Whether you’ve had facial hair for years, or you’re still sporting your beard or mustache from Movember, it’s important to know how to keep your facial hair clean.
Beards can harbor bacteria. In May, there was a lot of media coverage about the same enteric bacteria (intestinal bacteria) found in human feces also being found in beards. It began when a local news station based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, tested the germs found on the beards of a handful of men.
While this may sound scary, beards have been worn by men for thousands of years, so the bacteria likely pose no real threat to healthy individuals. However, for people living with suppressed immune systems (which is becoming more and more common in recent times due to drugs that treat cancer and inflammatory conditions), the bacteria could potentially be dangerous to the beard wearer or to those he comes into contact with.
In addition to enteric bacteria, people also commonly carry other bacteria on their hair and skin like Staphylococcus aureus (a common cause of “Staph infections”). In fact, Staph is very commonly found inside people’s nostrils, which is close to the mustache area in men. When a pathogenic strain is found, it can cause conditions like sycosis barbae (folliculitis or pus bumps).
Cleaning a mustache or beard is easier and more hygienic if the hair is kept trimmed and untangled. Wash the beard area with a gentle cleanser and a good lather followed by fully rinsing out the facial hair. The mechanical action of lathering and rinsing removes bacteria from the hair and underlying skin.
Some of the facial acne washes also work well for facial hair washing:
- Cetaphil Antibacterial Gentle Cleansing Bar (Triclosan)
- Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash (Salicylic Acid)
- Clean and Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser (Benzoyl Peroxide)
Of note, Benzoyl Peroxide products are potent antimicrobials with little bacterial resistance, but they can lighten or bleach hair and clothing if left on too long or not rinsed off quickly. Benzoyl peroxide products are best used in the shower where they can be rinsed thoroughly.
Keeping your beard clean is an important part of overall hygiene and skin care. Follow the tips in this article for a clean and stylish look.
Matthew Molenda, MD, FAAD, is a ProMedica Physician specializing in dermatology and dermatologic surgery.