This article was originally written on Beard Profile, which is merging with the Beard Wiki. It is written by the same author and founder of both websites, but uses a different voice from what the Beard Wiki traditionally uses. Some of these transferred articles may or may not have sources included.
This is a bit of older news, but like with the myth of shaving to grow a fuller beard, it’s still something that seems to be circulating when beards are mentioned. In 2015, a news station in New Mexico claimed that beards are as dirty as a toilet. The first thing we have to realize when reading news articles, is that many times stories are made simply to generate interest — even if they’re wrong or feature incorrect or insufficient information. It’s a great way to keep articles coming and money generated.
The thing about this KOAT article (the station that came up with this huge, viral rumor), is that it is not scientific and words were taken out of context to form the story. What happened, was a TV anchor had taken swabs from a “handful” of men’s beards and sent them into a lab to see what microbes were found. What the microbiologist came back with was the presence of enteric bacteria, which normally resides in the intestines.
Those are the types of things you’d find in feces
Going off this, the TV news station thought it was enough to justify spreading falsity by twisting words.
The fact is that “We, as a society, are literally bathed in feces,” a microbiologist from New York claims. Anything that a human touches, there is bacteria. Another fact: our kitchens and other areas of the home are actually more bacteria laden than our toilets are. Fecal bacteria is found everywhere, it’s not simply exclusive to beards. The same bacteria that was found in beards is also found on our skin. Doh!
In an actual scientific study, it was found that men with beards have a reduced likelihood of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being present on their skin.
We compared facial bacterial colonization rates among 408 male healthcare workers with and without facial hair. Workers with facial hair were less likely to be colonized with Staphylococcus aureus and meticillin-resistant coagulase-negative staphylococci … Overall, colonization is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair; however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair.
– Journal of Hospital Infection
While colonization is similar, there are benefits to having a beard over being clean-shaved, though both have the same bacteria that may be found in fecal matter. Keep in mind that while the bacteria may reside in feces, it doesn’t mean that they’re the same thing as poo. Wash those hands after wiping to avoid that.
To conclude this article, I’ll drop this video of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Scientific Studies. This must be one of my favorites, and points out why the media reports incomplete information, trying to pass it off as science.