That’s hairy: why beards aren’t dirty at all…

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Beards are nasty, unhygienic facial doormats in which germs and bits of undigested food can hide like fugitives in a jungle, right?

Plenty of people think that. Plenty of woman-shaped people insist on it. Yet beards have never been more popular, with hipsters going around the place looking as if they have swallowed a fox whole leaving only the tail on view, hanging over their chin.

Mind you, I have read a few times that we may be reaching beard tipping point. This phrase is open to interpretation. Either it suggests that beard popularity has peaked. Or it indicates the moment when a beard has grown so huge that it threatens to topple the wearer onto his face.

Yes, nasty, dirty things – and I haven’t attempted to grow one since I proudly turned myself into a garden gnome in 1983 during a six-week holiday to Australia. That beard followed me home like a facial fungal growth. Either that or a koala bear was missing an ear that had somehow become stuck to my face.

Thick hair under that young chin, no moustache to speak of – I looked ridiculous, although I was proud of that beard.

Since then my face has been clean or carried a dusting of stubble. The only further excursion into facial adornment was a moustache grown in the name of charity. I reckon my wife would have paid me more than I raised just not to grow the lamentable thing in the first place.

Anyway it turns out that everything I have just written is wrong. Not about me looking like a tit when I grew a beard in Oz; that is true. Not the bit about the creepy, near-invisible lip caterpillar; that too is veracity itself.

No, what’s wrong is the hygiene slur. Beards are not dirty at all but are indeed cleaner than a close-shaven face. According to study published in the Man’s Book of Beardy Excuses – sorry, the Journal of Hospital Infection – beards may contain bacteria which could potentially be developed into new antibiotics.

And it may seem strange to those of us with mostly respectable chins, but clean-shaven men are more likely to harbour bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

A ‘naked’ face is more than three times as likely to carry MRSA – and ten per cent more likely to harbour colonies of Staphylococcus aureus – “a bacterium that causes skin and respiratory infections, and food poisoning” according to a report in the Independent.

Apparently shaving could be the problem, as the bacterial nasties can lurk in the cuts men inflict on themselves while shaving.

So far from being dirty, beards could save the world and men shaving too often could be the ones harbouring nasties on their skin.

Mostly I shave every other day, with a brush and shaving soap, and of course a very sharp blade. Really women have no idea of the way we men suffer (although I might just go and hide somewhere when my wife is reading this).

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