So Are Beards Disgusting Traps of Fecal Matter or Not?

How grossed out should we really be by our whiskered friends?


Dirtier than you think? | Shutterstock.

Last week, we were collectively horrified at a study that claimed some beards are riddled with fecal matter, or at least the same bacteria found in it. The women at Philly Mag HQ started dishing out serious side-eye to our bewhiskered colleagues (cough, the guys behind Foobooz and Property, our deputy news editor, cough). We didn’t need to investigate further. Lump the words swab, microbiologistfacial hair and fecal matter into a sentence and, bam, we’re coming at you with razors. But, turns out, we might have side-eyed and bought stock in Dollar Shave Club too fast. 

As we were tossing Bics at every beard we saw, one semi-clean-shaven journalist at The Guardian delved further into the matter. Guess what? We might have all overreacted just a wee bit.

According to Nick Evershed, the original study by a news team in New Mexico wasn’t really a full study to begin with, just one microbiologist with a swab and a few beards. When this microbiologist noted to the reporter that, yes, the bacteria found in the beards was the sort of bacteria you’d also find in feces, well, shit hit the fan. (No pun intended.)

Here’s the deal: We have germs on us at all times. And while, according to a very small study that Evershed found, bearded men do “shed more bacteria than clean-shaven men,” clean-shaven guys dropped gross stuff, too. In fact, the beard actually prevents the bacteria from getting onto your skin and into your pores; think of it as another layer of protection.

In short: We’re all covered with crap anyway, and beards look great on certain guys (i.e. those with baby faces and weak chins), so, gentlemen, feel free to let your whiskers be. But first, please refer to this handy guide to beard oil, because a well-groomed beard looks best, stays healthy and, well, it helps us forget that there are probably microscopic particles of poo in there.