LADIES Treat Your man's beard

BEARDS are said to be the new six pack, the 'in thing', becoming more popular among men. But while beards may be sexy and provide ultraviolet protection, they can also cause some health problems.

A 2012 United States study, Beards augment perceptions of men's age, social status and aggressiveness... published in the journal Behavioural Ecology and which referred to the article Bedbugs, Demodex, sand fleas and cutaneous larva migrans written by Pietro Nenof, German lecturer in dermatology, warned that hair on the face and body are potential local breeding sites for disease-carrying bugs, and as such proper grooming for beards is necessary.

"They require much TLC," said gynaecologist Dr Ryan Halsall. "Though the risk is small, note that the mouth transmits STDs, and the beard can camouflage symptoms of transmissible skin issues that are not related to the beard and can also make the diseases difficult to treat."

Dermatologist Dr Neil Persadsingh said, though, that this is only for men who don't take care of their beards.

"Most men wash the beard area every time they bathe, which in our hot and humid climate is twice a day and every time they wash their face," he said.

Dr Halsall also said that while beards can trap bacteria and food particles, which are a risk to hygiene, when well kept it actually prevents the common bacterial infections that men get from shaving.

"The problem arises when the beard is neglected, not cleaned, or the infections were left untreated because the beard made them inconspicuous," he said.

Below, Dr Halsall explains a few health issues that may arise from an infection hidden by a beard or a beard that is neglected.

1. Pubic lice

Also known as crabs, Dr Halsall said these can live in beards which are unkempt or have been exposed to the condition. "These are parasites that crawl along coarse hair and can make their homes in beards and moustaches, therefore, you might want to consider this before doing oral sex," he said.

2. Herpes

According to Dr Halsall, the symptoms from herpes can show on the mouth in the form of redness or sores; however, while the beard doesn't cause it, it can very well hide it, allowing the ease of transfer to another individual who becomes intimate with the person.

3. Fungal skin infections

Dr Halsall said fungal infections can affect almost any part of the body and may appear on the face, but with the presence of a beard it becomes very difficult to treat with topical creams.

4. Foul odour

Dr Halsall said like hair on other body parts, if your beard isn't properly groomed it will smell. "Like a smelly armpit, which is usually sweat and unwashed skin, a beard will smell if neglected in the same fashion," he said. Dr Halsall added that the hairs will trap sweat and even food at times, which can make it a breeding ground for bacteria.

Dr Halsall said consequences of an unkempt beard doesn't mean there's need to go clean-shaved, instead exercising proper hygiene is key. "Shampoo your beard and even apply conditioner. To avoid itching, you can use natural oils which will soften the hair and get rid of the bristly feel," he said.

"To lower your risk of infection, groom your facial hair, wash it regularly, and inspect it to ensure it isn't hiding any abnormalities in your skin, which could be more than just an irritation. And ladies, if you're hooking up with a man who has a full face of hair, give him a proper close-up before getting intimate."