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You’ve got something in your beard, and it’s not food… Bad Bugs in Beards?!

The male grooming industry is booming. Well-groomed beards are a hot trend and represent a beauty ideal, many men strive for. They symbolize masculinity, attractiveness, maturity and style… What many people don’t know about beards, however, is that they house a plethora of tiny microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi and mites – collectively called the beard microbiome.

Get this: In 2018, a small study found more microbes in men’s facial hair than in dogs’ fur. [1] What might sound gross at first, is not unusual or concerning. As facial hair is coarser compared to other hair, it can trap dirt and microbes more easily. Let’s have a closer look and untangle this hairy situation.

(I wrote this article for and publish it here with kind permission of MyMicrobiome.)

Is there a difference between the number and types of microbes in the bearded vs. unbearded?

A study in 2000 showed that bearded subjects shed more bacteria when wearing a surgical face mask, than shaved or female subjects. And even more when the mask was wiggled. [2] But this doesn’t tell us yet, if the bugs in the beards are “bad”.

So, another study from 2014 examined 408 male health care workers and found that the bearded ones did not harbor more potentially harmful bacteria than their clean-shaven colleagues. Quite the opposite! Shaved faces were significantly more likely to harbor potential pathogenic bacteria like S. aureus and methicillin-resistant coagulase-negative Staphylococci Species of this genus, which are resistant to many common antibiotics. [3]

Ok, beards don’t breed harmful bacteria. But why do we see more of those on shaved faces?

Hair follicles are the place where pathogens and other irritants can enter the skin, which makes them an important protection barrier. Shaving hairs can cause skin irritation, cuts and infections, and may spread bacteria around the face. [4]

So, how do those, who choose to face the bearded path, keep their facial mane healthy?

The basis for a healthy beard is a balanced skin microbiome. If, however, this gets disrupted and dysbiotic due to factors like an unhealthy diet, the use of antibiotics or cosmetic products, that contain harsh chemicals, “bad” microbes may proliferate and cause symptoms like inflammation, itching and flaking of the skin.

One-third of men report experiencing skin reactions to personal care products and about 40 % classify their skin as sensitive. [4] To take care of your beard, keep up good hygiene, wash it regularly with water and choose skin care products that treat your microbiome friendly.

Who would have guessed that a balanced microbiome does not only keep you healthy, but can even make you more stylish and trendy?!

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I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, Aha’s and questions in the comments below this blog.


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