If you’ve ever wondered who’s dirtier, your dog or the bearded gentleman sitting across from you sipping a flat white, you aren’t alone: a team of research scientists at Switzerland’s Hirslanden Clinic did too. They carried out a study which compared 18 bearded men, aged from 18 to 76, with 30 dogs of varying breeds.
Samples were taken from the facial hair of the men and the necks of the canines and tested for bacteria. The results were surprising to say the least; turns out, there were far less microbial nasties on the dogs’ fur than on the beards of the men.
Professor Andreas Gutzeit who led the study, said: “The researchers found a significantly higher bacterial load in specimens taken from the men’s beards compared with the dogs’ fur.“
That’s right, dogs—who lie on the floors of train carriages, roll around in parks, eat god-knows-what off the street, and bathe once a month—are cleaner than your average viking-faced friend.
In fact all of the men showed high germ counts, which just 23 out of the 30 dogs matched. But wait, it gets worse. Researchers noted that seven of the men hosted bugs in their facial hair that are harmful to human health. Yikes.
So why exactly were the team interested in how dirty dogs were compared to beardy men? Well, they wanted to use an MRI machine on humans that was previously used by vets and there was a concern that humans might pick up a dog-borne disease from a scanner that a dog had been in. They didn’t have to worry. The scanners were disinfected after having been used by dogs and they showed a ‘significantly’ lower bacteria count compared with levels seen when used by humans.
Since the sample size wasn’t that big, the study has had its share of critics. Some beard proponents have accused the scientists of playing into pogonophobia—the fear of beards. Keith Flett, founder of the Beard Liberation Front, which opposes discrimination against bearded bros said:
“I think it’s possible to find all sorts of unpleasant things if you took swabs from people’s hair and hands and then tested them. I don’t believe that beards in themselves are unhygienic. There seems to be a constant stream of negative stories about beards that suggest it’s more about pogonophobia than anything else.”
Coarse beard hair makes it easier for dirt to get stuck in there so this goes without saying, but beard experts advise that if you do grow out that beard, you should make sure to wash it regularly.
“You should wash your beard hair like you wash the hair on your head,” says Joth Davies, the founder of Savills Barbers in Sheffield (source). He recommends washing and conditioning “whenever you shower,” as well as using specialist beard products—but it won’t hurt if you use your regular shampoo.
The Bottom Line
Dr Gutzeit concluded that, “on the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as clean compared with bearded men.” So in case you’ve ever been concerned about whether it’s hygienic to snuggle with your pup, you can rest easy. Your bearded boo, however…that might be a different story.
Featured image: Men’s Health