Kissing a beard could be like kissing a toilet

Kissing a beard could be like kissing a toilet

Beards can be dirtier than toilets, according to a laboratory analysis initiated by a TV station in Albuquerque, N.M.

Several of the test results from the men who allowed their beards to be swabbed found fecal matter in the facial hair. The beards also contained a lot of normal bacteria.

“A certain number of non-harmful bacteria will always be on our hair and skin, but when we touch unclean surfaces and then touch our hair – whether that’s the hair on our heads or a beard – or touch our skin, we can transfer other bacteria easily,” says Cari Coomer, manager of epidemiology and infection control at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “My guess is that the men who had fecal bacteria on their beards transferred it there from their own hands.”

A common sense approach to hygiene is in order.

“Washing your beard and your hands on a regular basis is the best way to prevent the transfer of bacteria,” says Coomer.

According to a study published in the medical journal Anaesthesia in 2000, bearded men wearing surgical masks had more bacteria below their lips, especially if they moved their masks around compared to clean shaven men.

“To reduce the risks of contamination of the sterile field when face masks are worn, females and bearded males should avoid wiggling the face mask,” study authors noted. “Bearded males may also consider removing their beards.”

Though some may think they need to avoid doctors with beards, it may be a moot point.

Business Insider and Men’s Journal are among the media outlets claiming that the beard trend is over.

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  1. I’m sorry, but this story is full of the stuff that this “study” claims are in beards. Great click-bait headline, but once again AHC Health News is guilty of regurgitating pop-science stories as actual health news.

    “The problem with this is that bacteria known to associate poop is not necessarily literal poop. In fact it’s probably not. And saying that something is gross for being covered in bacteria is pretty ridiculous, because anything that exists in our physical realm is definitely going to be covered in bacteria.”


    • Sarah Scroggins

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your comments. The goal of our site is to take news and headlines in the media and have our experts give their thoughts, opinions, recommendations, etc. We hope you’ll agree we write stories every day that cover a number of news and issues in the headlines. Thanks for reading!
      Sarah, managing editor

  2. Howard Baitcher May 6, 2015 at 11:55 am · Reply

    And doctors shouldn’t wear ties, either.

  3. and doctors shouldn’t wear ties either.

  4. Quite the low bar you’re setting for journalism and “medical news” here I see.

  5. Yeah, and butt hair is cleaner than the hair on your head too. LOL.

  6. I agree with previous comments. I have a beard and can assure you it does not contain “fecal matter” or similar disgusting stuff. This sounds like a headline/story straight out of the National Enquirer.

  7. I’m tired of reading stories about yet another possible source of contamination. On one hand scientists and doctors are concerned about the overuse and/or abuse of antibiotics and antiseptics which may give rise to super-bacteria. Then you print a story like this which sends the public into a germaphobe frenzy which only exacerbates the situation. STOP sensationalizing what is a normal state of being in this world . . . the fact that bacteria is everywhere; not all of it will kill us or even make us sick; and normal exposure to bacteria actually strengthens our immune systems rather than assaulting them.

  8. Men with beards ought to file a class action lawsuit for a billion dollars against you if our reputations and dating life suffer as a result of this story which has a headline that does not take into account beard wearers personal habits such as hand hand beard washing.

    This is the height of social and medical irresponsibility.

    Whoever wrote and edited this article and allowed it to be distributed should all be fired!

  9. I’m not personally a fan of facial hair, but I think the previous commenters are right on–this article has the potential to send the public into a germaphobic frenzy. I would think a man who showers daily and washes his beard would not have such hygiene issues.

  10. So Steve gave you a link to a thorough debunking of this “study”, and yet you persist in keeping it on your site with no update, clarification, or — most appropriately — apology for publishing mass-media non-science.

    Is there an actual accredited health professional who reviews what is published on this site who you are willing to name?

  11. Hank here. I’ve also read studies showing that our money is covered in fecal matter and drugs, yet when I get my bill from a routine checkup it’s evident that the health care system is not too concerned with distancing themselves from my dirty pooh-cash. Instead of raking me over the coals when I need routine medical care, how about spotting me some of that germ-laden cash so I can spend it on expensive sanitizing soaps for my pooh-beard?

  12. Concerned Beard May 7, 2015 at 11:20 am · Reply

    I can’t believe this was published, especially considering the source. So a news station in Albuquerque decided to swab some dirty guys (in their office?) and came up with this. How is beard hair different from head hair? Is “Shave your entire body” the next headline?

    I can’t believe a major local healthcare corporation is publishing this as healthcare news meant for the general public. Is there medical oversight over your writers? I would expect a higher standard from this source. I’m surprised your regional epidemiology manager commented on this without critiquing the claim or its source. Hopefully infection control policy is not being driven by completely unbacked news articles like this.

  13. What if a man with a beard washes his face three times a day, and he is compared to a woman who does not have a beard but only washes her face once a day? Which has less bacteria? Also, who has less bacteria in their hair, men’s hair vs. women’s hair? Do you see where I am going with this? I prefer a more scientific, professional and educational approach or even humor over sensational stories, but I did learn a lesson here, I need to wash up more often. Hey entrepreneurs, how about an antimicrobial sanitizing conditioner for beard men?

  14. Lisa Parro

    Thanks for your comments. The level of engagement on this story (not only the comments but also the social shares) demonstrates that our readers do find this story interesting and newsworthy, even if some commenters believe it’s “pop science.” That’s why we published it. Health enews publishes a wide variety of content on health-related topics and we look to our subject matter experts to provide their unique perspectives on these hot-button issues. If you are seeking additional evidence-based research, I encourage you to check out a peer-reviewed medical journal.

    For this story, the TV station’s lab test results are the timely news hook but I also cited the scientific journal study as further evidence that “non-harmful bacteria,” as our manager of infection control states, are everywhere. Health enews, like national media outlets, could and should write similar legitimate news stories about the germs found on our phones, office desks, etc., such as this one by ABC:

    We welcome constructive, thoughtful dialogue on this site and encourage our readers to ask questions and raise issues that are important to them. If you have any story ideas, please submit those as well.

  15. Advocate’s Health Enews bills itself as “a news service from Advocate Healthcare” which would indicate that it is the voice of AHC disseminating medical information to the public, not sharing viral clickbait articles that contribute nothing to public health. Your author’s ‘just spreading information and generating discussion’ response could be equally applied to anti-vaccination articles, so I suppose we might see Advocate publishing those next if their public relations writers happen to come across them on their Facebook feed?

    This article and the whole idea is funny, don’t get me wrong, but it keeps coming up in conversation on the unit. I can see where plenty of guys would start to find it offensive. I’d be a little more careful about what you share on Advocate’s front page.

  16. I think that it was a big mistake to double-down on the “value” of publishing hogwash, and just admit that presenting this “study” as fact was a big mistake. You are publishing information in the name of a major healthcare organization, it should be accurate and reliable information. If I need to check to make sure that the Advocate articles are not nonsense, then it is time for me to get my information elsewhere. Come on, this is your reputation at stake!

  17. First, we do not live in a sterile environment!! Everything is covered in germs, not just beards. If you only wash your beard once a month, yeah it might be nasty.
    Second, there’s dirtier places than a man’s beard… a persons mouth is dirtier than their sphincter! So wet kissing is a filthy way to show your affection to someone!

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About the Author

Lisa Parro
Lisa Parro

Lisa Parro, health enews contributor, is a content manager for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. A former journalist, Lisa has been in health care public relations since 2008 and has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs.