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Are Beards Good or Bad for Men's Health?

Apr 22, 2015
Person with beard

Beards are a hot trend for men right now, but according to one recent news story, they may cause a hairy health situation.

On a local CBS News report, a doctor in New York warned men of the possible health hazards of beards. "A beard could become problematic," he said. "I think things get trapped in there, so bacteria can be trapped in there and can grow as a result."

He also said viruses could be passed from person to person via facial hair, making beards responsible for transmitting things like the flu. A second doctor said beards could trigger skin irritation and an infection known as folliculitis.

Should you buck the trend and shave off your stubble? Don't grab your razor just yet.

Other evidence suggests that beards offer some potential health benefits.

"I think that growing beard hair out can actually be helpful for some people," says University of Utah dermatologist Erika Summers, MD. "Irritant folliculitis, bacterial folliculitis and an inflammatory condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae can all occur in the beard area and are often precipitated by shaving." Since sporting facial hair means cutting out shaving, that removes a common trigger for these conditions.

Beards may also protect your face from the sun. A 2011 study from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia found that beards offer UV protection, with longer hair shielding the skin a bit more effectively. That's helpful for places like your upper lip, where it's easy to forget to apply an SPF product.

But beards do take maintenance. Just like the hair on top of your head, they need to be washed and shampooed regularly, advises the men's grooming website, Conditioner can help make a beard feel softer, but rinse thoroughly to avoid flaking. And use a comb or brush to remove tangles.