As everyone moved to stay indoors due to COVID-19 in 2020, growing a beard become a part of everyday life. So, on social media, it may seem lighthearted to post your “quarantine beard” (Jim Carrey did), but it’s more a sign of the culture shift. However, is it dangerous to grow a beard during the coronavirus pandemic?
Coronavirus beard began trending as many quarantined at home, and men let their beards grow out. Now concerns have risen around facial hair and if it may be a conduit for COVID-19. However, infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja says facial hair doesn’t necessarily put you or others at risk.
However, beard hair can trap dirt, oil, and grime, so wouldn’t a beard also trap contagions from sneezing and coughing? Learn about the risks below.
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Dr. Adalja says that bearded men should be cautious, particularly if you spend time with the general public for an extended period. It’s important to wear a cloth face covering and thoroughly clean your beard hair every day so you get rid of any possible germs.
So, right now, the answer is no. You don’t have to shave your beard off completely to prevent coronavirus.
However, clean regularly and tidy up a longer beard so it can fit safely under your mask is a good place to start.
Another good safety tip: invest in a beard net, especially if you work in a medical or food service space.
One study from 2019 suggested that beards can hold more harmful bacteria than dog fur.
In 2017, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) published an infographic (PDF) that included all beard styles that can safely fit under a mask. We say it’s a little bit of overkill (just look at the toothbrush mustache under quarantine).
More Shaving Recommendations
Many men have put down the razor while under quarantine, but others have continued to grow and shape their beard hair. It’s really a matter of how well you take care of your beard and whether you’re around many people.
Another expert on infectious diseases, Dr. John Swartzberg at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said that he doesn’t know of any study that’s investigated the transmission of coronavirus through facial hair.
In fact, the only study we could find has been done by the CDC on the extended use and reuse of the N95 mask for health care workers.
Some facial hair poses significant challenges to wearing a mask, says Dr. Swartzberg.
For example, you may be unable to get a tight seal around your nose, cheeks, and mouth.
He also says that it’s possible to transfer a droplet of coronavirus to your beard hair, which is why you should wash your hair daily, especially if you are around people.
“If you have a lot of facial hair, it’s going to make it even worse,” the doctor added. “And if you work in close proximity to others, coughing particles may get trapped in your beard hair.”
Medical experts recommend shaving back a longer beard and keeping hair trimmed close to the face if you want to wear a mask with a tight seal and remain comfortable.
Common advice suggests avoid touching your face. You should also avoid touching your beard, especially after going to the grocery store or being near others.
As long as you’re social distancing, staying six feet away from others or isolating yourself as much as possible, then you don’t necessarily have to shave your beard at all. Also, if you have a strict beard care routine that includes a great beard wash, you’ll likely be safe from a COVID-19 infection.
The goal is to reduce your risk and the risk of others if you are constantly out in public, venturing closely to other parties or work in an area that is susceptible to coronavirus transmission.
Keep Your Quarantine Beard?
It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to coronavirus beards. Have you seen the Instagram hashtag #QuarantineBeard? It’s a beard extravaganza with many mustache styles, full beards, goatees and unique grooming practices.
While Dr. Adalja and Dr. Swartzberg both agree there are ways to transfer coronavirus through beard hair, it doesn’t seem by their accounts to be common, nor likely to happen if you’re maintain good beard hygiene.
However, if your beard’s length prevents you from wearing a mask, you may need to trim it back or go clean-shaven for the time being. Use good common sense and always consult your doctor for professional advice to lessen the spread of the disease.