How to Correctly Wear a Mask If You Have a Beard or a Mustache
As we begin pandemic year 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has continued to update its recommendations for mask-wearing. Because of the national public health agency's diligence, most of us now know the who, when and where of donning a mask. But for those of us with beards, the specific details of what kind of mask to use and how to affix it to one's face may still be, well, a bit fuzzy. Must you shave? No, not necessarily. Here's some clarity on masking while bearded.
First off, the CDC recommends shaving a beard or trimming it close to the skin, if possible. Smooth skin just makes it easier to create a tight seal from nose to chin. If keeping a beard, follow the same guidelines when choosing a mask as for a non-bearded person. To accommodate the beard and ensure a good seal, extra consideration must be paid to the size and shape of the mask. Bigger is probably better when it comes to covering a beard.
The 3M Aura Particulate Respirator 9205+ is approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health—an agency under the CDC—and is typically available from True Value, Target, Quill and Amazon, although Amazon is the only retailer with them currently in stock (Buy it: Amazon.com, $22 for a 10-pack). Because of its design, the mask "fits a wide range of face shapes and sizes," according to 3M.
Deciding what to do about your beard is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Some types of facial hair may fit perfectly fine under a securely fastened mask or have no effect on the mask's fit at all. If you have a bushier beard, consider trimming it to an alternate shape or style. A soul patch or side whiskers won't obstruct a mask, as with several styles of mustache including but not limited to the Zappa, walrus, painter's brush, Zorro, lampshade, chevron, handlebar and even the pencil (á la John Waters).
However, contrary to what you may think, stubble does inhibit adherence of the mask to the face. So, shaving smooth is a better option for ensuring a snug fit.
If you're sticking with your beard and are not up for a trim or change in style, nose clips or mask fitters are essential. A nose clip is that little strip of metal that you peel the back strip off of before stamping it onto the portion of your mask that covers the bridge of your nose. Some masks have them built in—like the 3M Aura Particulate Respirator 9205+—but for those that don't, you can purchase them separately and add one to any mask. (Buy them: Amazon.com, $7 for 100.) They have the added advantage of redirecting airflow so your glasses don't fog up, which many of us have figured out on our own during the last 3 years.
Mask fitters or braces may be bulkier and a bit more difficult to find but are nonetheless available via our Google machines. (Buy them: Amazon.com, $10 for 1.)The main and most important functions of these mask add-ons are to improve the seal of your mask, close any gaps and to keep it on your face where you want it. The CDC also suggests wearing a second mask over your primary mask to secure it in place and form the best seal possible.
As for masks specifically designed for beards (with an elongated covering that goes below the chin), the CDC says not enough research has been conducted with them in order to come to a definitive recommendation, yet. If that changes, mustachioed and bearded friends, we'll update you here.
The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change quickly; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO and their local public health department as resources.