Contrary to what you have seen in the media, beards do not harbor more poo than a toilet. The story, which originated from the TV news network ‘KOAT’ in New Mexico, has gone viral even though it has little scientific merit.
As Nick Evershed from the Guardian points out, the story wasn’t based on a scientific study. The investigation instead consisted of a reporter taking swabs of a small number of men’s beards and then sending those samples to a microbiologist to analyze. The microbiologist John Golobic identified ‘enteric’ bacteria, which normally reside in the intestines. He told the presenter that these bacteria are usually found in feces, but bacteria associated with feces is not necessarily feces—an important distinction that many people seem to have ignored.
Enteric bacteria are in the family Enterobacteriaceae and are often harmless, though some can cause disease. You, however, do not need to worry about these bacteria because they are everywhere. Phillip M. Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University, told New York Magazine that “we, as a society, are literally bathed in feces." From the keyboard on your desk to the bag you carry around, fecal bacteria can be found in a number of places and they are not a cause for concern.