Can a Beard Make Allergies Worse? (With Practical Solutions)

You love your beard, but you also suffer from seasonal allergies. Do you have to choose between a snotty nose and facial hair? In most cases, no!

A beard can worsen allergies in rare cases if it is not cleaned properly and becomes unhygienic. However, a beard can also trap allergens before they enter your mouth or nose preventing allergies. Beard cleanliness is the determining factor in whether your beard seems to make your allergies better or worse.

Read on to find out how beards and allergy sufferers can coexist!

How do beards trap allergens?

If you live where pollen counts are high, you’ve likely seen the yellow sheen covering everything in the spring. If an allergen like pollen can cover a car, can it also cover your beard when you spend time outdoors?

Beards trap allergens by catching small particles like dust, pollen, and dander before they can enter your mouth. In essence, beard hair acts like a filter. The longer and fuller your beard, the better it will be at trapping allergens before they enter your body.

Firefighters in the 18th and 19th centuries were required to grow long beards to trap and keep smoke from entering the lungs. They would dampen their beards with water and hold the end of the beard between their teeth to act as a smoke and ash filter. This crude process was the precursor to modern-day respirators.

Do trapped allergens make allergies worse?

Even though your beard can help protect you from allergens, it can also potentially worsen your allergies. That’s why beard hygiene is important.

Trapped allergens in large quantities can make allergies worse. Over time, small amounts of trapped allergens can build up immunity, decreasing the allergic response.

Research shows that being exposed to minimal amounts of an allergen over time can help the body build immunity against it. Allergy shots and immunizations are prime examples of this concept.

When an allergen like pollen comes in contact with your beard, it has the potential to enter your body. These small, temporary encounters reduce your body’s sensitivity to the allergen. Once you rinse your beard, the allergen disappears.

If you were to go for long periods without rinsing or washing your beard, the opposite effect could happen. Your body becomes overloaded with numerous allergens, and this invokes an allergic response. 

Can you be allergic to beard hair?

Sneezing, coughing, weird facial rashes. If you’re dealing with these issues and don whiskers, could it be your beard hair? Not likely.

You can’t be allergic to beard hair. Hair strands are made up of keratin, and keratin is not an allergen. The friction of beard hair can result in contact dermatitis, causing a skin rash. However, this type of rash is not related to an allergy, it is simply due to the irritating rub of the hair or razor on the skin.

You’ve likely heard of people being allergic to dogs or cats. You may even be one of them. It’s easy to assume that their hair or fur is the problem as it sheds and sticks to everything. The allergen isn’t the actual hair but the protein contained in the dander. Dander is made up of dead skin cells, urine, and sweat.

Skin rashes are a common symptom of allergies. They can appear red and sometimes feel itchy. You may assume the rash is an allergy to your scruff when located on your face. Thankfully, that’s not very likely. Red, itchy bumps in your beard area are caused by friction from your coarse beard or poorly maintained trimming tools.

Is having a beard unhealthy?

Several years ago, news headlines villainized beards as filthy, germ-ridden accessories. This uproar caused many men to unnecessarily reach for their razors and shave off the offending petri dish.

Beards are not unhealthy if they are washed and groomed properly. In fact, they can even improve your health by protecting delicate facial skin from the sun’s rays, blocking allergens and germs from being ingested, and helping build up the immune system.

The study that prompted the above-mentioned headlines was designed to see if dogs and humans could use the same magnetic imaging equipment safely. During the study, animal fur and beard hair were tested for microbes. Beard hair did contain more pathogens than animal fur, but it wasn’t statistically significant. 

Beards can offer some protection against sunburn. The fuller and thicker the beard, the more effective it is. Beards can block germs from entering the body, and the germs’ presence in the facial hair for a short time can help out the immune system. Beards can also reduce the amount of bacterial colonization on the skin.

Fun Fact: In the mid-1800s, Victorian doctors often recommended that men grow big beards to filter air pollution and protect against a sore throat.

How to reduce the allergens in your beard

To reap the healthy benefits of beards, maintenance is essential.

You can reduce the number of allergens in your beard by following these steps:

  • Rinse often
  • Wash regularly
  • Cover up

How do each of these reduce the allergens? Keep reading to find out!

Rinse often

Washing your beard is necessary, but you can overdo it.

Rinsing with clean water is enough to wash out most allergens and particles.

Even using a wet wipe at times of extra grime will do until you can give your beard a proper cleaning.

Wash regularly

A thorough wash a few times a week will dislodge any lurkers and keep your beard clean and sanitized.

Make sure to use a gentle beard wash without harsh chemicals to avoid contact allergies.

Cover up

If you know you’ll be exposed to a lot of smoke, pollen, or dust, plan ahead and cover up your beard.

This will prevent an overload, especially if you’ll be in the environment for an extended period.

Should you shave your beard if you have allergies?

Even though the data says beards aren’t an allergy contributor, there are always exceptions.

You shouldn’t have to shave your beard even if you have allergies as long as you keep your beard clean. However, if your allergies are getting worse after growing a beard, even after taking hygiene precautions, you could try shaving it off to see if symptoms improve.

If you work in a profession where you are constantly exposed to allergens, it might be hard to stay on top of cleaning without stripping your beard of necessary oils. A beard-shaving trial might make sense to see if symptoms go away. You can always grow it back if it’s not the culprit.

How can you care for your skin after shaving your beard?

Freshly shaven skin needs pampering, especially if it hasn’t seen the light of day for a while.

After shaving your beard, protect your skin by rinsing with cold water, applying aftershave, moisturizing, and using sun protection.

Remember that your skin has likely been hidden and not exposed to razors, sunlight, or anything else for the time it’s been under your beard. It may be sensitive!