GREENSBORO, N.C. - It's the biggest growing trend in men's fashion today: beards. But can they help you in the face off against skin cancer. Headlines going around online have said “beards can prevent skin cancer.” Even calling them “built-in sunscreen.”
Not so fast says doctor Swetha Pathak, a dermatologist with Novant health.
“The notion that it is sun protective against skin cancer is definitely a myth," Pathak said.
The rumor traces back to this study in an Austrian medical journal. Which says the “facial hair reduced the exposure” of harmful cancer-causing rays. But this is where the science gets a little hairy. They did not study humans instead putting fake beards on mannequins.
“And it's not very applicable to the sun exposure that patients get over time," Pathak said.
Instead beards increase your cancer risks. First it's hard to detect any weird skin growths with hair in the way.
“It makes it difficult for patients to identify and to be seen by a dermatologist sooner," Pathak said.
And beards make it near impossible to get a good coating of sunscreen under your hair.
“Sometimes using a spray kind of sunscreen is a little easier to apply to the beard rather than rubbing in a cream,” Pathak said.
So the online claims are false: beards do not protect against skin cancer. And that's the long and short of it.