Your Beard Might Be Increasing Your Risk For COVID-19. Here's Why

You may have spent the pandemic trying out a new look on your face by growing out a beard. But experts say that beard you've grown so accustomed to may increase your risk for contracting COVID-19.

So why would a beard affect your COVID-19 safety? It's all about how the beard impedes your ability to get a tight seal on your mask. If your beard surpasses your jawline and is in the area where a mask needs to adhere to your face, you don't have a full seal (via Healthline).

In this case, even though your mouth is covered, virus-containing droplets that you breathe out can escape through that opening around the edges of your mask. The droplets outside of your mask could also make their way through those same openings, with a gap of 0.2 millimeter height causing 2 to 8 percent of inhaled air to be unfiltered (via CNN).

The possibility of infected droplets entering your nose or mouth through your mask increases your risk of contracting COVID-19, while also potentially spreading it if you are infected with the virus, according to Healthline.

Options for safe mask-wearing other than shaving

So what are your options besides shaving your beard? Experts tell Healthline that you can double up on your masks to decrease the space between your beard and your mask seal. Medical professionals can request a controlled air purifying respirator or a powered air-purifying respirator — both accommodate facial hair without decreasing your protection, according to CNN.

You can also change your beard style to try to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask-wearing guidelines for facial respirators, which lists styles that are OK with masks (via the CDC). The general guidelines explain that if your mask covers your entire beard, there shouldn't be a problem with any gaps, experts tell CNN.

It is important to note that there is no research on whether or not a beard can carry more of the virus than an unshaven face. But by following CDC guidelines on mask-wearing and safe beard styles, you can ensure you have a proper seal, which will keep your risk of COVID-19 at bay.