Another small sacrifice to the pandemic gods

I have to start teaching in-person on Tuesday, and I’ve laid in a supply of N94 and N95 masks in my office, which now leads to an unfortunate consequence: to fit well, the beard had to go. I shaved it off yesterday.

This is horrible. I have relied on that beard to hide half my homely face for decades now, and suddenly I’m naked and exposed. At least when I’m out and about I get to cover it with a big mask, which helps. But worse, I’m used to having a face covered with the downy soft fur of a kitten, a pleasant tactile sensation. This morning I woke up with a sandpaper face. Coarse sandpaper. Something I could use to strip corrosion off of rusted iron girders. I just shaved again (I have to do this every day now?) ten minutes ago and it just feels like I’ve switch to a finer grit.

How do you clean-shaven men bear it? When did our culture decide this barbarous custom of shearing off our soothing soft pelts was de rigueur? I’m feeling oppressed already. This is sex based discrimination! I have to carry the burden of artificial depilation now, just to keep this stupid virus away from my respiratory system.

Also, I’d forgotten what my chin looked like. I really didn’t miss it.


  1. Matt G says

    I’m sure everyone here is aware of the strong correlation between male Herman Cain Award nominees/winners and goatees. It MUST be the facial hair; couldn’t possibly be the FU attitude….

  2. Bruce says

    PZ, once you’ve tried each of your mask versions clean shaven, tell us which mask type you like best, and why, and give a photo of you wearing that mask. Please.

  3. Waydude says

    Ugh, yeah I have to shave for work the rationale being that our emergency oxygen masks won’t seal properly but I’ve learned over the years that 1. that’s bullshit 2. It still works fine and 3. It doesn’t really seal with a clean shaven face anyway
    So grow yer beard! And then wear one of those garbage bag face masks that look utterly ridiculous but at least they’re masking up

  4. says

    I’d forgotten what my chin looked like.

    Just one chin? One of my classmates grew a luxuriant beard during his years in grad school. As he approached graduation, he decided to shave it off. He discovered that (in addition to earning his doctorate) he had acquired a couple of additional chins. Also, his young daughters cried when they saw him.

  5. says

    Even an N95 mask doesn’t seal well unless you have achieved baby’s bum smoothness on your face which means really close shaving.. I worked in a lab where airborne dust and fumes were a problem and I had a full beard. I solved the problem by wearing a full face mask with a blown air supply. Air was delivered via a belt mounted rechargeable battery driven pump with two combination HEPA and charcoal filters. The positive pressure kept dust and other nasties out and the fresh air flow kept my face cool. If you can’t get one of those to scare your students with ask the local fire department if you can borrow a hazmat suit. That’ll really scare them.

  6. says

    I’ve worked jobs for years that require full face respirators. I’m glad my facial hair grows slow so I only have to shave once a week. Beats having scarred lungs.

  7. says


    It could be worse. You could be responsible for monitoring pseudofolliculitis barbae-based shaving waivers on military personnel in a (perceived-to-be) active chemical warfare threat location.

  8. billseymour says

    Like PZ, I got myself an N95; and I had to shave off my whiskers for it to do much of anything at all.  (It’s as much about protecting others from me as it is about protecting me from them.)  I now look more like a red-blooded American boy than a Cuban revolutionary.  I’m not sure which I prefer.

    The good news is that I’m an old fart and haven’t been to a barber shop for over two years now; so I guess I can go for the ageing hippie look.  I don’t think that’s horrible.

  9. tacitus says

    It is odd how it is all about what you’re used to. I’ve always been clean shaven. Not once in 40 years have I grown facial hair for more than three days in a row. By that time it’s so uncomfortable that I have to shave it off.

  10. Artor says

    I was having trouble with toxic sawdust in my wood shop, so I got a helmet with a full face shield, an elastic curtain that fits to my neck, and fan-blown HEPA filters under the helmet. It’s comfortable to wear and makes me look like an extra from the Andromeda Strain.

  11. aronymous says

    Maybe you can make a ‘beard toupee’ to wear over your mask, from your former beard.
    I think I’ll start a business. Watch for me on Shark Tank. Ka-ching!

  12. says

    I’m feeling oppressed already. This is sex based discrimination!

    No, it’s not.

    The common statistic is that hirsutism affects 5% to 10% of women; some estimates go as high as 14%. There is an ethnic/”racial” component too.

    Hey, maybe you could look into some chemo? WORKS GREAT.
    (j/k! DO NOT RECOMMEND.)

  13. says

    Remember May 2020 and the two Canadian doctors (brothers) who chose to shave and help patients, putting that above sikhism’s rules on facial hair? They said they did it in part because the existing protective gear didn’t fit, that saving lives came first.

    I wore facial hair in Canada 20+ years ago, but only for winter. In -30℃ or worse temperatures, it was a boon.

    When I moved to South Korea, I wore a minimal goatee so no one would assume I was US military. They might wrongly assume my nationality, but GIs are required to be clean shaven. It was unconfrontational self-defence.

  14. monkeysea says

    Face-hair is a Casualty of War.
    Alexander had all his conquerors clean shaven
    so that their beards couldn’t be used as grab-handles
    in slicing their throats & other delicate, elusive fleshy places.
    It became a trend, a style, an industry. Winners have skin in the game.

    When Omicron’s publicity department really got going,
    I finally shaved, though I kept a minimal patch of chin-hair
    to fit under my newly-acquired large-size, silicone-gasketed N95s.

    I’m out in the boonies, out in the sticks,
    retired & don’t get out anywhere much
    & I miss my cute’n’useless light weight cloth masks,
    but the hills are full of west coast crazy secessionists
    & a few extra-organic old flower-haired dis-illusionists.
    And I don’t like this new-fangled shaving requirement.
    But if I didn’t submit, the cats would be out of luck.

  15. dorght says

    I have slow growing facial hair. Ever time I think maybe I’ll grow a beard my resolve cracks while still in the scratchy irritant stage. Last time I as bearded was in college. Used to laugh about the police car that drove past me repeatedly as I walked from the bus depot through the upscale neighborhoods for a weekend at home. Scruffy beard, backpack and laundry bag thrown over my shoulder. I don’t laugh anymore because if I had been a different skin color…

  16. unclefrogy says

    I used to use a really great n95 mask that would cover my beard really well. i used it in the wood shop I would use them today but the company was acquired by 3m and they deleted that product it must have been competition for one of their own masks. .they do make one similar kind of but I can not find any one who sells it. I can use a filter cartridge I just have to trim a place in the beard for rubber to seal. against. Works perfect nothing gets in that way though they exhale past a unfiltered flapper valve.
    I have worn that while out and about but not since my 3 shots.

  17. Matt G says

    I grew my first beard at 18, had no problems, and have had a few beards (rarely) over the decades. The last time I let it grow, the itchy phase (days 7-14 for me) never ended. Solution: no more beards.

  18. says

    Same here, Matt. Had a beard in my twenties, but last time I tried it I found it too itchy as well. So now I just do the bi-weekly or so trim to avoid having to wear a beard net at work.

  19. birgerjohansson says

    Artor @ 15 has found a solution that might work for PZ and others that must teach in person.
    Regarding idiot administrators; faculty should protest by wearing old-fashioned pre-WWII diving suits, pumping air from outside.

  20. billseymour says

    The N95 that I got was a 3M one.  They have a good supply at a Home Depot near me.

    Are there other masks that would be better?

  21. StonedRanger says

    The last time I shaved was in 1996 for my parents 50th anniversary. If my mask doesnt work, Im not going out. Im not shaving. Up yours Covid.

  22. John Morales says

    I depilate my face as needed, but it’s a hassle I put off as long as I can.

    Such a hassle I can’t envision the hassle involved in shaving one’s head, as well.

    (Also, I hear these days another area might be shaved, even worse hassle IMO)

  23. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Go for the “Zorro” style, but make sure to practice your sword skills so that you can carve a “P” as well as a “Z” in those who deserve it.

  24. Rich Woods says

    After Thirty Years Of Beard I have no intention of finding out what I look like underneath, just as I have no intention of breaking my Forty-Two Years Of No Barbershop.

    My dad shaved every single morning for 55 years before a round of chemo removed the requirement from him for several months. He decided he would let his beard grow out once the chemo was over, just to see how it looked and felt. To his great disappointment, while the hair on his head grew back as thick as before his facial hair refused to grow any longer than an eighth of an inch, so he picked up his razor once more.

  25. says

    I have tested the seal of my shop mask and I have concluded that with my style and size of beard it should be fine. That is about wood- and metal-dust though, in an environment with constant active dust collection. To protect me against a virus I would probably need a much better seal. I am not sure that it is necessary for me since I have contact with other people only during shopping once a fortnight and for a short time. I hope vaccines and simple facemasks are enough to protect me and my parents from the worst of the worst.

  26. fishy says

    What’s the problem? It’s a chance to have fun. You get to hide it while it grows. I suggest a long mustache with a soul patch.
    You should also learn to play guitar.

  27. birgerjohansson says

    From the perspective of Christians (who know atheists are evil) you have transitioned from Hugo Drax looks to Stavro Blofeld looks.

  28. jimfoley says

    Someone at the CDC must have had a lot of fun coming up with that list. Shame they missed the monkey tail beard.

  29. says

    jimfoley ($36) –

    More like they were being careful, given the disease’s point of origin. It says “wet noodle” instead of two that have racist overtones (i.e. the Flash Gordon and Sax Rohmer villains) though “catfish” might have been a better term. And there’s total avoidance of any South and Central Asian references when mentioning beards.

  30. birgerjohansson says

    Once the pandemic is over, I expect the cost for the microclimate helmets to plummet. Then you can invest into helmets when interacting with children/nephews/nieces that have stomach flu and other ultra-transmissable diseases. Or simply wear the helmets during ordinary cold season at school/university.

  31. birgerjohansson says

    Intransitive @ 37
    I rather liked the late Max von Sydow (as the villain with the obviously racist name) – he gave some style to an otherwise forgettable film. BTW despite the pandemic he passed away from ordinary old age.

  32. Jazzlet says

    birgerjohansson @39
    Dr. John Campbell is an ivermectin promoter, I’d take anything they say with a bucket full of salt.

  33. WhiteHatLurker says

    Agree that Campbell is not a very reliable source – I’ve been put off by his lack of understanding of statistics.

    However, I was signing in to claim to being a shaving skeptic. Where’s the new pics?

    Also, stubble works to help keep the mask in place.

  34. rietpluim says

    Heh. My best friend’s mother (a very respectable elderly lady) has a saying: men with beards have something to hide.

    For me, after shaving my skin always hurts and it takes a couple of hours to wear off, so wearing a mask is very unpleasant.