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How to wear a face mask if you have facial hair

Posted: 3 August 2020 1:57 pm


Do you need to say goodbye to your beloved beard? Your questions answered.

As face masks become compulsory in Victoria and strongly recommended in New South Wales, problems associated with prolonged mask wearing are also entering the discussion. For some people, the big issue is acne and irritation. Equally, it can be challenging to wear a face mask without it fogging up your glasses.

Another issue that's come to light is facial hair. Unfortunately, face masks and beards don't really mix well. Why? Because an abundance of facial hair means your face mask can't properly create a seal around your mouth and nose. While that doesn't mean bearded guys have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, it does make the mask far less effective than it would be otherwise.

This is especially the case if you choose to wear a P2 or N95 mask for added protection, or need to do so because of your profession. As the NSW Department of Health notes, people with beards who need this kind of mask are encouraged to shave, as it can be difficult to maintain a tight seal.

However, if you're just looking for a cloth mask, you can find longline and bigger styles at retailers like Etsy.

If you're largely working from home and only wearing a mask when venturing out to shop, then using a large scarf and wrapping it around your face is certainly a better alternative than no mask at all. "If the material is tightly woven and you're folding it into a few layers, this will likely provide some protection," Dr Brad McKay told Finder recently.

Do you need to be clean shaven?

So, does that mean every male on the planet has to say goodbye to their beloved facial hair? Not necessarily.

The US Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has issued an infographic detailing the facial hairstyles that work best with masks.

Styles which the CDC notes can be worn with a face mask include a soul patch, side whiskers, walrus, handlebar or even a zorro. A tightly-cropped beard will also provide fewer challenges with a cloth mask than a full set of Ned Kelly whiskers.

In summary, as long as the mask can create a tight seal around your mouth and nose without any obstruction, then you're good to go. And remember, the mask isn't a standalone solution: maintain social distancing, avoid unnecessary trips in public, and wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

Want more help with masks? Check out our overview of face masks, how to choose the best one, what doctors recommend when using them, the rules that apply in Australia and our regularly-updated guide on where to buy masks.

Image: Getty Images

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