Your hands offer germs a handy transportation system every day. Scratching and fiddling with your hair moves microbes from whatever you’ve been touching (including the toilet seat) to your face.
“If you are running your fingers through your beard, bacteria and fungus certainly can get transferred,” says dermatologist Dr Joshua Zeichner. Your beard eventually becomes a breeding ground.
So first up: Keep your hands to yourself.
If you’re touching your beard because it’s itchy, prioritise skin care.
“Exfoliating and moisturising daily should help to relieve the dreaded beard itch, which is caused by flaking skin cells being caught in the hairs,” says Richard Tucker, beard expert at London barbershop Ruffians.
Try a specially designed beard moisturiser like Beard Lube by Jack Black to keep your skin smooth.
The Best Way to Groom It
The irregular pattern of the curly strands in your beard holds microorganisms. In extreme cases, trapped bacteria can cause infections. Curly or kinky hair can reverse into the face and cause a condition called pseudo-folliculitis, says Zeichner.
Adopt a better beard routine to counteract the natural growth pattern.
“Wash the beard every two to three days (no more, as it will lose elasticity and cease to produce its natural oils) and blow dry it on a medium heat,” says Tucker. “It will relax, straightening slightly.”
Go easy on the styling products, too, says Tucker. Too much beard oil can make your beard look overly glossy and can encourage dirt and bacteria to accumulate.
The Best Way to Shape It
Don’t get us wrong - a full beard is great. Just make sure you’re shaving it it in the most sanitary way possible.
First up: Pick your tools wisely.
“Using electric clippers can cause irritation and, at worst, infection as they are more difficult to clean,” says Tucker. “We recommend wet shaving around your beard.”
Keep it old school with a one-blade razor. It will slice hair without pulling at the root (pulling causes ingrown hairs). These are a bit pricier than your standard disposable, sure. But with the right tool, your investment could be quite literally saving face.
This article was originally published on MensHealth.com