Why having a beards is good for your health
You’d be forgiven for thinking a beard was de rigueur at the Baftas.
From Ben Affleck and George Clooney to Hugh Jackman, Sam Mendes and Joaquin Phoenix, it seemed every celebrity male has joined the beard brigade.
The look that was first spotted on hipster twentysomethings has been taken on by their dads’ generation.
Many women won’t want to put up with a scratchy-faced partner.
But think twice before you tell your man to reach for a razor, because beards and moustaches might be beneficial for men’s health.
This is still, it has to be said, an emerging field of thinking – but here, with tongue half in bearded cheek, we reveal the health upside of men’s facial hair…
Protects against the sun
A fuzzy face offers significant protection against sun damage and skin cancer, according to a recent study from the University of Southern Queensland published in the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry.
The researchers found that the parts of the face covered by beards and moustaches on average had a third less exposure to harmful UV rays compared with hair-free areas.
The study was conducted in the Outback sun with mannequins and stick-on beards (1.5in and 3.5?in long), with a clean-shaven mannequin used as a comparison.
The researchers used dosimetric techniques, which measure the amount of rays or radiation absorbed in a given time.
Their results showed the beards appeared to offer 90 to 95 per cent protection against the sun, depending on length of hair.
Generally hair offers good protection against the sun, says Dr Nick Lowe, a leading London-based dermatologist.
That’s why women have much less sun damage if their hair covers the back of their necks and the sides of their faces.
‘It’s also a question of the thickness of hair,’ he says. ‘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.’
Another theory is that coarse, curly beard hair breaks up the sun’s rays, says Iain Sallis, a consultant trichologist.
‘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.’
It also depends on how long the beard has been growing.
Sun damage can also occur when it reflects off surfaces below the face – such as pale sand or water – so hair growth on men’s faces will add to the protection under the chin and neck.
However, Dr Lowe recommends men with facial hair use a thin sun lotion or spray that isn’t too greasy over the hair because a lot of beards are not very dense.
May prevent asthma attacks
Men whose asthma is triggered by pollen and dust could find facial hair — or more specifically, a big moustache — helps reduce their asthma symptoms.
Moustaches that reach the nasal area may stop allergens going up the nose and being inhaled by the lungs, says Carol Walker, hair medical expert and owner of Birmingham Trichology Centre.
Dr Rob Hicks, a London-based GP, thinks it’s only pollen – which is sticky – that might be trapped this way, preventing it getting into the airways.
‘Dust particles are microscopic,’ he says.
Even if moustaches did trap dust, then a downside, according to Dr Hicks, 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,’ says Dr Felix Chua, a consultant respiratory physician at the London Clinic, Harley Street.