To Beard or not to Beard?

To Beard or not to Beard?

It’s about to get a bit “hairy” …

So, you want to grow out your beard, but wear a tight-fitting respirator at work? Ensuring the respirator seal is a vital part of respiratory protection practices. Facial hair that lies along the sealing area of a respirator, such as beards, sideburns, or some mustaches, will interfere with respirators that rely on a tight facepiece seal to achieve maximum protection. Facial hair is a common reason that someone cannot be fit tested.

The reason for this is simple – gases, vapors, and particles in the air will take the path of least resistance and bypass the part of the respirator that captures or filters hazards out. So then, why can’t facial hair act as a crude filter to capture particles that pass between the respirator sealing area and the skin?  While human hair appears to be very thin to the naked eye, hair is much larger in size than the particles inhaled. Facial hair is just not dense enough and the individual hairs are too large to capture particles like an air filter does; nor will a beard trap gases and vapors like the carbon bed in a respirator cartridge.  Therefore, the vast majority of particles, gases, and vapors follow the air stream right through the facial hair and into respiratory tract of the wearer.  In fact, some studies have shown that even a day or two of stubble can begin to reduce protection.  Research tells us that the presence of facial hair under the sealing surface causes 20 to 1000 times more leakage compared to clean-shaven individuals.

So then, how are you going to participate? Luckily, the rules of No Shave November state, “Strict dress-code at work? Don’t worry about it! We encourage participation of any kind; grooming and trimming are perfectly acceptable.” And Movember is all about the mustaches.

Ok. Now we can have some fun. Instead of gunning for the title of “most hairy”, how about being the “most creative” this November?

Halloween is over. So put away those werewolf, Forrest Gump, and Rubeus Hagrid costumes. Instead, if you are going to participate in one of these facial-hair frenzied campaigns, channel your inner Frank Zappa, Rhett Butler, or Zorro. When’s the last time you rocked a good soul patch? (The official NIOSH recommendation is to listen to some classic jazz while trimming this particular style.) Not sure what kinds of facial hairstyles will work with a tight-sealing respirator? We’ve provided a chart below with our best guesses, complete with a line representing a typical sealing surface.