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Are there health benefits to having a beard?

Some studies have shown that beards can harbor dangerous bacteria, while others have found beards beneficial in reducing skin cancer. So how do you determine whether you should let your facial hair grow or simply let it go? Dave Harvey, M.D., a dermatologist at Piedmont, gets to the root of the problem.

“The benefit of having a beard is protection, as well as aesthetics,” says Dr. Harvey. “Its good protection against wind, chafing and traumatic injury. It's also a trend, so we see a lot of men with some form of facial hair.”

The health benefits of beards

Beards can:

  • Protect skin from sun damage. Beards can help protect the skin from harmful UV rays, though the degree of protection may depend on hair density and thickness. “You’re going to have some protection because hair is a reflective medium,” says Dr. Harvey. “Even though some UV rays get through, there is some scattering of the light and that’s how it helps protect against sun damage.”

  • Keep you warm.  Beards can add a layer of protection to your chin and neck, thus keeping you warm in colder weather. The longer and fuller the beard, the better it will insulate your face.

  • Make you feel more attractive. A study conducted by the Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society found that men with a moderately full beard are found most attractive and men with full beards may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in their children. Men with beards have a powerful look,” says Dr. Harvey.  “And that’s an attractive thing.”

Common problems for beard growers

Growing a beard is not always easy. And if your beard is not properly cared for, it can become a harbinger for bacteria.

“If you don’t clean your beard well, and you let it just do its own thing, sometimes you can accumulate yeast and get dandruff within the beard,” says Dr. Harvey.  “With that you’ll get a reactive scaling on the face and flaking like you would with dandruff. So those patients need to be put on antifungal shampoo.”

Beard growers also face the challenge of ingrown follicles that result in bumps known as acnekeloidalis.

“Some men will get a raised scaring type of bump called an acnekeloidalis of the neck,” says Dr. Harvey. “So we offer them topical antibiotics or Retin A for those particular reasons.”

Tips for maintaining a healthy beard

It takes time, patience and dedication to grow a healthy beard. Try these grooming tips:

  • Let it grow. It can take at least one month to grow a beard. Put the razor back in your drawer and give your beard time to grow. Be patient with the initial process,” says Dr. Harvey. “It’s not going to happen overnight.” If your facial hair looks a little unruly, try brushing it so that all of the hair grows in the same direction.

  • Shampoo your beard. Wash facial hair regularly. Shampoo your beard with a gentle face wash or a moisturizing hair shampoo to prevent it from becoming dry and brittle. You can also add olive oil or other natural oils to keep your beard nice and soft.

  • Moisturize your face. It’s important to moisturize the skin beneath your beard. Without proper moisture, the body produces extra oil, which can cause breakouts.

  • Get some rest.  “Often people who are stressed or don’t sleep well they can have difficulty growing their beard,” says Dr. Harvey.  “So I always recommend good rest.”

  • Eat right. Eat a healthy diet to ensure that hair follicles are properly nourished. Also consider taking biotin, a vitamin that supports hair and nail growth.

  • Trim it up. Whether you want a full beard or a more angular look, get the right tools to shape up your beard. If you aren’t completely comfortable with clippers, check in with your barber for a more polished look.

“If you follow these tips, and get good sleep and good nutrition, you can grow a really cool beard and that you’ll be proud of,” says Dr. Harvey.

Get more helpful, healthful tips from Living Better.

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