To beard or not to beard? That is the question, and it's one that science might just have the answer to.
For most men, beards are a largely cosmetic decision. There’s a perception that a beard can make a man look more mature and distinguished, while many guys feel they simply look better with a beard than without.
While these are all perfectly valid reasons, medical science is increasingly suggesting that growing a beard could actually be beneficial for your health. Let’s take a look at some of the evidence.
Prevents Skin Problems
The skin on your face and neck is particularly sensitive. If you regularly suffer from acne, a beard could be the answer you’re looking for.
Not only will your rash be covered up, not having to shave will also mean it’s less likely to get worse. If you have acne and shave regularly, you run the risk of your razor cutting into your spots.
As you can imagine, that’s only going to make them worse. They really are best left alone, and this is much easier if you don’t have a reason to go near them.
It sounds obvious, but a beard is also the best way to avoid shaving rash. The spots you see here are most often caused by ingrown hairs, which occur when a hair re-enters the skin and continues growing. By allowing your facial hair to grow out, you avoid this problem.
Last year, a study claimed that beards contained the same bacteria found in human poo. Naturally, this was something of a worry for bearded men, as this is exactly the sort of thing that can put off potential partners. Luckily, a more comprehensive study was just around the corner.
Published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, it involved taking swabs from 408 hospital staff, some with beards and some without. The researchers found that the clean shaven workers were three times more likely to be carrying bacteria associated with MRSA than those with a beard.
Why? Well, the theory is that shaving causes very small cuts in your skin - not as big as the nicks that result in bleeding, but still enough for bacteria to live in and thrive. So there you have it, if you’ve got a beard then you might actually have a cleaner face than someone who shaves every day!
Helps With Allergies
According to research carried out at by doctors in New York, your beard and moustache can help capture particles of dust and other allergy triggers before they get into your nose or throat.
So if you’re fed up of your free time getting spoiled by asthma or hay fever, a beard could be one of the more effective ways to protect yourself.
Of course, this will only work if you clean your beard regularly, because those particles aren’t going anywhere and let’s face it, no one wants a dusty beard.
Protects Against UV Rays
Researchers at Australia’s University of Queensland carried out tests to see if a beard could shield your face from the sun and its harmful rays.
They found that in some cases, facial hair could provide some protection against skin cancer. However, this is where it all gets a bit complicated, as the effectiveness of your beard as a sunscreen will depend on the angle and length of your facial hair. Some beards can apparently offer up to 95 per cent protection against UV rays!
However, even if you have a particularly bushy beard, no amount of hair can offer you total sun immunity. You still need to use sun cream if you’re planning a day at the beach.
The sun’s rays and the damage left behind by acne are just some of the factors that can make your skin look a little tired.
By growing a beard, you can keep your skin looking younger and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Growing a beard can also prevent your skin from drying out. The skin produces natural oils that keep it soft and younger-looking, but it’s all too easy to miss out on these benefits if you’re clean shaven. Beardless men are more likely to scrub away these oils when they wash - which is actually why many of them need to use moisturiser in the first place.
A beard keeps all these lovely, natural oils near your skin and helps you look fresh-faced for longer.
If you’ve got any thoughts to share on the health benefits of facial hair, or want to ask any questions about the topics we’ve discussed, be sure to leave us a comment below or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.
And if you’re having problems with your skin and want to know whether a bear could be the answer, or you might benefit from a more conventional treatment, our doctors are here with all the advice you need.
They can take a look at any rashes or spots you have and suggest ways to treat them problem, all from the comfort of your own home using a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer.