VANCOUVER -- Those working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic may be slightly more protected if they have less facial hair, according to a new study out of B.C.'s Simon Fraser University.

The study, commissioned by Corrections Canada, suggests certain styles of masks are a bit more effective for clean-shaven workers than their bearded colleagues.

But it also reveals bearded or not, the most important factor regarding mask efficiency and safety during the pandemic is finding the proper fit.

Current regulations in Canada require those getting fit-tested or wearing a respirator to be clean-shaven. But the study finds that those standards might not always be necessary.

It analyzed nine different face coverings and respirators including N-95 masks on men who were non-bearded, semi-bearded and fully bearded.

"Our study showed that the 'pass rate' for many masks was not affected by facial hair," said Sherri Ferguson, director of SFU's environmental medicine and physiology unit, in a news release.

"So from a human rights standpoint, some people who do not shave for cultural reasons may still pass a fit test and be able to have protection."

 According to the study, the respirator-style masks that offer full face coverage and a self-contained breathing apparatus were among the most effective in protecting workers.

“If you can't get a proper seal on a mask, there's not much point to using one,” said Ferguson, who carried out earlier tests on pilots with beards and mask use for Air Canada.

“The N95 mask is designed to filter 95 per cent of particulate when worn properly but we found that less than half the participants achieved a proper seal in order to attain that percentage of filtration."

Ferguson suggests both bearded and non-bearded frontline workers do a seal test every time they put on a mask, especially when using an N95 to ensure it fits properly.