I’ve always grown a beard for winter… but you already knew that. I explained my yearly routine in a post last November, when I highlighted five really good, very non-hipster reasons why men should put down their razors and let their full mane come in. I thought I had made a pretty good case, but then my fellow AreaVoices.com contributor, Alex, clued me in on the latest beard breakthrough. Are you ready for this?
My beard might one day save your life. How? I have no idea (I’m not a doctor), but a recent study published in Journal of Hospital Infection included that bold prediction in its conclusions after examining the bacteria found on 408 male healthcare workers who either had a beard or did not.
My, What a Bacteria-Free Beard You Have
I can’t begin to understand how these researchers dreamt up the idea to compare bacteria colonies on men’s faces, but I can imagine the surprised look in their eyes when they discovered, counterintuitively, that bearded men have a cleaner manscape. It doesn’t make sense to me at all, especially considering one of the benefits of having a beard is having your own personal air filter.
Curious intentions aside, the study findings were quite convincing. The whisker researchers discovered that the clean-shaven “men” in the study were three times more likely to be harboring bacteria on their cheeks than the bearded participants. And not just any bacteria—methicillin-resistant staph aureus, the dreaded superbug that no longer responds to standard antibiotic treatments. According to The Atlantic, “MRSA infections now respond only to very advanced antibiotics that were never meant to be a first-line defense.”
As if not having a beard wasn’t scary enough, now these bald-faced men have to carry around the knowledge that they may be spreading the very bug that may wipe out humanity. (If you really want to give in to your morbid side, carve out an hour from your day to watch the Frontline documentary, “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria.” It’ll scare the crap out of you and make you deathly afraid of ever stepping foot inside a hospital. You’re welcome.)
Along with the deadly MRSA bug, the clean-shaven study participants were also more likely to be walking around with good ol’ regular staphylococcus aureus on their faces, a bacterium that causes sometimes nasty skin and respiratory infections. The researchers concluded that shaving causes a certain amount of trauma to your skin, which opens the door for bacterial colonization. Men who don’t shave simply don’t provide the bacteria with the opportunity to take root and grow.
Life-Saving Beard Bacteria?
In a separate facial follicle study, a microbiologist from University College London decided to grow some bacteria colonies gathered from beard samples. Dr. Adam Roberts, an average scientist with an above average fascination of beards, grew more than 100 different kinds of bacteria from his beard collection and found an interesting kind of microbe present when he examined the bacteria under a microscope.
After spotting the microbe and watching as it appeared to kill off other bacteria, Dr. Roberts isolated it and tested it on a specific bacteria that is known to cause UTIs, or urinary tract infections. Astonishingly, the microbe from the beard sample swiftly destroyed the UTI-causing bacteria.
“[Roberts] identified the silent assassins as part of a species called Staphylococcus epidermidis,” according to a BBC report quoted by Mic.com. “When he tested them against a particularly drug-resistant form of Eschercichia coli… they killed with abandon.”
Dr. Roberts concluded that beard bacteria may hold even more magical powers. He suggested that additional antibodies could be discovered with further study and then developed to treat different types of infections.
So there, ladies and gentlemen, that is how my beard may one day save your life. Again… you’re welcome.