Last week, the internet erupted with the news that beards, those beautiful things that hide men’s weak chins and childhood acne scars, are chock-full of something more than manliness—and that something is poop. For anyone either excited or horrified by this news (my immediate reaction was to go drag my bearded face all over my partner’s, only to delight him with the news that he was covered in poop now and could do nothing about it) let me clear it up for you: Beards are not actually as full of shit as they were made out to be.
The Guardian followed up on the story, suggesting that “the study” every other news source is mentioning isn’t really a study at all, but an exercise in reading comprehension.
From The Guardian:
However, as far as I can tell there was no proper study, no team of microbiologists and no poo in beards. The origin of the story appears to be this segment from a TV news network in New Mexico, which involved a reporter swabbing a “handful” of men’s beards and then sending the swabs to a microbiologist in a lab to culture any microbes present.
The reporter then interviewed the microbiologist, John Golobic, who identified a few of the bacteria present as “enterics”, that is they are bacteria that normally live in the intestines.
“Those are the types of things you’d find in faeces,” he said.
And that’s all. Somehow, from this story other media organisations have managed to get poo in beards.
Here are other things you might find in feces: water and cellulose. Sometimes, you might also find corn (even though you will have no idea when you have last eaten it), but no one’s going on the attack about any of this. No one is claiming that water is unhealthy for you because it is found in poop, or that we should stop eating corn. In fact, one of the things you probably should remember is that, even if you don’t have a beard, you’re still absolutely covered in germs 24/7.
The Guardian points out that even those without beards are not immune to getting others sick with their clean, shaven microbe faces. In a study regarding bacteria in hospitals, the researchers found that while bearded men did drop more bacteria than their unbearded counterparts, no one was really blameless:
However, the unbearded workers still shed enough bacteria to emphasise the importance of everyone wearing face coverings for sterile procedures, regardless of your facial hair situation.
In addition, there may be some evidence that having a beard actually makes it less likely for the individual to have antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the skin, so, actually, having a beard may make the people around you safer (while also making you look very handsome even though really you were just too lazy/depressed to shave for the past month or so).
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