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Beard benefits

19 February 2013

Beard benefits

We all have our opinions about beards, many like the clean shaven look while others like to sport a little designer stubble.  However, before you make your choice, here are a few positives (and negatives) to keeping your bushy beard.

1.       Protects against the sun

According to a recent study conducted at the University of Southern Queensland, areas of the face covered by a beard and moustache are exposed to less harmful UV rays.  The study was conducted on mannequins with stick-on beards and found the exposure was reduced by up to a third.

Dr Nick Lowe, a leading dermatologist, said, “Generally hair offers good protection against the sun.  That’s why women have much less sun damage if their hair covers the back of their
necks and the sides of their faces.”

He added, “It’s also a question of the thickness of hair.  It’s similar to an SPF factor — the higher the hair density and thickness, the higher the SPF.  I frequently see the classic example of this
when I work in southern California.  A balding, bearded surfer will have more sun damage and pre-cancers on their heads than they will on the top of their faces.”

Consultant Trichologist Iain Sallis said, “Another theory is that coarse, curly beard hair breaks up the sun’s rays.  Light travels in straight lines, but when it hits curly hair the light waves refract, or break up, so they hardly ever reach the skin underneath.”

2.       May prevent asthma attacks

Men with asthma triggered by pollen or dust could find that having a beard, or more specifically a moustache, reduces their symptoms.

Carol Walker, hair medical expert and owner of Birmingham Trichology Centre, said, “Moustaches that reach the nasal area may stop allergens going up the nose and being inhaled by the lungs.”

However, GP Dr Rob Hicks believes this only works for pollen as it is sticky whereas dust particles are microscopic and could still reach the nose.  “Even if moustaches did trap
dust, then a downside is that it can build up and it just takes one wipe or knock before it goes into the nose.”

“In theory, a moustache could stop things that trigger asthma entering the airways, but it would have to be a big one,” added Dr Felix Chua, a consultant respiratory physician at Harley Street.

3.       Slows down ageing

Over time facial hair can help to keep the skin young, stopping water leaving the skin by protecting it from the wind.  It keeps the skin moisturised and prevents the wind drying out the skin and disturbing the skin barrier.

Dr Lowe said, “If you put a moisturiser on then it will stay put under a beard or moustache much better than on an exposed or shaven skin where it can be more easily rubbed off.”

Simply having more hair follicles benefits the face as it makes the skin thicker.  Dr Lowe added, “Thicker skin is more resistant to damage, even if the man doesn’t have a beard, compared with women, whose skin tends to be thinner and have fewer hair follicles.”

4.       Helps to fight off colds

By keeping the chin and neck warm a thick beard could help ward off those dreaded colds.

Carol Walker said, “Hair is an insulator that keeps you warm. Long, full beards that trap the cold air and raise the temperature of the neck are going to be an added bonus when you’re under the weather.”

She added, “When you have a sore throat, the body builds up temperature to kill the virus.  It has to run its course, but the warmer you keep yourself and the more fluids you drink equip you to fight it better.”

Dr Chua also supports this theory, “Hair around the chin and neck adds another layer of protection.  I’ve had patients who have said that if they wrap up by using something like a scarf
their cough gets a bit better. It’s possible that a beard could also do this.”

5.       Prevent nasty skin rashes

Everyone knows the pain of those nasty rashes when you’ve just had a shave so, obviously skipping that morning shave will avoid this.

Dr Martin Wade, consultant dermatologist at the London Skinand Hair Clinic, said, “Shaving is usually the main cause of bacterial infections in the beard area.  It can lead to razor rash, ingrown hairs and conditions such as folliculitis (infection of the hair follicles that causes spots), so men would benefit from growing a beard.”

Now for the bad news

Research has shown that beards can spread infections.  It is therefore very important for men with facial hair to wash and groom it regularly and make sure the skin underneath has not become sore because of ingrown hairs.

Carol Walker adds, “Men need to wash and trim their beards and moustaches regularly and make sure debris from food isn’t left around.  Also be careful about your choice of barber,
because you can get bad infections if they haven’t cleaned their tools properly.”