Any sort of facial hair, including beards, goatees and mustaches can increase the chance of mask leak.
For CPAP therapy to work properly, a good seal is required with the airways. The reason this seal is required is to contain the higher pressure within the airways. A bad seal allows this pressure to escape, and is ineffective in treating the sleep apnoea.
Some CPAP machines will attempt to maintain this pressure by increasing the airflow. However, this can result in quite the gale of wind escaping from the mask.
Fitting a CPAP mask to someone with facial hair can be a nightmare for sleep technicians. To create a good seal of the CPAP mask to the airways, it is important to effectively block any of the gaps the air might escape, It is obvious how facial hair can make this difficult, by creating thousand of ‘little gaps’ between the hairs where air can escape.
Although there are some things that you can do to try to increase the chance of those with facial hair being successful on CPAP, sometimes the CPAP user has to be willing to compromise.
1. Try a Nasal Pillow Mask
This might seem like an obvious fix, but it is often overlooked by those stuck on trying to get a full face mask to seal.
As they require minimal skin contact with the rest of your face, nasal pillow masks effectively ‘bypass’ the problems with facial hair (except bushy nasal hair of course) as it seals on the nares of the nose.
They have fewer incidences of leak, and have the highest sucess rates.
2. Trim it a bit
If the nasal pillow doesn’t work for you, or you are unable to tolerate the nasal pillow style mask, trimming the troublesome facial hair can sometimes work.
This technique is most useful for facial hair that isn’t as thick.
for Nasal Masks
An effective seal can be obtained with a nasal mask if you trim the mostache hair just below the nose.
For this to work, the nasal mask should sit just below the nose.
We have found that this works best for ‘snug-fitting’ nasal masks. The best ones we have found for this option include the F&P Eson and the Respironics Wisp and Pico masks.
If the current nasal cushion fits quite loosely around your nose, consider trying the next size down or a snugger fitting nasal mask after trimming the hair just below your nose.
for Full Face Masks
To trim facial hair to allow Full Face Masks to work, you have to consider where the mask will fit.
Most Full Face masks fit in the crevice between the bottom lip and the chin. This is the area that may need to be trimmed.
Another thing to try, is to trim down the thickness of the beard. As aforementioned, the thickness of the facial hair plays a major part in the success of these solutions.
Consider trying to reduce the thickness of your beard. A beard trimmer, might do the trick.
3. Try CPAP Mask Liners
Using a mask liner can help to ‘fill’ those nasty little gaps and crevices that let the air escape. Unfortunately Selley’s ‘no more gaps’ isn’t going to work for CPAP.
The best ones we have found are Remzzzs liners.
Make sure you buy the correct size mask liner for you mask.
Place them over the mask cushion when you put the mask on. It should help reduce leak. Check to see if the mask is fitting better by checking the mask leak in the morning.
If there is an improvement. Great!
4. Oral CPAP Mask
There aren’t many oral masks on the market. They simply aren’t a popular choice for most people, as it involves blocking off the nose (so CPAP pressure doesn’t escape) and fixing a mask in/on the mouth. Additionally, excessive drooling is an initial side effect. However, due to the way the mask seals, it largely cirumvents the issue of bad mask leak due to facial hair.
The oral CPAP mask to use is the F&P Oracle HC452.
5. Shave It!
If none of these things have worked. Your only real option is to shave the beard, or significantly trim it.
You can use these Kleenex man-size tissues to wipe away the tears as your are shaving off your beard. I realise this can be quite upsetting for some.
Although, some people get creative, and ‘outline’ the beard where the mask cushion sits and trim their beard accordingly to suit. Unfortunately this isn’t an option for some.
Hey. It’s hard. But it needs to be done.
Unfortunately, the choice might be your health or your beard.
We know which one you SHOULD choose.