Who knew that behind the nonchalant façade of a hipster beard is actually a UV-ray deflector hard at work?
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That’s right, your beard might actually have some skin-protecting powers.
A study from the University of Queensland found that thick facial hair can protect the skin from 90 to 95 percent of harmful UV rays and can provide an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of up to 21, reports The Independent. (To put that in perspective, a white cotton shirt has a UPF of 7, while a dark-colored shirt has a UPF of 10, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.)
Researchers carried out the study by placing mannequins outside in the sun — some with full beards, others with partial beards, and still others with clean-shaven faces. After rotating each mannequin’s head to ensure it received equal sun exposure, researchers measured the amount of radiation the mannequins absorbed. The ones with the thickest facial hair were better protected than the partially bearded or clean-shaven ones. Less sun exposure is beneficial because it reduces the risk of wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer.
That said, there is — of course — a caveat.
As encouraging as the news is that a beard offers UV-ray protection, researchers caution that a beard “will never be as safe as sunscreen.” It should also be noted that skin cancer has been known to surface beneath beards and mustaches. Dr. Ali Hendi, a dermatologist in the D.C. area, explained in an interview with the Skin Cancer Foundation that facial hair may offer more protection than a clean-shaven face, but it isn’t a guarantee.
“I’ve seen a number of patients who had a beard or mustache for a long time who had a skin cancer hiding underneath that the hair mostly covered up,” Dr. Hendi said.
If you notice a lump or sore that isn’t healing or a new mole or dark spot under the hair, Dr. Hendi advises having a dermatologist take a look as soon as possible. In the meantime, don’t skimp on sunscreen — beard or no beard. But feel free to keep on growing it in the name of extra UV protection.
What Do YOU Think?
Does this news make you want to skip the shave next time? Have you applied sunscreen to your beard in the past? If you haven’t, will you start now or let your hair be your sole protection? Tell us in the comments!