Last year, the internet erupted, pitting bearded men against everyone else.
Beards are full of poop, claimed ABC affiliate network, KOAT.
They ran with the story, and it spread across the internet faster than bacteria spreads in a petri dish.
Everyone published the story in some form or another, and debates popped up in every corner of the internet, with bearded men denying they were filthy, and others begging their loved ones to shave their dirty beards.
Unfortunately for those people who prefer facts to conjecture, the actual “study” in question was not a study at all. It was a few random swabs done by a reporter, which were then analyzed by a microbiologist.
So beards don’t actually contain poop?
They found bacteria that was “similar” to that found in feces, in the beards.
So no actual poop. Just similar bacteria. Not to mention that bacteria is everywhere.
So we found out not so long after the ridiculous story that, in fact, beards were not full of poop.
But what, then are the cleanliness and health effects of beards?
Are beards harming us in any significant way? Or do they help us?
The real health benefits of beards
To find out, we must go to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.
In stark contrast to the claim by KOAT that beards were filthy, the researchers of the study found that it was actually completely shaven men who’s faces contained more bacteria.
Those men who shaved were up to three times more likely to have a species known as methicillin-resistant staph aureus on their faces. MRSA is common and somewhat troublesome, as it is the culprit for some hospital-acquired infections. Reason being, it is resistant to many of our antibiotics.
If that wasn’t enough, it was also found that beards harbored certain bacterias and antibacterias that could actually protect them from some harmful strains of bacteria, including e. coli, a serious and well-known bug.
The social benefits of beards
Insofar as our appearance affects our self esteem, confidence, and the first impressions we give, it can be argued that social benefits are significant.
If your first impression is a good one, you are more likely to open up opportunities for yourself, and therefore improve your life, whether that be monetarily, with a relationship, or in health.
- Helps instill discipline through morning rituals
- Makes you look more confident
- Makes you look more aggressive (source, source)
- Makes you look more masculine (source)
- Makes you appear of a higher social status (source)
- Makes you look older (source)
How to maintain cleanliness and set your beard up for success
In order to stay ahead of the curve and make sure you do not give any fuel to the poop-in-beard fire, it is vital for you to take proper care of your beard.
Establish a grooming routine that includes washing, conditioning with a balm or an oil, combing and/or brushing, and keeping it trimmed properly.
Whether or not you use beard-specific shampoo, soap, or conditioner, you must have a daily wash in the shower. Try not to use shampoo too often, as it can dry out your facial hair. Once or twice a week is plenty. If you are just using water, make sure you scrub with your hands, a cloth, or a bath sponge.
Conditioning your beard will help keep both the hairs and the skin underneath healthy. A natural beard balm or oil will help moisturize and strengthen the hairs, and will help to eliminate “beardruff” and itchiness on the skin.
Combing will help keep the hairs free flowing and non-tangled, and can help distribute oils. Brushing is not only helpful for styling, but for cleaning purposes, too, which many men find surprising.
The bristles on a good beard brush will penetrate the beard hairs, reaching down to the facial skin. It can then pull away dead skin cells, discarded hairs, and built up oils near the surface of the face, which otherwise can cause redness, irritation, and generally create a bad environment for your face and beard growth.
Thankfully the poop-in-beard fiasco proved to be not only misleading, but also quite the opposite of the truth. The studies cited prove that beards can actually be quite healthy and eliminate harmful bacteria. They can also help with appearances, particularly if you keep up your grooming habits.