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Facial hair: sun protection that grows on you

Monday 25 November, 2013 by Harry

Lovable ‘Alan' from The Hangover. Abraham Lincoln. Tom Selleck. Santa Claus: These are just a few of the notably historic bearers of facial follicles. Now Santa and co. can delight in the knowledge that not only are their beards awesome looking but they also offer an added health benefit - increased protection against ultraviolet rays.

According to a recent study conducted by the (probably) bearded boffins at the University of Southern Queensland, facial hair provides a noticeable, if ever-so-slight UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). UPF refers to the amount of sun protection offered by clothing. The best protection offered by clothing will state a UPF of 50+.

Depending on the length, width and overall thickness of the beard, moustache or goatee in question, the UPF rating level can range between a negligible 2, upwards to 21, which offers a UPF rating classified in the "Good" protection category. Interestingly, the scientists found that people with facial hair had reduced their skin's exposure to the sun by roughly one-third.

However, the University of Southern Queensland's study did not calculate whether facial hair necessarily led to a reduced risk of skin cancer, so don't throw out the hat and sunscreen just yet! While a furry face may provide some protection against UV rays, it is no substitute to sunscreen, hats, clothing, shade and sunnies.

Jimmy Niggles and his mates know the importance of proper sun protection and skin screenings. In 2009, they tragically lost their friend, Wes Bonny, to melanoma. It inspired them to start ‘This Is Beard ', an online photographic campaign to spread the importance of skin check-ups, via the medium of beards and a television campaign highlighting Wes' story was also developed. The generosity and openness of Wes' family and friends in communicating their family's experiences continues to help inform and educate Australians, making a big difference to many lives.

So given it is the month of Mo, with the annual Movember  men's health campaign well underway, we reckon there's never been a better time to have a beard!

As always, keep "Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, and Slide" in mind, but try and avoid adding "Shave" to that temptingly alliterated list. And if you happen to bump into Jimmy Niggles and his camera, don't forget to "Smile"!


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