The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Stop Attacking Beards With Your Shitty Science

By Melissa McEwen in Food on May 4, 2015 10:10PM

Today we were dismayed to notice that anti-beard propaganda had gone viral across social media. The claim? That "some beards are as dirty as toilets," gleefully paraded around by beard haters. But the science is just not very good.

First of all, the science comes not from an actual study, but from an Albuquerque TV station swabbing a few dudes and sending the samples to Quest Diagnostics. Hardly a valid sample size or study design. Quest Diagnostics microbiologist John Golobic said some of the beards contained "enteric bacteria."

Sorry, the entire world is full of enteric bacteria. Sure, some of them are bad, but the vast majority of Enterobacteriaceae are perfectly harmless. And everywhere. I'm sure if they had swabbed people's bare faces, women's hair and a variety of things from keyboards or office chairs they could find plenty of Enterobacteriaceae. And even if you did find species associated with illnesses, the odds are they won't be in high enough concentrations to make anyone sick. Well, except people who don't like to think about bacteria. Sorry guys, that's just the way the world is.

Luckily, they aren't the first people to think about beards in the context of bacterial contamination. It's a serious question for people who work in medicine or with potentially dangerous pathogens in the lab. Bacterial ecology of hospital workers' facial hair: a cross-sectional study, a sampling in two teaching hospitals, found " Our results suggest that male hospital workers with facial hair do not harbour more potentially concerning bacteria than clean-shaven workers, and that in some instances, clean-shaven
individuals are significantly more likely to be colonized with potential [hospital acquired disease-causing] pathogens."

The experiments showed that even it took spraying the beards with MASSIVE amounts of deadly diseases to make the chicks sick.
Frankly absurd experiments that would never get past a modern ethics board from the late '60s outlined in Microbiological Laboratory Hazard of Bearded Men ranged from rubbing the beard on innocent chicks (baby chickens for all your dirty-minded people) to shaving off the beards of innocent men and blending them to see how much bacteria they contained. They concluded "Therefore, infection of family or friends outside the laboratory by an uninfected bearded man would occur only when the bearded man had a recognizable microbiological accident with a persistent highly infectious microorganism, or was engaged in a repetitious operation that aerosolized a significant number of organisms, and if he himself were protected by vaccination or immunity following clinical or subclinical disease."

Even Golobic admitted "this bacteria won't make you sick." Which makes it extra galling that local regulations force people working in food service to wear absurd "beard nets", an issue DNAinfo Chicago explored in an article today.

If you are doing brain surgery or working with extremely dangerous bacteria, put a mask on it. Otherwise, there really isn't a reason to worry.