Beards are resolutely having a moment. They were pretty popular pre-Covid, but lockdown saw them become even more ubiquitous.
Whether it was the freedom of working from home spurring us on to experiment with our facial hair, or the apathy engendered by structureless days of furlough meaning we couldn’t be bothered to shave, one way or another most of us ended up sporting some kind of beard by the time we were finally able to get back to some form of normality.
But that’s just when things started to get tricky. Because as soon as shops, bars and restaurants started opening their doors again, we were expected to start wearing face masks in public.
Face masks and beards – a match made in hell
Face masks are now mandatory in most enclosed spaces, so simply not wearing one is not an option. And whilst some of us have reverted to the clean-shaven look post lockdown, for many of us our beards have become an integral part of who we are. So it’s imperative that we find a way for both beard and mask to work together.
But let’s face it, it’s not a great combination. Face masks tend to crush your beard, leaving it out of shape when it is eventually released back into the open air. They can also be very uncomfortable, forcing hairs to lie in the wrong direction, tickling your nose and lips – and God forbid you scratch!
Dampness can be an issue too – as breath and saliva get caught in the mask they bounce back to your facial hair, causing irritation.
So what can be done about it?
Believe it or not, some masks are better than others when it comes to wearing them with beards.
Look for a longer, pleated style, which ties at the back, rather than hooking over the ears. This allows you to tie at the back of the neck, allowing your beard more freedom to roam. Some brands also offer masks in a range of sizes – this is great, because the larger the mask the better in terms of beard accommodation.
There’s even an Etsy shop selling a beard-specific mask/bandana combo. Unhinged Labs makes beard-friendly face masks that fall right down the neck so your beard can hang naturally. With clear acrylic side pieces to prevent breath escaping, the masks are both practical and comfortable according to wearers – one of whom told the Strategist he found them “more breathable than a normal mask”.
Should I just give up the beard?
That’s a decision only you can make. But if you’re thinking about shaving it off purely on the basis of the impracticalities of mask wearing with a beard, why not consider one of the mask options mentioned above?
With a bit of work you could even fashion your own beard-friendly version; perhaps go a step further and make them to sell. In these trying times, it’s a business idea that could have legs.