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Beard bacteria – nifty or nasty? What’s really living in your beard, and why it could be a good thing

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ZZ Top fans rejoice! Beards of all shapes and sizes are back!

And no one is more excited than bacteria.

Mmm, a nice, warm, cozy safe place for bacteria to breed deep within that dense hair follicle thicket on your face.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, though.

In fact, bacteria, depending on the type, can actually be a good thing.

Medical Daily points to two studies: One study, from 1967, found that when participants' beards were sprayed with bacteria, even after washing with soap and water, some bacteria remained trapped; The second study, from 2000, suggested that men who wear surgical masks shave off their beards, after discovering that bearded men shed significantly more bacteria in the area below their lips than clean-shaven men.

However, a new article in BBC News Magazine points to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, which found that clean-shaven hospital staff were actually three times more likely to be carrying the contagious antibiotic-resistant staph infection, MRSA, on their faces, due to the bacteria thriving in tiny abrasions on their skin from shaving.

That got the magazine wondering whether beards could be actually be fighting infection.

They then swabbed a random sample of beards and sent them to a microbiologist, who found more than 100 different bacteria - all of which were being silently killed off by a single microbe... Which is exactly how antibiotics work.

That killer microbe reportedly came from the Staphylococcus epidermidis strain, which was possibly producing its own toxin to kill off the other bacteria.

Years of further study would be needed before beard bacteria could ever sit next to FDA-approved antibiotics on pharmacy shelves.

But the next time someone tells you that fecal matter could be trapped in the shadows of your facial underbrush, remember this - you could also have potentially life-saving microbes winning the bacterial beard battle.