Do Beards Carry Germs? Surprising Facts & Hygiene Tips

Man Trimming Beard

Beards can pick up certain bacteria depending on the circumstances the bearded individual may be in. Whether beards carry an increased amount of germs compared to clean-shaven individuals has harbored some mixed findings.

Do Beards Have Germs?

An interesting study indicated that men with beards actually carried more germs in their facial hair than dogs. Researchers examined what was left behind after bearded men and dogs used MRI machines to see if humans and pups were able to share the same medical equipment without being at risk of infecting each other. This study noted that dogs were not at risk for infecting humans, and that men with beards had a larger and more dangerous bacterial load present in their facial hair. Enterococcus faecalis and Staphylococcus aureus were two bacteria found in nearly half of the men's beards.

Picking Up E. Coli After Flushing

Toilet plume, the air particles sprayed after flushing, can get into the air and onto your body. Because E. coli and other various bacteria can be found in poo, flushing can cause these germs to get into the air and subsequently onto your facial hair and body. The amount of germs will not increase just because you have facial hair, beards just give germs another place to hang out on your body. Keep in mind that only some strains of E. coli can lead to harmful infections, but either way, toilet plume is pretty unpleasant to think about. While there isn't a ton of research on how many individuals contract illnesses from toilet plume, this germ spray can linger in the air for longer than 30 minutes, and get onto the walls and other surfaces in the bathroom. To limit toilet plume and prevent your beard and body from picking up these germs:

  • Close the toilet lid before flushing
  • Clean your bathroom thoroughly with a bathroom cleaner on a weekly basis
  • Clean your bathroom after you or someone else has been ill

How to Keep Your Beard Clean

Your beard should be cleaned every evening before bed, and any other time your beard feels greasy or gets especially dirty.

Use Soap for Cleansing

Instead of using just water to wash your face, using a facial cleanser or beard wash can help you remove more bacteria and germs as you scrub your face, similar to how soap helps remove germs from your hands. Using soap helps pick up, dissolve, and wash away more microbes compared to simply splashing water on your face.

Man washing his beard

Brushing Your Beard

Depending on your beard texture, you may easily get food, drink, or dust particles stuck in your facial hair. Brush your beard hair with a beard comb to remove particles and wash your face with soap to help loosen up stubborn crumbs.

Shaving and Trimming Tips

If you shave or trim your beard, be sure to use a shaving cream to help prevent nicks as bacteria thrive in these tiny cuts. If you do cut yourself, stop the bleeding, pat dry, and treat with a gentle antibacterial cream. Be sure to keep the nick clean and try to avoid shaving again until healed completely to prevent bacterial spread.

Is Clean Shaven Better?

There are advantages and disadvantages to bearded and clean-shaven faces. While beards offer a significant increase in surface area available for microorganisms to grow on when compared to clean-shaven faces, shaving creates the risk of nicks and cuts which provide a direct route for microbes to enter the bloodstream and cause infections. In either case, it is important to practice good hygiene and routinely wash your face. A bearded person who routinely washes will be much more successful in keeping harmful microorganisms at bay than a clean shaven person with poor hygiene.

Shaving Versus Cleaning Your Beard

Hospitals are at risk for harboring high amounts of bacteria due to patients, so cleanliness is of the utmost importance. To that end, hospital staff need to stay as hygienic as possible. To test whether bearded hospital staff put patients more at risk for certain germ contamination, researchers examined a little over 400 staff members. This study of bearded versus non-bearded individuals showed that clean shaven people were more likely to have higher counts of certain bacteria and have overall more bacteria on their face. They surmised that this was because of "micro-trauma" that the face can experience due to shaving.

Keeping Your Beard Clean

If you do opt to keep your facial hair, be sure to take care of it and keep it as clean as possible. The human body is covered germs, beards only increase the surface area available, but are not necessarily cleaner or dirtier compared to clean-shaven faces.

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Do Beards Carry Germs? Surprising Facts & Hygiene Tips