Face masks are currently the talk of everyone across the world. The global spread of COVID-19 has created a multitude of issues everywhere, affecting people and societies in terms of health and socio-economic stability.
The recommendation and the requirement, in some cases, to wear a suitable face mask especially indoors, has been adopted by a high number of countries across the world in their race to stop the spread of this high risk airborne virus.
Wearing a face mask in public is something new for our so called western culture. No wonder that the governments’ request for people to wear this type of coverings, has created a lot of discussions with some supporting this decision whilst others argue against the requirement of wearing it.
Why should you wear a face mask
The recommendation of wearing a mask during this pandemic season and possibly in the future is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO). Evidence was gathered from multiple studies across the world. It was concluded that the wearing of face masks helps reduce the spread of airborne viruses by preventing larger droplets from travelling a longer distance.
Wearing a face mask when having an airborne virus like the flu for example, is something common in many Asiatic countries. In Japan, for example, people are used to wearing face masks, especially during the cold season. They are used for the prevention of catching a cold as much as to avoid infecting others by passing a virus into the air.
The way the face masks help lower the spread of illnesses is by protecting the people around an infected person (the expelled droplets remain in the mask of the individual wearing it).
To prevent spreading a virus, face masks should be suitable for the purpose (WHO recommends wearing a FFP2/N95 type of cover). Users should wear the masks on their mouth and nose and dispose of them carefully.
People that have had the COVID vaccine are advised by vaccine manufacturers and doctors to continue using the face mask wherever is needed.
At the beginning of the pandemic wave, the market offer on face masks was scarce however, now there are a variety of face masks that can be found both in physical shops and online shops.
Depending on the material used to create them, face masks are:
- Disposable (surgical face masks)
Some masks have integrated filters while some will need added filters that can be found in the shops or online.
There are also masks with valves. They work by filtering the air breathed in but don’t stop the air breathed out, thus increasing the risk of spreading diseases.
Disposable face masks
These are masks made of breathable non-woven fabric and were made to be used when in contact with patients, to prevent infection. They are disposable, meaning they are for single use and should be thrown away immediately after the exposure.
These masks are recommended to use during the COVID-19 pandemic period with the advice to carefully dispose of.
The advantages of using a disposable face mask are:
- FFP2 grade
- Filter bacteria, microbes (outside/inside the mask)
- Doesn’t slip from the face
- No need to wash
The disadvantages of disposable masks:
- Can be costly over a longer period of time
- They create non-recyclable waste
- If disposed of incorrectly, can spread disease
How to dispose of a face mask
After wearing a disposable face mask, care should be given on how the mask is taken off, then disposed of in the bin without touching any other surfaces. This should be followed by washing the hands or disinfecting as needed.
It is preferable to place disposable masks in paper/tissue before throwing it in an outdoor bin.
Reusable face masks
These face masks are made from different fabric materials like cotton, polyester, satin, suede etc. They are made to last for a longer period of time and resist multiple washes. If they are done correctly with 2-3 layers, they are proven to work against the spread out of the virus.
The advantages of reusable face masks:
- Choice of materials
- Wide choice of patterns and colours
- Less costly than the disposable ones
- Can be shaped in different forms to fit any face
- Can be made at home
- Old items of cloth can be recycled
- Reduce waste
- Can be washed and reused
The disadvantages of reusable face masks:
- The risk of contaminating other surfaces/ clothes worn in the house
- Tendency to forget about washing for the next use
- Thin materials used reducing the protective level
Fashion face masks
The reusable face mask manufacturers have also started the trend of fashion face masks. These are more glamorous cloth masks made with all kinds of trendy fabrics like velvet, silk, satin, damask cloth. These masks can have different drawings and designs with 3D inserts (flowers, hearts, butterflies), with colorful beads, pearls, sequins or crystals.
They are great for people that want to stand out, however care and thought should be given into how these are made, if they comply with the FFP2 grade recommended by WHO.
Fashion masks can be used to cover a disposable mask for the safety of its owner and people around.
The best face masks
Packs of facemasks can be found anywhere in shops, pharmacies, at work and online. Before deciding which masks are the best people should take into consideration the health experts’ advice.
The best face masks are the ones that offer a good, breathable coverage and offer protection to passers by.
A moulded disposable face mask with FFP2 grade as sold by UK Facemask is a great choice to use on public transport when shopping or going to the hairdresser.
In terms of usage it is recommended to have at hand both disposable and cloth face masks that can be interchanged as needed.
The reusable face masks are better for a longer use during working hours in an office, school, deposit or a shop.
Who should wear a face mask?
Under the actual pandemic wave everyone should wear a mask when being in enclosed spaces or when the social distance can’t be observed.
It is easy to think that if you don’t display any symptoms, there is no point in wearing a mask. What it is currently unknown is how some people are perfectly fine but they carry the COVID-19 virus.
Wearing a face mask helps protect the vulnerable ones like older people, children and people with underlying health conditions (which by the way, are not visible).