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Facial hair poses hygiene hazards

Facial hair poses hygiene hazards

Boys with beards have become a new craze in this day and age, with women swooning over their well-groomed facial hair.

But as neat as they may look, experts dub beards a 'bacterial sponge', potentially full of germs that could be passed on to anyone who comes into close contact.

As the fuzzies on a man's face are coarse it means they can trap dirt more easily, thus resulting in them being more likely to develop skin infections.

Carol Walker, a consultant trichologist from the Birmingham Trichology Centre, has explained to MailOnline how the cuticles on the chin area resemble layers of tiles on a roof and trap grease, as does the hair around the nostrils and mouth.

To add to this, the beard owner, or his partner, may be tempted to caress the hair, which means even more bacteria spreading.

"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.

"There can be a lot of Staphylococci [a group of bacteria that can cause illness] if someone’s got a cold," Carol explained.

"Some people get skin infections, caused if they have a lot of scale build up or eczema from the bacteria in their beard. If someone has a cold, a runny nose can trickle down and be trapped in the nose, [and] beards. Food [and] drink can dribble down too."

Microbiologist Dr Ron Cutler, of Queen Mary, University of London, agrees with Carol's findings. He urges men to wash and groom their facial hair regularly to ensure it's clean and not hiding any sores.

A study published in the journal Anaesthesia looked into whether bearded surgeons who wore masks dropped fewer bacteria, and whether having a beard changed the number of germs.

"What they found was that men with beards do harbour a significant number of bacteria, more than non-bearded men and women," Professor Anthony Hilton, head of biological and biomedical sciences at Aston University, explained.

"And bearded surgeons wearing masks did shed more organisms from the beard outwards when they wiggled."

He also addressed the debate on how long beards should be until the person with it has to wear something to cover it, such as a snood or hair net. He believes more guidelines need to be set in the workplace on this issue.

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