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Of Beards and Men and Dogs

A Recent Study Claims that Men With Beards are More Dirty Than Dogs

Of Beards and Men and Dogs

Introduction

ARE Men’s Beards are Dirtier Than Dogs? ManBasics teams up with an ACTUAL FREAKING DOCTOR to offer a rebuttal.

Dogs – A Beard’s Best Friend?

We here at ManBasics love a good beard. So, we couldn’t just take it laying down when news agencies started incorrectly interpreting the results of a study claiming that men with beards are dirtier than dogs. Or, should we say we couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie?

We came up with a few points:

  • The study was a small sample size
  • The study didn’t compare non-bearded men (or women for that matter) to get a basis for comparison
  • Beards are SUPPOSED to collect bacteria – it prevents it from getting in your body!
  • Bacteria found in beards is totally natural
  • Regardless of beard bacteria, good beard hygiene is a must

A DOCTORS REBUTTAL

We actually teamed up with Dr. Joel Rice who holds degrees from the Medicine National University of Singapore, JHU, and Harvard to lend some much-needed information and perspective to this dog and beard study.

The Role of the Beard

Before we dissect the study published by the Hirslanden Clinic as well as poke holes in the conclusions derived from it, it would be prudent to re-visit the role of the beard in a man’s biological ecosystem. The beard is an androgen-dependent sexual trait in men, and even Charles Darwin (the father of the theory of evolution, author of On The Origin of Species) conceded that beard evolved in our ancestors through female choice in view of its highly attractive sexual properties. However, in recent years, psychologists and anthropologists have also suggested that beards evolved through male status and dominance.

Multiple studies have shown women are attracted to men with beards
Multiple studies have shown women are attracted to men with beards

THE BEARD AND SKIN HYGIENE

Other than the biology of reproduction, the beard also plays a pivotal role in the biology of skin hygiene. In 2014, a study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection studied the bacterial colonization rates in 408 healthcare workers with and without facial hair. What the researchers found was surprising – workers with facial hair were less likely to be colonized with Staphylococcus Aureus and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). These “superbugs” are beyond the scope of this article, but a quick google search will suffice in order for you to appreciate the magnitude of the problem conferred by them. In other words, clean-shaven individuals were significantly more likely to be colonized by these “superbugs”. The researchers postulated that the microtrauma caused to the skin during shaving results in tiny abrasions which support the colonization and proliferation of these “superbugs” [3].

The Study Found Men With Beards Had More Bacteria Than Dogs
The Study Found Men With Beards Had More Bacteria Than Dogs

A BEARD RAP – BACTERIAL SHEDDING

In fact, another study conducted in 2016 focused on surgeons in the operation theatre. Many bearded orthopedic surgeons do not shave their beards despite the purported fear of contaminating the operative field. And why would they? Everyone knows that orthopedics surgeons represent the pinnacle of alpha-males in surgical specialties – there are even two published papers on it [4, 5]. The study compared two groups (10 surgeons in each) of orthopedic surgeons – a bearded group and a non-bearded group (presumably also less alpha than their bearded counterparts). The results were assuring – bearded surgeons did not have a higher likelihood of bacterial shedding than their non-bearded counterparts [6].

Doctors With Beards Showed LESS Bacterial Shedding Than Those With Out
Doctors With Beards Showed LESS Bacterial Shedding Than Those With Out

If we take the findings of these 2 studies and amalgamate their conclusions – what do we find? We find that bearded men are less prone to skin colonization with nasty bugs, and at the same time, they shed less bacteria than their clean-shaven counterparts. These significant conclusions underscore the role of the beard in keeping the skin hygienic and free of infections.

THE DIRT ON THE FILTHY FACE HAIRS

Let us summarize the findings of the studies in a Table below, for ease of reference.

Table 1 – Studies Evaluating the Hygiene of the Beard

Author Year Sample Size Outcome Conclusion
Wakeam et al. 2014 408 Colonization rates with S. Aureus and MRSA Workers with facial hair were less likely to be colonized by S. Aureus (41.2% vs 52.6%) and MRSA (2.0% vs 7.0%)
Parry et al. 2016 20 Risk of bacterial shedding Bearded surgeons did not appear to have an increased likelihood of bacterial shedding compared with their non-bearded counterparts, whether they were unmasked, masked, or wore surgical hoods
Gutzeit et al. 2019 18 Bacterial load in colony-forming units (CFU) High bacterial load (CFU) in men’s’ beards compared with dogs’ fur

Criticisms of the Hirslanden CANINE VS. Dirty BeardS Study

Looking at Table 1 above, Gutzeit et al. (2019) found a higher CFU in men’s beards compared to dog fur. Firstly, this study was extremely small, with the lowest sample size compared to the other 2 studies. Secondly, even though men’s beards contained a higher CFU, the authors did not expound upon the implications of that on overall hygiene and health. Just as the filament-like hairs within our nostrils and nasal cavity filter particulates in order to protect the upper respiratory tract from pathogens, the hairs of the beard also filter harmful bacteria and particles which could colonize and irritate the underlying skin respectively. This is evidenced by the findings published by Wakeam et al. (2014).

A Recent Study Claims that Men With Beards are More Dirty Than Dogs
A Recent Study Claims that Men With Beards are More Dirty Than Dogs

Secondly, Gutzeit et al. didn’t measure the colonization rates of superbugs in the bearded men and the dogs. It may be so that men’s beards had a higher CFU, but what about the underlying skin? Thirdly, the Gutzeit study didn’t compare non-bearded test subjects or female test subjects.  It’s entirely plausible that Humans as a species are simply more bacteria-prone than dogs.  This represents a flaw in the study design and underscores the importance of interpreting the authors’ conclusions with a pinch (read – bucket) of salt.

Risk of Bacterial Shedding

Some readers may still be disturbed by the fact that men’s beards contain a higher CFU than dog’s fur and may be worried that they pose a risk to their loved ones (e.g. partner or children). This is where the findings of the study published by Parry et al. (2016) come in. This study showed that bearded men do not have an increased likelihood of bacterial shedding compared with non-bearded men. Still, we at Manbasics believe that even though the beard’s role is protective over the underlying skin, the beard still deserves some love. This is why we emphasize the importance of beard maintenance with our specially curated and intuitively designed beard oils and beard balms. Our beard hygiene products are all paraben and cruelty-free.

A CLEAN BEARD IS A HAPPY BEARD

The beard, after all, is an extension of the skin – and keeping it healthy ensures that any fears regarding bacterial load can be put safely to rest. We may be all about beards, but truly, we are all about health. That is why our products are 100% natural and 100% organic; we like to keep things real. So, the next time you read some sensationalist news headline designed to bait clicks and scare off beard lovers all around the world, let us know and we will critically analyze it for you!

In Conclusion: ARE Men’s Beards are Dirtier Than Dogs? Well, evidently yes. Objectively. It just means your beard is working properly. Be ManBasic and wash that dirty beard, and you will be fine. When someone without a bead jokes about yours being filthy, you set ’em straight!

A beard cleaning and conditioning process is critical
A beard cleaning and conditioning process is critical

References

1.            Gutzeit, A., et al., Would it be safe to have a dog in the MRI scanner before your own examination? A multicenter study to establish hygiene facts related to dogs and men. Eur Radiol, 2019. 29(2): p. 527-534.

2.            Dixson, B.J. and P.L. Vasey, Beards augment perceptions of men’s age, social status, and aggressiveness, but not attractiveness. Behavioral Ecology, 2012. 23(3): p. 481-490.

3.            Wakeam, E., et al., Bacterial ecology of hospital workers’ facial hair: a cross-sectional study. J Hosp Infect, 2014. 87(1): p. 63-7.

4.            Subramanian, P., et al., Orthopaedic surgeons: as strong as an ox and almost twice as clever? Multicentre prospective comparative study. BMJ, 2011. 343: p. d7506.

5.            Trilla, A., et al., Phenotypic differences between male physicians, surgeons, and film stars: comparative study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 2006. 333(7582): p. 1291-1293.

6.            Parry, J.A., et al., To Beard or Not to Beard? Bacterial Shedding Among Surgeons. Orthopedics, 2016. 39(2): p. e290-4.

Everyone relax!  Beards and dogs both love you!
Everyone relax! Beards and dogs both love you!
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