It used to be a matter of pride that I was able to grow a full beard when so many others could not - or at least it was until someone told me that my facial décor could be the perfect breeding ground for unwanted guests. It's true that a beard attracts a huge number of hangers-on – mostly in the form of crumbly foods – but can it really, as my friend insisted, provide housing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
I personally like to shampoo my beard daily – not only because it keeps it soft, but also because… well actually, no, it's just to keep it soft. In any case, though, it turns out that a lot of people aren't so keen on the fresh face as I am, and that can lead to problems. Just as poor food hygiene practices result in illness, so can careless beard maintenance. According to Carol Walker - consultant trichologist at Birmingham's Trichology Centre - having facial hair can lead to more frequent skin infections and to germs being passed on to others – and apparently this is made worse by the coarse texture of beard hair, which, unlike the soft and lush head hair, is perfect for clinging on to things you'd rather not keep hold of.
There's a reason that all the great thinkers of the 19th century had beards – Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche and Marx didn't grow it for the ladies, they did it because beards made you smarter… Ok, no they don't. But bearded men – and women, no need for gender assumptions – almost invariably find themselves running their fingers through their chin covering whenever lost in deep thought. What if those hands have recently been plunged into something unwholesome? What if they have just handled raw chicken? There is a risk here of bacteria being left to dwell, unchallenged, in the beard forest.
So this is why you're here; to find out if your chin fungus has become a hive of unwanted goodies. Well, it might seem obvious but, as already mentioned, the risk relies largely on poor personal hygiene to become an issue. Certain STIs, such as herpes, can be passed on orally whether a beard is present or not. So – as long as you make sure to scrub, primp and clean as often as is required (this should be regularly, in case you were wondering) – your risk of contracting most STIs shouldn't increase. The possible exception can be found in parasitic conditions like crabs, which can be passed from pubic hair to beard hair – but then the same can be said for head lice, and again, this all depends on how vigilant you are about personal care and cleanliness.
So in short:
That last one might be in my head… but anyway...