For those of us who find beards sexy, this study might sway us a tad.
A recent study published in European Radiology found human hair to be dirtier than a dog’s.
Study authors looked at 18 men and 30 dogs and compared the bacterial load in CFUs (colony forming units) from both beards and dog fur. Then they examined MRI scanners used for both dogs and humans and compared the bacterial load to those only used for humans.
The results were:
Our study shows a significantly higher bacterial load in specimens taken from men’s beards compared with dogs’ fur (p = 0.036). All of the men (18/18) showed high microbial counts, whereas only 23/30 dogs had high microbial counts and 7 dogs moderate microbial counts. Furthermore, human-pathogenic microorganisms were more frequently found in human beards (7/18) than in dog fur (4/30), although this difference did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.074). More microbes were found in human oral cavities than in dog oral cavities (p < 0.001). After MRI of dogs, routine scanner disinfection was undertaken and the CFU found in specimens isolated from the MRI scanning table and receiver coils showed significantly lower bacteria count compared with “human” MRI scanners (p < 0.05).
Last summer researchers out of Manchester University found 47% of beards tested contained fecal matter that contained deadly pathogens.
This study was also coauthored by Fragrance Direct, and found despite cleaning habits of study participants, enterococcus was found on 47% of beards swabbed and cultured.
Enterococcus is a bacteria commonly found in the colon and feces and has over 17 types, the most common being E. faecalis and E. faecium. These may cause infections in the urinary tract, abdomen, pelvis, wound and even blood (sepsis).
This study followed one done in 2015 by Quest Diagnostics in New Mexico, in which a microbiologist swabbed beards and grew out cultures finding bacteria that commonly colonize our colon.
Bacteria like to hide on the skin but need cover, and beard hair offers a nice warm, moist shelter. Oral sex increases one’s chance of being “contaminated” with pelvic and rectal bacteria.
A spokesman for Fragrance Direct states, “Caring for your beard is essential for its health, helping it stay fresh to keep the bacteria at bay. Everyone knows to shampoo their hair, but beards need some attention too. Men should use beard shampoo when they shower, along with conditioner afterwards.”
So the next time you run your fingers through a man’s beard, sanitize them afterwards….
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.