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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Beards and bathrooms. You wouldn’t think the two had much in common, but a new study revealed some facial hair is just as dirty as a toilet seat.
Yes, you read that correctly.
New Mexico microbiologist John Golobic of Quest Diagnostics swabbed the beards of a handful of volunteers for a local news story, according to KOAT 7. He took the swabs back to his lab for testing, and was blown away by what he found.
While several of the beards had normal bacteria, many contained filthy elements you’d likely find if you tested a public toilet seat. Shudder.
“I’m usually not surprised and I was surprised by this,” Golobic told KOAT. “Those are the types of things you’d find in (fecal matter).”
The “degree of uncleanliness” was so “disturbing,” Golobic said, that if similar bacteria were found in a water supply, it would be closed for disinfecting, KOAT 7 reported.
If that’s not enough to inspire a clean shave, who knows what is?
Surprisingly, one could effectively grow a toilet bowl on one’s face without getting sick, but that doesn’t mean they should, Golobic said. Hipsters, Santa Claus and all other beard-wearers should wash their hands frequently and try to avoid touching their faces — thus keeping their facial hair clear of unmentionables.
Some critics scoffed at the study, arguing it wasn’t conducted in a formal, scientific manner and thus should not be cause for alarm.
“Human skin is home to a great diversity of microbes, and it’s not unheard of for types of bacteria normally found in the gut, such as E. coli, to be also found on the skin,” wrote data journalist Nick Evershed in The Guardian.
Some experts say there’s no proof that beards are any less hygienic than a baby-smooth face.
I'm usually not surprised and I was surprised by this. Those are the types of things you'd find in (fecal matter).
–John Golobic, microbiologist
“It’s the same bacteria that’s on your skin,” University of Aberdeen bacteriology professor Hugh Pennington told Daily Mail. “It’s not problematic and it’s not a health risk.”
There have been published studies dealing with the hairy topic that seem to support Golobic’s informal findings. One in particular — published in the journal Anaesthesia — targeted the amount of bacteria shed into surgical face masks by men with beards and men with shaven faces and women.
Researchers found men with beards “shed significantly more bacteria” than their clean-shaven male and female counterparts. To be fair, those without beards shed enough bacteria from their skin to warrant the wearing of surgical masks as well, according to the study.
For those not quite ready to pick up the razor just yet, WebMD offers solid beard care tips that may help in the quest to keep that facial hair clean.
Those tips include shampooing and conditioning several times a week, trimming every couple of months and being careful while eating as to not trap unwanted food in the beard.