Bearded Vs Clean Shaven: Which One Is More Hygienic?

Whether it’s a full-fledged Garibaldi or the circle-beard, growing a facial fringe isn’t limited to Brooklyn hipsters anymore. Over the last few years, facial hair has steadily transcended trends as permanent forms of self-expression as more and more men embrace facial hair.

The growing popularity of the beard thus begged the question – what are the health implications of growing a beard? Is it more hygienic to be clean shaven?’


Earlier research claims that beard is nothing less than a dirty sponge, brimming over with bacteria, and can, in fact, be instrumental in passing on germs to other people.1 This led us to wonder if this spelled ‘bust’ for the beard trend. However, newer research confirms the opposite – that maintaining facial fur may actually protect you from infection.

On The Bacteria Front

Clean-shaven men were found to carry thrice as more harmful bacteria on their faces as compared to their bearded counterparts.


Researchers swabbed the faces of 408 male hospital workers and found that clean-shaven men were thrice as more likely to carry harmful bacteria – Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on their faces as compared to their bearded counterparts.2

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declares that MRSA is a common and a particularly dangerous source of skin and respiratory infections acquired in hospitals.3 What makes this strain of bacteria worse is that it’s resistant to many antibiotics that are currently available.


In addition to this, researchers also found that clean-shaven men were 10 per cent more likely to carry colonies of Staphylococcus aureus on their faces as compared to bearded men.

It was suggested that micro-abrasions caused in the skin due to shaving may support the colonization and proliferation of bacteria. The researchers reported that while bacterial colonization is similar in both bearded and clean shaven male healthcare workers in general, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without beards. But there was also a more plausible explanation – that beards actually fight infection.


Can Beards Help To Fight Infection?

Microbiologist Dr. Adam Roberts discovered microbes in beards that can kill E.coli.

A microbiologist based at University College London carried out an analysis recently for BBC. He was able to grow more than 100 different bacteria from the beards of a random assortment of bearded men. One of these bacterial strains is very often found in the small intestine and some showed signs of being able to thrive even after the administering of antibiotics develop into antibiotics.


But the microbiologist also noticed the presence of microbes that seemed to be killing all other bacteria in the petri dishes. Upon isolating and transferring of this microbe in a separate petri dish with another kind of common bacteria called Escherichia coli or as E. coli, the microbe was able to effectively destroy the bacterium.

Adam’s team also recently have isolated anti-adhesion molecules from microbes present in swabs sent in by the general bearded public. These molecules were found to stop bacteria from attaching itself to other surfaces. Dr. Adam now believes that there may be a lot of potential for adding these molecules to toothpaste and mouthwash, for this could prevent acid-producing bacteria from binding to the tooth enamel.


The Final Verdict

Based on recent evidence, it may be safe to assume that beards can actually help keep their wearers healthier and infection-free.

Based on the evidence produced by the studies explained above, it may be safe to assume that beards can actually help keep their wearers healthier and infection-free as compared to those without beards.


However, that doesn’t rule out the fact that bushy beards still remain fine collectors of food particles, fluff, and dust – therefore it is very important to keep your facial scruff healthy and clean. A few pointers that may help are as follows:

  • Clean it every day: Rinse your beard daily using a specialized beard wash. This will help exfoliate the skin hidden in the midst of all those coarse bristles while keeping the hair squeaky clean and shiny.
  • Moisturize after washing: Once you’re done washing your beard, soften the hair and the skin underneath your beard using a beard oil or moisturizer. This will bring down the risk of breakouts and reduce itching and is your best long-term strategy for maintaining a healthy beard.
  • Trim and comb it regularly: Grooming your beard properly is a must. Trim your fully grown beard every two weeks to tame those tough hairs and to help bring your beard into the right shape, depending on what your preferred style is. Also, do comb and brush your beard each day. This will help evenly distribute any natural oils secreted by the hairs all throughout the beard and will also keep tangles at bay.