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article imageExperts say beards breed disease

By Stephen Morgan     Mar 15, 2015 in Health
Some medical experts are describing beards as "bacterial sponges." They say facial hair can spread infections and disease. Others disagree and say they're no more dangerous than clean shaven. So what's the truth?
Would you go out with an unhygienic man? Probably not. But, if your boyfriend has a beard, you may be kissing a nest-full of infectious bacteria. Some doctors are saying hipsters aren't hip. Beards and bugs, it seems, go hand-in-hand or cheek-to-cheek.
Thousands of nasty things nest in beards, it seems. They can spread all sorts of infections from dangerous Staphylococci to skin diseases. Each time you kiss a beard, thousands of lurking bugs and germs are transmitted to your mouth face and body. And washing apparently doesn't help.
The Mail Online quotes Carol Walker, a consultant trichologist from the Birmingham Trichology Centre, UK, who said beards and sweat act as a warm insulator for bugs, and lists a number of unhealthy features of facial hair.
"‘The cuticles on the hair – which are like layers of tiles on a roof - trap the germs and grease," she said.
"‘Hair around nostrils and mouth is well-placed to harbour bacteria."
Men tend to touch and play with their beards and Walker warned,
"If their hands are dirty, they transfer dirt from their hands on to their face and mouths."
"If someone (is) eating dairy products it can get stuck in their beard and become a bit rancid."
"‘If someone has a cold, a runny nose it can trickle down and be trapped in the nose, beards. Food drink can dribble down too."
Nebuchadnezzar  by William Blake
Nebuchadnezzar, by William Blake,
There are also dangers that those preparing or serving food in restaurants and diners can inadvertently let their germs sprinkle down onto your food, even if they are wearing a mask. Indeed, in the food industry there is an ongoing debate about how long a beard should be — stubble or longer — before employees should wear a covering such a mask or snood.
Worse still, is that doctors and surgeons can transmit bacteria to patients while examining or operating on them, even if they are wearing masks.
Fashionable among the stars, Exposé magazine pointed to a study published in the journal Anesthesia, which looked at the danger of bearded surgeons transmitting bacteria, even if they wore masks. It quoted Professor Anthony Hilton, head of biological and biomedical sciences at Aston University, UK, who said,
"What they found was that men with beards do harbour a significant number of bacteria, more than non-bearded men and women."
"And bearded surgeons wearing masks did shed more organisms from the beard outwards when they wiggled."
However, the battle against beards has left some medical professionals bristling. Other experts say there is little worry of catching more infections from beards than someone who is clean shaven.
Dr Hilton said,
"It’s not uncommon to find 20,000 bacteria on the skin, and this isn’t harmful."
Professor Hugh Pennington, a professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, responded to the discussion by stating,
"It’s the same bacteria that’s on your skin. It’s not problematic and it’s not a health risk."
Indeed, an article in the Mirror promoted the health benefits of having a beard over shaving. It pointed to the fact that some experts warn that cuts and spots from shaving also cause transmittable infections.
A beard can also apparently act as a sort of net to catch pollen and reduce hay fever and allergies, as well as reducing asthma. Some even claim that it acts to protect against skin cancer.
Well, if all this leaves you scratching your chin, you probably need to be razor sharp when inspecting that beard.
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