CDC chart breaks down what mustaches do and don't work with respirator masks

When it comes to protecting yourself from the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says go with smaller mustaches over full beards.

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Erin Carson
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A guide to facial hair and respirators

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The spread of the novel coronavirus, and the resulting illness, COVID-19, has spurred concern around the world, with many people looking for ways to stay healthy. On social media, one discussion that's cropped up has to do with facial hair and respirator masks. Concern about whether your Van Dyke is compatible with a respirator mask isn't a matter of fashion, but function. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered up an impressive illustrated chart with myriad ways someone could trim a beard, mustache or other facial hair that allows for a tight seal when you're wearing a respirator. The chart, which was released in 2017 but surfaced again amid the coronavirus outbreak, is complete with styles like Zappa, Villain and Zorro, along with old familiars like mutton chops, goatee and stubble. 

"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 face piece seal to achieve maximum protection," says the post, titled "To beard or not to beard? That's a good question!" 

All this isn't to say that facial hair is out -- styles like the soul patch, or any mustache (pencil, painter's brush or lampshade) are fine as long as they don't cross the mask's seal. 

With the coronavirus, face masks are gaining attention given that one means of transmission is respiratory droplets -- as in, when someone coughs or sneezes. Demand for masks has made them harder to find online. An artist in San Francisco has even designed masks that could be printed with a photo of the portion of your face obscured by the mask so they'd be compatible with Face ID. (She said she doesn't plan to produce them until the shortage ends.) 

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Since the illness was first reported to the World Health Organization on New Year's Eve, it's infected more than 80,000 people and claimed over 2,700 lives. It originated in the Hubei province of China but has since popped up in other countries like South Korea, Italy and Japan. The CDC has warned the US to brace for a possible outbreak.

Originally published Feb. 26.
Update, Feb. 27: Adds additional background on coronavirus. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.