Shaving Waivers in the United States Air Force and Their Impact on Promotions of Black/African-American Members

Simon Ritchie, Jisuk Park, Jonathan Banta, Casey Bowen, Sean McCarthy, Emily Wong, Romain Garnier, Thomas Beachkofsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Regulations of the United States Air Force (USAF) prohibit male members from growing beards. Shaving waivers can be issued to airmen who are not able to shave due to various medical conditions such as pseudofolliculitis barbae, a condition that predominantly affects Blacks/African-Americans. Beard growth has been anecdotally associated with a negative impact on career progression. This study sought to establish if shaving waivers are associated with delays in promotion and, if present, if this association leads to racial bias. Materials and Methods: An online survey that collected information relating to shaving waivers and demographic data was emailed to all air force male members at 12 randomly selected air force bases. Generalized linear models were conducted to test the waiver group difference in promotion time controlling for rank and the covariates of race/ethnicity, level of education, professional military education completion, and disciplinary action. Results: A total of 51,703 survey invitations were emailed to members, and 10,383 complete responses were received (20.08% response rate). The demographics of the study cohort closely matched that of the USAF. Shaving waivers were associated with a longer time to promotion (P=.0003). The interaction between race and waiver status was not significant, indicating that shaving waivers are associated with a similarly longer time to promotion in individuals of all races. However, 64.18% of those in the waiver group were Black/African-American despite only being 12.85% of the study cohort. Conclusions: This study found an association between shaving waivers and delayed promotions. The majority of the waiver group was Black/African-American, which may lead to a racially discriminatory effect of the male grooming standards of the USAF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e242-e247
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Shaving Waivers in the United States Air Force and Their Impact on Promotions of Black/African-American Members'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this