Beard Swabs Yield 'Disturbing' Results

Some were as dirty as toilets, microbiologist says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2015 7:34 AM CDT
Beard Swabs Yield 'Disturbing' Results
The winners of an international beard contest in Switzerland.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Arno Balzarini)

Beard hygiene is important unless you want to have the equivalent of a dirty toilet seat growing out of your face, according to a microbiologist who swabbed a bunch of beards and was shocked by the results. "I'm usually not surprised and I was surprised by this," Quest Diagnostics expert John Golobic tells KOAT, explaining that some samples yielded the "types of things you'd find in" fecal matter, signaling a "degree of uncleanliness that would be somewhat disturbing" even if the beard matter probably won't make people sick. Golobic says that similar results in a public water system would close it for disinfecting. He urges the bearded to keep their beards—and hands—clean, and "to keep your hands away from your face, as much as possible."

Nick Evershed at the Guardian, however, notes that this wasn't exactly a scientific study—and even if it was, the diversity of microbes found on human skin means it wouldn't have to be cause for concern. Evershed checked out a few more serious studies on beard bacteria, which were conducted in hospitals, and found that while bearded workers do appear to shed more bacteria than others, even clean-shaven workers shed enough to show the importance of "face coverings for sterile procedures, regardless of your facial hair situation." (A bank robber in Pittsburgh disguised his beard with another beard.)

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