No, Your Pandemic Beard Isn’t Spreading Coronavirus

Let it grow.

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Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic currently gripping the world has generated anxiety in so many directions. Like past, similar plagues, it has even extended to men’s shaving kits, with major papers even publishing pieces that question the wisdom of keeping your facial hair. 

Wait just a moment before you grab the clippers, though—bearded men aren’t the problem, after all.

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This was enough of an issue that Vox felt the need to publish a deep dive into the entire subject of beards and pandemics because there’s some history there.

Vox reports that as early as 1901, the New York Board of Health was prohibiting milkmen from wearing beards, stating that there was “real menace to the milk” from hirsute dairymen. 

There was a straightforward and seemingly logical reason for this: As Vox notes, health professionals at the time thought that whiskers trapped germs, “funneling disease toward anything they touch.”

But there’s no scientific basis for that. Even though the CDC published a chart that appeared to indicate being cleanshaven was safest, it was misunderstood by many as an indicator that facial hair could endanger yourself and others during a pandemic. 

The chart was simply trying to illustrate the practical fact that it’s easier to wear a respirator when cleanshaven. Vox clarifies the issue:

…The only people abandoning their beards in large numbers right now are first responders, doctors, and other medical professionals that have to make room for respiratory masks. But the panic over the CDC chart suggests that beards haven’t fully escaped their tuberculosis-era reputation — and in times of pandemic, side-eyeing heavily whiskered friends might be an unfortunate national pastime.

If you don’t need a respirator, then, don’t sweat it. Stay inside, maintain social distance if you can’t stay inside, and if you live with other people, don’t hog all the snacks.