No, Beards Are Not In Fact Full Of Poop
Ladies and gentlemen, we can all stop freaking out now: Dudes’ beards are not, in fact, infested with feces. I repeat: Beards are not full of poop. In the last few days, beard-havers and the people who love them have been in panic due to reports of a study revealing that beards are as dirty as toilet seats. It turns out, however, that this “study” is (if you’ll pardon the expression) complete bullsh*t.
Intrigued by hysterical reports that every hipster guy’s favorite accessory is actually a hot bed of feces and bacteria, Nick Evershed at The Guardian decided to do some digging into the origins of the story. He found that there never was a scientific study at the basis of the panic; what there was was simply a news segment by a New Mexico TV station that involved a reporter swabbing the beards of what she describes as “a handful of brave men” and sending the swabs to a lab for analysis. The reporter interviewed a microbiologist, John Golobic, about the results. He said that he had found “enterics” (bacteria that are found in the intestine), and that enterics can be found in feces. Not that they are feces. As Evershed writes,
And that’s all. Somehow, from this story other media organisations have managed to get poo in beards.
While it is true that human faeces are partially composed of gut bacteria, it’s not accurate to describe those bacteria on their own as faeces.
Evershed also writes that the limited number of scientific studies that have been done on the cleanliness of beards haven’t definitively proven whether beards are more likely to contain and spread bacteria than freshly-shaven faces or not. The Daily Mail published an article in March about the potential for beards to spread infection, citing experts who claimed that a beard is basically “a bacterial sponge”—that the coarse texture of facial hair is ripe for holding onto dirt, bacteria, and other nasties. Even then, however, other experts disagreed. For example, Hugh Pennington, a professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, argued, “It’s the same bacteria that’s on your skin. It’s not problematic and it’s not a health risk.”
So there you have it. Beards do not contain poop (unless you put it there, in which case … eww). That doesn’t mean you beard-wearers are off the hook: For the good of the people around you (particularly anyone you want to make out with you), you should still keep your flowing facial locks nice and clean.