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STUDY: Clean-Shaven Faces Have More Bacteria Than Bearded Ones

A new study has found that facial hair could be a breeding ground for bacteria-fighting microbes
by Mary Rose A. Hogaza | Feb 17, 2016
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Contrary to the popular belief that beards are a breeding ground of bacteria, your facial hair actually has health benefits.

So says a team of researchers who swabbed 408 hospital workers with and without a beard for a study that was published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

Surprisingly, it was found that clean-shaven hospital staff members were more likely to carry the staphylococcus aureus bacteria—which causes skin and respiratory infections—on their faces than their hairier colleagues. The researchers explained that this may be due to the small cuts and micro-abrasions caused by an aggressive daily shaving routine, creating gaps for bacterial colonization.

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Dr. Adam Roberts, a microbiologist from University College London, put beards to the test too, as reported by the BBC. In his experiment, Dr. Roberts took beard swab samples from an assortment of men and attempted to grow bacteria from these samples. From the samples, he was able to grow 100 different bacteria.

One particular "beard-teria" stood out: a microbe that appeared to be killing other harmful bacteria. Translation: Beards can be a breeding ground for microbes...that just might act as some sort of antibiotic against other more harmful microscopic organisms. The microbiologist was able to identify the microbe as part of a species called staphylococcus epidermidis, which has the ability to kill urinary tract infection-causing E.coli. 

The discovery, however, is just the start for Roberts and his team. They are currently looking for ways to transform the E.coli-killing microbe into something that humanity can add to its arsenal of antibiotics.

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