It’s nearly Movember – that time of year when men start skipping their morning shave and grow a moustache throughout November to raise awareness of male cancers and mental health.
It’s followed by Decembeard, when sporting the rugged look will help highlight bowel cancer.
But whether you’ve got bumfluff or a full-on Grizzly Adams face, here Adrian Monti reveals how ditching the razor has its own health benefits…
Stops shaving rash
Among the most common problems caused by shaving is a rash called folliculitis barbae. It is often itchy and is caused by staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium which infects the skin.
It can affect shavers and non-shavers, but it’s often brought on by reinfection from everyday shaving equipment contaminated with bacteria that lives harmlessly inside our noses.
“The shaved hair starts to grow again and forms an ingrown bump which can become inflamed,” says Dr Toni Phillips, clinical director of Destination Skin clinics.
“During the next shave, these bumps can be cut or irritated, resulting in infection. Not only is this an unpleasant medical condition, but it looks awful.”
Not shaving will help, but it can also be tackled by skin cleansers containing salicylic acid and using an exfoliator on a daily basis, she says.
Helps with allergies
If you’re sensitive to dust and pollen, a beard or bushy moustache might offer some defence against them entering your nose and respiratory system.
“It’s been said that facial hair can filter out dust and pollens,” says food intolerance expert Dr Gill Hart from YorkTest.
“However, it’s more likely that the presence of small amounts of pollens and dust trapped in facial hair could actually “de-sensitise” the immune system.
“In other words, the body will get used to the presence of small amounts of pollen and dust trapped in the facial hair and become less likely to react to them.”
Can lower your skin cancer risk
A recent study conducted at Australia’s University of Southern Queensland looked at how effective facial hair is in protection against the sun’s UV rays.
The report, published in the Journal of Radiation Protection Dosimetry, said researchers used mannequins with varying lengths of stick-on beards while others were ‘clean shaven’. They were then all stood out in the sun.
The results of the study showed that beards can prevent skin cancer by providing an estimated 90 to 95% of protection against harmful UVs, depending on the beard’s length and the angle of the facial hair.
But Dr Stefanie Williams, a dermatologist and medical director of European Dermatology London, is wary of how much protection facial hair can offer, saying that people should still rely on using their sun protection products.
She says: “A beard might offer a small degree of sun protection but don’t overestimate this. A few years ago, I measured in one of my patients how much UV penetrates the hair (on the scalp in that case). Around 50% still got through, although the hair was quite dense in that patient.”
Slows down wrinkles
It’s often said shaving off your beard can knock years off. But a covering of facial hair can also slow down the ageing process in the skin, says dermatologist Dr Adam Friedmann .
“Sun exposure is the primary cause of photo-ageing and skin damage so it makes sense that if your face is covered by a heavy beard, it may well protect your skin from the signs of ageing,” says Dr Friedmann.
“This means fewer wrinkles and a reduction in age spots (liver spots) commonly found on the face.”
Acne is caused when tiny follicles near the surface of the skin become blocked, leading to whitehead or blackhead spots. And this common condition can be worsened with shaving.
Both a ‘wet shave’ and an electric razor can easily take the tops off inflammatory ‘comedones’, as the spots on the face and neck are known, making them even more obvious.
“Acne sufferers may be low in confidence and low self-esteem, especially if they’ve had severe acne that leaves scars,” says Dr Freidmann.
“Sporting a beard may therefore give a boost of confidence and make them feel better about their appearance.”
This condition affects 5.4 million people in the UK but there’s a belief facial hair might offer protection against irritants like house dust mites, which act as a trigger.
“One side of the debate says a beard or moustache could mean the hairs act as a ‘Thames Barrier’ for the lungs, stopping certain particles getting into your nose and travelling down to your lungs,” says Deborah Waddell, lead clinical adviser at Asthma UK.
“On the other hand, having a beard could trap particles, such as pollen, in the same way that eyebrows and your hair can. So our advice is, to reduce the risk of your beard harbouring irritating particles closer to your airways, keep it clean.”