Are Men’s Beards Dirtier than Dogs?

If you’re thinking of joining the ‘no-shave’ bandwagon, you might want to think twice after hearing what researchers out of Zurich, Switzerland discovered. While many men are embracing the once-forgotten scruffy beard look, it might not be a wise move according to the new study conducted by the Hirslanden Clinic in Switzerland. Scientists now claim that bears may harbor more harmful bacteria than dogs carry in their fur.

Findings of the Study

The study arose from the fact that only a few veterinary clinics in Europe had MRI scanners reserved solely for animals. As a result, authors of the research sort to answer the technological question: Is it safe for canines and humans to share the same MRI machine? The study, which wanted to find out if humans might contract dog-borne diseases from an MRI scanner also used by veterinarians brought to light rather shocking news.

The researchers took swabs from the beards of 18 men and the necks (between shoulder blades, where, according to veterinarians, is ‘particularly unhygienic) of 30 canines of varying breeds. The results were surprising and repulsive.

Turns out, out of the 30 men tested, all of them carried high microbial counts. On the other hand, only 23 dogs out of the 30 showed similar high microbial count. The clinic examined the bacterial load in colony-forming units (FCU) of human-pathogenic microorganisms in swabs taken from men, aged between 18 and 76, and 30 different dog breeds between the ages of three months and 13 years.

According to Professor Andreas Gutzeit of Hirslanden Clinic, “The researchers found a significantly higher bacterial load in specimens taken from the men’s beards compared with the dogs’ fur.” Seven out of the 18 men tested were found to harbor microbes that posed a risk to human health.

After the MRI exams on humans, the scanners were disinfected and compared with the MRI exams of the dogs. Dr. Gutzeit adds that “On the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as clean compared with bearded men.

Are Beards Really Unhygienic?

Not everyone is buying into the findings by the Hirslanden Clinic in Switzerland. First off, the research was carried out on a small number of participants and the findings might not reflect the real facts. Keith Flett, the founder of the Beard Liberation Front, disagrees saying that; ‘I think it’s possible to find all sorts of unpleasant things if you took swabs from people’s hair and hands and then tested them,”.

Talking to the Daily Mail, Flett adds, “I don’t believe that beards in themselves are unhygienic. There seems to be a constant stream of negative stories about beards that suggest it’s more about pogonophobia than anything else.” Pogonophobia is the irrational fear of beards. The authors of the study admit that the research should have involved more participants, including samples from women’s hair. Regardless, this should serve as an eye-opener for men to practice good hygiene when it comes to their beards.

Keeping Your Beard Clean

According to beard experts, you should wash your beard the same way you wash the hair on your head. They recommend that you shampoo and condition your beard using the same hair products every time you take a shower or a few times a week. However, if you can find specialized products, the better. Beard dandruff, especially for longer beards, is also something you should look out for by getting regular scrubs. Scrubs not only exfoliate the skin but also rejuvenates. But don’t overdo it or you’ll risk drying out the skin. Scrubbing twice or thrice a week should suffice. In addition, moisturizing with beard oil is essential to making your beard look healthy and attractive.

Final Thoughts

So, are men’s beards dirtier than dogs? According to researchers at the Hirslanden Clinic, yes it is. However, the research was limited and more studies with a larger group of participants are required for more conclusive results. That said, before you decide to take the razor and shave off your beard, it’s important to practice good hygiene, not only for your beard but also for your whole body.

All images by Shutterstock

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