Washington, DC - Facial hair has become a popular personal statement among Americans and the Navy publishes grooming standards for service members in Navy Uniform Regulations and also conducts studies on the safety science behind these standards.
According to the Navy Uniform Regulations, the face must be clean shaven unless a shaving waiver is authorized by the Commanding Officer or higher authority. Mustaches are authorized but shall be kept neatly and closely trimmed and the mustache cannot extend below the lip line of the upper lip, extend across the corners of the mouth or extend any further than 1/4 inch from the corners of the mouth. The length of an individual mustache hair fully extended shall not exceed approximately 1/2 inch. Handlebar mustaches, goatees, beards or eccentricities are not permitted.
Many Sailors have asked why these strict regulations on facial hair length apply, especially considering the Navy used to allow facial hair growth, including beards. In March 2016, the Naval Safety Center conducted a study at the request of the Director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division to consider how facial hair affects the proper fit of respirators worn to conduct many duties in the Navy.
The fit tests were performed on a number of volunteers with varying amounts of facial hair, including stubble, sideburns, and beards. The results showed that in general, the presence of beards and wide sideburns had a detrimental effect on the performance of the respirators. The study concluded that facial hair interferes with the seal and degrades respirator performance.
Based on the available research and long established negative effects of facial hair on face-seal efficiency of all current Navy breathing equipment, the Naval Safety Center concluded that deviations from the current prescribed facial hair grooming standards represent significant increased risk to the individual. Subsequent risk is also incurred by other crew members that may have to assist or rely upon these individuals.
The Navy takes the well-being of our Sailors seriously and strives to maintain the highest safety standards possible.