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Beards make a comeback, offer health benefits

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

How low can you grow?

That's a good question at the bar Diesel in Virginia Highland, where server Ted McGourn is sporting a seriously impressive beard.

McGourn says he, "started growing it just because I could" 14 months ago, explaining, "Haven't used a razor or shaving cream in that time period."

Stroking his six-inch beard he says, "It's nice and soft and smooth. Something to do when you're bored."

His coworker C.J. Cook swore off shaving 9 months ago.

Cook, who works the bar, says, "I totally just gave it up, no razors, nothing."

And it seems everywhere you look, the beard is back.

"You know I first noticed it a couple of years ago," Emory dermatologist Dr. Zakia Rice.

Dr. Rice says that beard may come with hidden health benefits. She says, "Probably the main benefit is sun protection. There was a recent, really well-done study out of Australia that did show a beard of about ten days length - on average - really does prevent the UV prevent the UV rays from getting to the skin."

Beards may also prevent shaving-related irritation and acne.

Some claim they keep the skin moisturized, and provide natural protection from dust and allergens.

Dr. Rice says, "Theoretically, if you do have a beard, the allergens could get trapped there. If you're not washing your beard regularly, that allergen build up can actually be more harmful than helpful."

But how do you keep your beard in shape?

Ted McGourn has a special beard shampoo and conditioner. CJ Cook washes his beard regularly, "Combing it out. Keep it nice and smooth."

Dr. Rice says upkeep is key, "I think in general, you need to wash the beard at least once a day, just like general skin care. You're going to wash it probably with a mild soap."

Ted McGourn discovered there's another benefit to sporting a beard: It's a people-magnet. He says, "People talk to you a lot about it. People stop you on the streets. Working at a bar, especially, people think it's okay to get drunk and touch it out of nowhere."

They'll sometimes reach out and grab it, he says, "So you can be walking, and like carrying a drink, and someone will just yank your beard to the side."

But, that's not always a bad thing. McGourn says his beard is here for good, because, "Girls really like it, so that's probably the best part about it."

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