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Can You Wear Any Full Face Respirator with Facial Hair?

There is a common misconception that we, at Fit Test Victoria, often hear. And that is any full-face respirator can be worn with facial hair.

As you may have guessed from the photo - it's a big 'ol NOPE!

All tight-fitting respirators, whether reusable half-face, full-face, disposable filtering facepiece masks, or powered-air, require a clean-shaven face to provide optimal protection.

Tight-fitting respirators, like the ones you see in the photo below, rely on a secure seal between the facepiece and the wearers' face. If the seal is compromised in any way (here's looking at you Santa Claus), the respirator won't provide its stated level of protection.

Before diving deeper, let's familiarise ourselves with different types of tight-fitting respirators and their functions.

Tight-Fitting Respirators

1. Full Face Tight-Fitting Respirators

Tight-fitting full-face respirator Credit: 3M

These respirators cover the entire face to protect against airborne contaminants and eye hazards. They rely on a tight seal between the respirator and the face to prevent leakage.

Contrary to popular belief, full-face respirators, like the one you see here, CAN NOT be worn with facial hair and must be fit tested.

2. Half Face Tight-Fitting Respirators

Tight-fitting half-face respirator

Half-face tight-fitting respirators cover the nose and mouth protecting the wearer from airborne contaminants.

Like tight-fitting full-face masks, half-face masks rely on a seal between the facepiece and the wearer's face to work effectively.

Half-face masks CAN NOT be worn with facial hair and must be fit-tested.

3. Disposable Filtering Facepiece Respirators

Tight-fitting filtering facepiece respirator Credit: 3M

First, let's clear something up. Disposable masks are respirators! Like reusable respirators, they rely on a tight seal between the facepiece and the wearer's face to ensure optimal protection.

Disposable respirators, also called filtering facepiece respirators, are most commonly available as N95, P2, and FFP2 in Australia. You can read more about the differences here.

Filtering facepiece masks CAN NOT be worn with facial hair and have to be fit tested.

The type of respirator you need depends on workplace hazards, regulatory requirements, and industry-specific requirements or codes of compliance.

Now that you know what we mean by a "tight-fitting" respirator, let's look at another type of respirator called a powered-air purifying respirator.

Powered-Air Purifying Respirators

Powered air-purifying respirators - also called PAPRs - use a battery-powered motor and fan to blow filtered air into the user's breathing zone.

Powered air-purifying respirators can be tight-fitting or loose-fitting.

Let's explore the differences.

Tight-Fitting PAPRs

Depending on the brand/model, reusable half-face and full-face respirators - like the ones we discussed above - can be used in an unpowered, negative-pressure mode or they can be attached to a PAPR unit (battery/motor/fan).

The photo below shows a comparison between a tight-fitting Sundstrom SR200 PAPR (left pic) and the same SR200 in negative pressure (unpowered) mode (right pic).

Because the facepiece on this Sundstrom PAPR touches the face to create a seal, it is considered a "tight-fitting" PAPR. Tight-fitting PAPRs cannot be worn with facial hair and must be fit-tested.

Many other respirator brands also have tight-fitting PAPR options. The Sundstrom is just one example.

Credit: Sundstrom

Loose-Fitting PAPRs

Some powered air-purifying respirators can have "loose-fitting" headpieces such as hoods or helmets.

Loose-fitting PAPRs can be worn with facial hair and do not need to be fit tested (there's no seal to test).

The photo below shows a few examples of PAPRs with loose-fitting headpieces.

PAPRs with Loose-Fitting Headpieces. Credit: 3M, Maxisafe, JSP

These are the only types of respirators that folks with whiskers can wear. But be aware - big, bushy, face bouffants won't work. Close-cut beard styles that don't have to be "tucked" into the facepiece are most appropriate.

Some people find loose-fitting PAPRs more comfortable to wear, especially for extended periods.

And of course, the big upside for many people is being able to wear them with facial hair.

Wrapping Up

So now you know. Not all full-face respirators can be worn with facial hair.

The only type of respirator that can safely be worn with close-cut beards are loose-fitting powered air-purifying respirators. Loose-fitting hoods/helmets do not rely on a seal between the facepiece and the face to provide adequate protection.

If you're interested in learning more about PAPRs, or getting a demo, call us at 0488 688 454 or email

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