In this answer, it is noted that a woodworker with a beard should consider a positive airflow respirator due to the beard preventing a good seal. I have also seen (on metalworking forums) the suggestion of a full face respirator.

How much does having a beard affect the effectiveness of a "normal" respirator like this one?


  • 5
    The solution is clearly to grow your beard out long enough that it can act as a HEPA quality filter of your own.
    – user203
    May 7, 2015 at 20:02
  • I'm giving this one to rob for the most complete answer. But, I will surely buy one of the units that @coreyward recommended.
    – Jeremy
    May 8, 2015 at 21:43
  • This is actually the justification the Navy uses for their no beards rule: Can't get a good seal on a gas mask. With that said, I've had no trouble getting a seal when I use a respirator with a beard, it just has to be a bit tighter. To test, place your palms over the intakes and inhale. If the mask cavitates and stays that way when you hold your breath, there is a good seal.
    – Daniel B.
    May 9, 2015 at 16:38

4 Answers 4


A beard will cause leakage around a standard half-mask "passive" respirator. The respirator's effectiveness will vary depending on how thick your beard is and how tightly the respirator fits over your beard, but keep in mind that air will follow the path of least resistance. Your beard won't provide anywhere near the filtration of a P100 cartridge which removes 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns and larger. Some air will probably still pass through the filter, but if it's easier for the air to flow through your beard than through the respirator's filter, the respirator won't be very effective.

You should consider using a positive pressure respirator, also called a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR). This type of respirator pulls air in through a filter and exhausts the filtered air inside the respirator, producing continuous outward leakage.

trend airshield powered respirator


One disadvantage of the all-in-one units as pictured above is that they are heavy. Some other variations use a belt- or backpack-mounted motor.

Triton powered respirator


One additional advantage of powered full-face respirators over a typical full-face shield is that the continuously-circulating air prevents the face shield from fogging up.

  • 1
    Oooooo... I want one. That'll keep the dust out of your eyes too, I hate when dust gets in around my safety glasses.
    – ShemSeger
    May 7, 2015 at 18:47
  • I haven't seen these before in a woodworking setting, but now I am also jealous and want one. May 7, 2015 at 19:43
  • They aren't unreasonably priced, for what they give you. I've been tempted just for comfort.
    – keshlam
    May 7, 2015 at 20:45
  • The link on the bottom is one of the devices I was considering when I found myself working with woods that made me break out in a horrible rash. Sawdust would collect on the mask edge and exacerbate the rash where it sat. I wound up using chetcomarine.com/… and a tyvek suit. I really like it, but it doesn't alleviate the concern with the beard; I have to have it on pretty tight and the filters are heavy, so ... maybe I should look into one of these again. As an aside, I've never had issues with it fogging.
    – Daniel B.
    May 9, 2015 at 16:43
  • The "source" link for the Trend Airshield gives 404 :-( Feb 29, 2016 at 18:02

Standard test for respirator seal; put it on your face without the straps. Cover the inlets with your palms.. Suck in a breath and hold it. It should maintain the resulting partial vacuum for a reasonable time. If it doesn't, some air is sneaking in around the mask every time you breathe in; the better the filters the more leakage past them.

Better than nothing, but you aren't getting the protection you should.

Positive pressure does solve that problem; any leakage is clean to dirty rather than the other way around.

(my beard comes and goes; the moustache mostly stays.)


I use (and recommend) a product called Resp-o-Rator. It has a scuba-style mouthpiece that routes over your shoulders to two HEPA filters that are positioned behind your head. It's passive (no power required), lightweight, and inexpensive.


For what it's worth, I don't use the nose clip and haven't had any issues. If you can't breathe through your mouth without plugging your nose, though, it might be problematic.

  • 1
    just don't let your friends see you wearing it :)
    – Steven
    May 7, 2015 at 19:45
  • 1
    @Steven Yeah, combined with ear plugs and safety glasses I look like a superdork. The neighbor's kid always gives me funny looks. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
    – coreyward
    May 7, 2015 at 19:48
  • I am going to buy one of these for sure. Thanks!
    – Jeremy
    May 8, 2015 at 21:43
  • Oh man, the lady on the lawnmower breathing through just a filter with a mouthpiece. Priceless.
    – Daniel B.
    May 9, 2015 at 17:47

I use the 3m PAPR which has now been updated and looks to be way better than mine. I do like what feels like a cool breeze on my face when wearing it. The belt does not work for me, I had to buy tool belt suspenders, the face shield falls apart quite often when flipping up and down, I must disassemble it and re-assemble whenever this happens. I bought mine in 2008, I still can still get probably 8 hours on each battery, I have an extra which it did not come with. It was very expensive but I have occupational related asthma and it works to protect me. It is very awesome when using a router.

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