You probably saw the disgusting headlines all over social media warning that your beard could be as filthy as a toilet. The stories spread full-fledged germaphobia across the internet and now the facial hair community is fighting back.
A TV station in New Mexico conducted the initial "study," but let's use that term loosely. The station swabbed a few beards and let a microbiologist (just one) look at them in a lab. The results illicited just the response they were likely hoping for.
"We have doo doo on our FACE?" joked Daniel Ray Norris, of Cape Fear Communities Biology Department.
A forest of facial hair filled with fecal bacteria, the "study" claimed that "some beards are as dirty as toilets."
"I've been called potty mouth before, but I don't LITERALLY have a potty mouth," said Daniel Allen, bartender at Front Street Brewery.
What this not-really-research-at-all report failed to mention was that you have more bacteria cells on your body than you do human cells. Collectively, the bacteria on and in you weighs about 4lbs.
Cape Fear Community College's Biology Department swabbed both smooth faces and freshly clean hands to prove the point. They were loaded with germs, including staph, but that doesn't mean that what grew in the petri dish was harmful.
Instructor Daniel Norris says the fecal bacteria the TV "study" found normally lives in the gut. At some point, it's bound to come out of the body and land, not causing any health problems.
"Maybe your hand goes somewhere and then it scratches your beard?" surmised Norris.
The story made headlines across the internet and a few scientists started calling out the sample size the report: a "handful."
"That's just one of those scientific terms you just don't know what it means," Norris laughed.
The scientific community quickly discredited the report, and so did the fuzzy faces in Wilmington.
"It was like a personal attack," said Jeff Bridgers, owner of Forge and Foundry. "I felt like I was going to be walking down the sidewalk and someone would mention the fact that I have fecal bacteria on my face.
Bridgers owns Forge and Foundry, an entire product line dedicated to facial "man-scaping." He says few men neglect their beards, if they did, you'd quickly notice.
"There are a couple beards rollin' around downtown that look a little rough," said Bridgers. "If you don't wash it you'll get chin dandruff and it gets kind of gross."
Jamey Charltet is easy to spot around town with his dual-pronged whiskers.
"One day, got a wild hair," Charltet joked.
When asked about the possibility of harboring filth so close to his face, Charltet reported zero diagnosed beard-related health issued but several safety complications.
"When I wear Mardi Gras beads I have to braid this up," Charltet laughed. "I actually have to hold it, because I'll buckle it incidentally."
At worst, he has a few slit ends.
Front Street Brewery bartender Daniel Allen admits to first reading the ridiculous "study" on the toilet. He says if something so unscientific as that report spurs a massive shave-off, he's not joining.
"We're just teddy bears, we don't mean any harm," Allen sighed.
Anyone now scared of their stubble can of course refer to Bridgers' line of shave products. This is a win-win for him.
But for every other man now unsure about his own sanitation and hygiene self-esteem know that the only thing full of poop are the reports telling you otherwise.
Mobile users can view a slideshow of beards from the Wilmington area here.