard to cover it up. So I’m fairly indifferent when it comes to facial hair. In fact, on the odd occasion that my dad did shave his manly facial mane my sisters and I used to freak out a bit, especially when we were very little, because he just didn’t look like our dad.
Nowadays, thanks to the “hipster revolution” beards have become a bit of a fashion statement… and perhaps that’s why they’re getting such a bad rap… And if you don’t like beards then you probably enjoyed reading the following recent headline in your social media newsfeed:
“Shock new research reveals some beards contain more poo than a toilet”
Dirty dozen… or not!
I have to admit, I had a bit of a chuckle when I read the story behind this headline.
According to the original news article, microbiologists from New Mexico swabbed “a number of beards” searching for bacteria. Their results showed that several of the swabbed beards contained normal bacteria, but some contained so much bacteria they were comparable to toilets.
Commenting on the findings, John Golobic, the microbiologist who led the ‘investigation’, said: “I’m usually not surprised, and I was surprised by this.”
Apparently, Golobic added that if similar samples of bacteria were found in the water system, it would have to be shut down for disinfecting.
However, although none of the levels of bacteria were enough to cause illness, the microbiologist cautioned that the levels of bacteria found indicated a degree of uncleanliness that is ‘somewhat disturbing’.
Okay, before you run to the closest sink to vigorously shave off your beard, here’s the truth behind this so-called “study”.
First, there was no study.
Instead, it was an enthusiastic news reporter looking for a story that swabbed a “handful” of men’s beards and then sent the swabs to a microbiologist to culture any bacteria present.
The reporter then interviewed the microbiologist, John Golobic, who identified a few of the bacteria present as “enterics” — the kind of bacteria normally found in the intestines.
Golobic then remarked: “Those are the types of things you’d find in faeces”. And that’s all. But before you could say “Gillette, the best a man can get” the Internet and other lesser media outlets turned all beards into disease-infested poo nests.
Anyhow, the fact is when kept clean as part of a daily hygiene regimen, beards are as clean as the hair on any other part of your body.
And as for those pesky enterics?
Well, let’s put it this way: If a proper scientific study with a large number of samples was conducted, chances are that some types of bacteria normally found in the gut, like E. coli, would’ve been present on the skin. Beard or no beard. The presence of bacteria on skin is perfectly normal.
In fact, when it comes to spreading unhealthy bacteria, beards might just be the very thing that actually reduces the likelihood of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being present on the skin. That’s according to the results of a study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.
Plus, a recent study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed that healthcare workers with and without beards possessed similar amounts of facial bacteria on their skin…
So, if you really have to make the comparison, then everyone’s equally dirty!
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No, Your Beard Doesn’t Have Poop in It, published online 07.05.15, menshealth.com
Some beards are so full of poo they are as dirty as toilets, published online 03.05.15, metro.co.uk
No need for men to get flush-faced about faeces in beards, published 04.05.15, theguardian.com