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Beards are so fashionable these days especially the full ones. Men, who keep such facial hair pride themselves as belonging to the ‘Beard Gang’. And judging by the manner in, which such individuals flaunt these hairy assets on the social media and in real life, it is obvious that to them, membership of the gang is no mean feat.
For those men, who are not naturally hairy, being able to cultivate a full beard is indeed a big achievement.
Some studies have shown that women find men with full beards attractive – probably one of the reasons most young adults desire to grow full beards these days. According to a 2013 research by Dixson and Brooks, women see men with full beards as more masculine and even healthier.
But how healthy are these beards? And if you want to keep out germs, would you rather isolate dogs or keep out fully bearded men?
These are indeed serious questions, going by the unusual findings of a research carried out by the Hirslanden Clinic in Switzerland.
The research found out that there are more germs on full beards than on dogs’ furs. Bearded men carry more germs than dogs, it reckoned. In fact, in the course of the research, it was discovered that every sampled beard contained bacteria and nearly half had bugs that could be hazardous to human health.
The researchers wanted to establish whether it was hygienic to allow dogs into the same MRI machines as humans. They took swabs from the beards of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs and compared the results.
The research found that all of the bearded men, aged from 18 to 76, showed high microbial counts, but only 23 out of 30 dogs had the same. The remainder had moderate levels.
“Our study shows that bearded men harbour a significantly higher burden of microbes and more human-pathogenic strains than dogs,” one of the researchers, Andreas Gutzeit, explained.
Specifically, the research discovered that seven of the 18 men harboured microbes that posed a threat to human health.
In its conclusions, the research observed that patients should not feel unduly concerned if they happened to find themselves following a dog into an MRI scanner.
“On the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as clean compared with bearded men,” Gutzeit told The Mail on Sunday, which reported the outcome of the research.
Following this development, it becomes very crucial that members of the ‘Beard Gang’ should ensure that they keep their beards clean, so as not to endanger the health of people around them. So how can you keep your full beards free from germs?
Wash those beards thoroughly, and don’t take your bath in just three minutes.
Reacting to the report in a chat with Saturday PUNCH, a notable dermatologist, Prof Funmilayo Ajose, said the beard must be washed thoroughly to keep it free from germs.
Ajose, who observed that men usually take their bath in just three minutes, noted that those with full beards should spend a longer and more effective time in the shower in order to keep germ-free beards.
She said, “If you know how men usually take their bath in the morning, you will know that they use like three minutes to bath.
“If a person who takes his bath like that has beards, he is likely to have beards that are not well groomed.
“So, if you are going to have beards, you have to understand that beards will require more intensive washing than the skin.
“If you have beards and you rush over your bath, if you don’t make out time to clean your beards as well as you should, your beards will habour germs.
“But if you are particular about your beards and look after it by washing meticulously, there will be no problem.”
But Ajose was quick to point out that hairs including beards, are more prone to attract dirt and germs than other areas on the human body. She expressed reservation over the report’s conclusion that dogs could be neater and freer from germs than full bearded men.
The dermatologist observed that the particular dogs that participated in the research are likely to be well-groomed dogs in the first place.
“What is important is that hair, wherever they are, tend to habour germs. Whether it is in the head, face, chest, armpit, groin, any area – hair tend to harbour more germs than other areas on the human body.
“The report compared human beard with the fur of animals in order to find out which one is more dangerous in terms of microbes.
“If you look carefully, you will find out that people who are concerned about their dogs to the extent of taking them for MRI, would also be sufficiently concerned to give their dogs very good grooming. Those dogs are not likely to be dirty dogs; they are likely to come from a well groomed environment.
“Some people feel that dogs are dirtier than men, and they may be correct.
“But some people are now saying if you complain about dogs, why don’t you complain about bearded men who don’t look after their beards? That is what I deduced from that report,” she added.
Speaking further, Ajose explained why beards are more likely to come in contact with germs than other parts of the human body.
“The fact is hair anywhere normally gather dirt and germs. For example the wind blows on your face and if you are bearded, your beards will gather more dust than your skin.
“If you do not wash the beards adequately, those microbes in your beards will remain there.
“What is important is that men should know that people with beards need more scrupulous grooming in that area and not to rush over a three-minute bath. Any part of the body where you keep hair must be more thoroughly groomed than the normal skin.
“You have to understand that the human skin is all covered with microbes, and you have more concentration of microbes in hairy areas than in the non-hairy areas.”
‘Healthy germs’ on beards?
Arguing that the findings of the research are not sacrosanct, Ajose pointed out that some other studies reported that full beards contain ‘healthy germs’.
“On the contrary, there are also studies that claim bearded men harbour germs that actually kill surrounding germs on their body.
“The studies reported that bearded men harbour so many germs in their beards and some of the germs can be used to fight certain resistant bacteria.
“There are so many studies – if you want to push one way, you will find a study to take you that way, if you want to push the other way, you will find a study and most of these studies may not be properly designed.
“If you have a badly designed study, it will give you a result along the lines that you want,” she argued.
‘Beard gang’ no longer attractive?
With the Swiss clinic’s research concluding that dogs are cleaner than bearded men, could it be that belonging to the beard gang would no longer be fashionable?
Ajose said no.
“I don’t believe in that report, I cannot take it as sacrosanct because I cannot link it to any scholarly publication.
“I could not see that it was a well-designed, unbiased study and I cannot hold that report as authentic evidence to anything.
“All that I can tell you is that hair, on any part of the body, will habour germs and if you want to keep hair anywhere on the body, you have to understand that it requires special maintenance,” she said.