It’s enough to make any bearded germophobe reach for the razor — a 2015 study claims that most beards are as dirty and bacteria-filled as household toilet seats.
A local news station conducted the study, in which several men’s beards were swabbed and analyzed. The result? The beards contained “enteric bacteria,” a part of the human biome that is also found in fecal matter. The findings were enough to make the article go viral on the Internet and birth a new urban legend.
But does the study actually hold up?
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How Dirty Is Your Beard?
Is your beard truly as dirty as a toilet? Probably not. There is no significant evidence to suggest that most beards are unclean or a significant source of harmful bacteria.
The station swabbed a few men’s beards and discovered some examples of unfavorable bacteria. But they didn’t swab any clean-shaven men’s chins. If they had, there’s a good chance they would have found similar bacteria on those chins, too.
Some of the bacteria in the beard study are comparable to bacteria commonly found in toilets and in human feces. Gross, right?
Here’s the thing: Those same bacteria can be found on dozens of other surfaces you touch each day, and they usually pose no harm to you. In fact, trillions of bacteria live on or in our bodies without threatening our health.
So, Should I Shave My Beard?
If you’d like to, sure — but not because of germs.
As long as you regularly groom and clean your beard, as you do the hair on your head, you are not at greater risk for disease than people without beards.
Science is just beginning to learn about the many species of bacteria that live within our bodies and what purpose they serve. We do know that most bacteria isn’t bad for us — many are beneficial and, in some cases, required for good health.
Best ways to care for your beard
- A few times a week, shampoo and condition your beard just like you would your hair.
- Trim your beard, whether long or short, to eliminate split ends and keep it healthy.
- Keep up healthy habits, like a eating healthful diet and getting plenty of sleep. Also, take care not to get food in your beard when eating.
The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.