Facial hair and respirator fit: a review of the literature

Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. 1988 Apr;49(4):199-204. doi: 10.1080/15298668891379594.


The effect of facial hair on the quality of fit obtained while wearing a tight-fitting respirator has been and continues to be a controversial subject. Many people hold strong opinions on both sides of the issue, but it is not opinion that is needed. Rather what is needed is quantitative study of the situation to determine precisely what effect facial hair has on respirator fit. The results of fourteen studies of the facial hair leakage question have been summarized. All but two of the fourteen studies found that in the presence of facial hair, face seal leakage increases from 20 times to 1000 times. In addition both intersubject and interrespirator face seal leakage variability increased when facial hair was present. In the other two studies, one completed with positive pressure SCBAs and the other completed in the workplace, no statistically significant leakage differences were found.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Failure
  • Face*
  • Hair*
  • Humans
  • Protective Devices*
  • Respiratory Protective Devices*