Surprising Health Benefits Of Having A Beard

It does more than cover up the lower half of your face. It even does more than function as a babe magnet. A beard can also provide its host with health benefits.

However, just last year, there was conversation to the contrary. During the pandemic, a graphic from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showing many variations of the beard and which were best for wearing a mask kicked off a game of Telephone. Suddenly, headlines blared that the CDC reported having a beard increased your risk of getting COVID-19 (per BeardBrand) — which isn't true. 

It's also not true that beards are laced with feces, as articles have reported. According to Snopes, that misinformation comes down to one "study" — that didn't adhere to the proper guidelines for a rigorous study, didn't involve a team of microbiologists, and didn't even conclude that poop was found in beards. What it did reveal is that bacteria normally living in the intestines were present. Although it sounds unappealing, that's not a big deal. Human skin is alive with many microbes, and it's not unusual for bacteria found in the gut to also be at home on the skin.

As long as beards are shampooed regularly (and preferably conditioned, oiled, balmed, brushed, and trimmed, per Esquire), they'll be clean, and soft too. Read on for their health benefits.

A beard provides summer (and winter) protection

In summer, a beard is a natural sunblock, according to a study from the University of Queensland in Australia. The study found that compared to a clean-shaven face, a bearded one is protected from 90 to 95% of harmful ultraviolet rays. This not only reduces your chance of getting sunburn, but also of developing skin cancer.

"You're going to have some protection because hair is a reflective medium," Dave Harvey, M.D., a dermatologist at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia, said. "Even though some rays get through, there is some scattering of the light, and that's how it helps protect against sun damage."

This protection depends on the density, color, and thickness of your beard, though, so a light scruff isn't going to block as many rays as a full, dark, Santa-style beard.

In winter, bushy beards may also act as a kind of scarf. Studies have found that a beard keeps the skin under it warmer than a shaved face (per 24/7WallSt).

"When you get cold, the body even adjusts the hairs, causing them to stand up and trap the heat close to the skin," Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City told 24/7WallSt. A beard can insulate against windchill, but it can also accumulate snow and bits of ice, so it's definitely a tradeoff when it comes to cold weather protection.

It acts as both a filter and a moisturizer

Those big bushy beards are also quite effective at trapping environmental irritants and allergy triggers, similar to the way hairs in the nose filter them out. This can be good or bad. The good: The coarse hair of a beard filters out the dust and pollen that cause asthma and allergies before they can enter the nose or mouth and infiltrate the respiratory system. The bad: If you don't wash your beard often enough — twice a day — the irritants and allergens may accumulate and increase the length of exposure (per 24/7WallSt).

Beards also indirectly protect the appearance and health of the skin due to the absence of shaving. Shaving can lead to such problems as ingrown hairs, razor bumps, or folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles). Any bump or pimple on the face can be nicked by a razor and bleed. Shaving also strips the skin of moisture.

Bearded men can develop ingrown hairs and folliculitis, but taking care of your beard should ward off these problems. That includes using a moisturizer — a conditioner or oil made specifically for beards, not a skin cream. While having facial hair helps keep moisture in, it's not a perfect shield.

A beard slows down signs of aging

With the dual benefits of reflecting the sun's damaging rays and holding in essential moisture, a heavy beard also helps keep skin looking youthful. Sun exposure, as we all know by now, leads to premature aging, such as wrinkles and age spots (per 24/7WallSt). And dry skin not only feels uncomfortable and tight, it can lead to flaking, scaling, or peeling as well as fine lines and cracks (via MayoClinic).

When you have a beard, you're less likely to rub off the helpful, youth-enhancing oils the sebaceous glands on your face produce. Many people absent-mindedly touch their face and remove these oils. But beneath the hairy cheeks and jowls, the oil remains put.

You may be sporting a beard to look older and more sophisticated right now, but when you go beard-free in the distant future, you'll be revealing that smooth, glowy skin that's underneath. And you'll look younger for it.