The old flavor-saver is the prize of many a man and the bane of many a woman’s existence, but who would have guessed that nuzzling up to old Fido could be more hygienic than your hubby? A recent study found that beards contain significantly more harmful bacteria than was found in the fur of tested dogs. That’s right; the hair on your significant other’s face is likely more contaminated than the fur of the pupper rolling around in God-knows-what out on the lawn. Let that sink in for a minute.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Hirslanden Clinic in Switzerland, tested the beards of 18 men aged from 18 to 76. The original goal of the experiment was to test whether humans might be able to catch canine-spread illnesses from MRI scanners, since the machines can be used to help diagnose conditions in both humans and canines. But, as the researchers took samples from the beards of their sample population and tried to compare what they found with the fur of dogs, they soon realized that the bacteria count was considerably higher for the men after disinfecting the MRI equipment—and it wasn’t the good kind.
One-hundred percent of the men carried bacteria ranging from potentially harmful to downright dangerous in their facial hair, compared to the 23 of 30 dogs with fur that that tested positive for the microbes. And, while the number for the dogs is also high, there are two things to keep in mind: first, beard rate was 100 percent, and second . . . they’re dogs. (This article’s author, who very recently came to the conclusion that a clean shave was in order, takes no victory in having facial hair that is probably about as clean as most dogs.)
Describing the unexpected results of the study, Dr. Andreas Gutzeit of the Hirslanden Clinic said, “The researchers found a significantly higher bacterial load in specimens taken from the men's beards compared with the dogs' fur,” adding that, “On the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as clean, compared with bearded men.”
Don't Run for the Razor Just Yet
But, if you’re a bearded man who can’t bear to live with the thought of parting with your beloved soup strainer, Joth Davies, founder of Savills Barbers in South Yorkshire, England, believes there is hope. He recommends treating your beard the same as the hair on your head, washing and conditioning it every other day to keep things clean without causing excessive drying of the hair and skin. He also stressed the importance of exfoliating the skin beneath the facial hair two to three times per week to get rid of all the dead skin and oils that can build up over time, which is especially important for those with lengthy beards and mustaches.
Whatever you choose to do, don't take the news too hard. After all, your beard may be a scraggly biohazard, but your dog probably eats poop, so he's certainly got no room to brag.