As safety masks and protective gear fly off the shelves amid fears of a potential coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., a 2017 advisory put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for men with facial hair who wear tight-fitting respirators is making the rounds again.

The graphic, which demonstrates 36 different ways men may style their facial hair, including the “French fork,” “horseshoe,” and “mutton chops,” says that while the “soul patch,” “side whiskers” and “pencil” style are a go, dozens of others may leave you at risk of contamination.

Several other styles may also be OK, but only if the chin hair doesn’t cross the mask seal.


“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,” the CDC advised in 2017. “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.”

Twitter users were delighted by the graphic, but facial hair or not, wearing an every day surgical mask may not keep you 100 percent protected from airborne illnesses such as COVID-19.

“Surgical masks will not prevent your acquiring diseases,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, and the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, previously told Fox News.


He said surgical masks are typically used by surgeons to protect patients from mouth-borne germs, but the masks don’t prevent them from inhaling diseases.

In fact, the CDC does not recommend people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases at this time, and that they should be used only by people who show symptoms of COVID-19.

“The use of facemasks is also crucial for health care workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings,” the health agency said.


Over 82,000 people have been sickened by the coronavirus, and 2,812 have died. U.S. officials recently warned that spread at the community level is likely, and is advising Americans to prepare for the event that their area does experience an outbreak.

For now, the CDC is advising people to avoid close contact with sick individuals and to avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. The health agency says to stay home if you are sick, and to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues and to disinfect areas that are frequently touched.