The Best Mask Materials for 2021
The coronavirus and the world’s response continue to evolve, so we thought it would be a great time to re-visit the question: what is the best face mask material? Well, that depends upon what you need.
The use and disposal of masks with plastic components means that these physical reminders of the coronavirus will remain in the environment for up to 450 years! This crisis has inspired many people to become more focused on sustainability. It’s certainly something the maskSAFE Family prioritizes.
Sustainable face mask materials may include organic cottons, upcycled fabric remnants, and can even be mixed with anti-microbial and anti-bacterial fibers. Check out this great list of fashionable and sustainable masks made from a variety of materials.
The face covering has become an essential item of clothing, and just like you wear different shoes for different occasions, the same is now true of masks. The best masks for vigorous activities like running and cycling are very similar to other items in the gym bag. Look for lightweight moisture-wicking fabrics. The moisture-wicking can reduce face irritation from sweat, and it can also keep the weight of sweat and breath from making the material sag. Saggy openings let virus particles sneak in. An ideal exercise mask also has stretch, so look for spandex or elastane in the materials description.
When we think of the way a mask filters out infectious droplets, we’re really looking at how masks are involved in two different processes. “Source protection” is the process by which a mask holds in infectious particles, stopping the spread from an infected person to a new carrier. “Filtration” is what the CDC refers to as the process of a mask protecting the wearer from incoming infected particles.
The CDC’s most recent bulletin showed that multi-layer cloth masks are incredibly effective at source protection:
“Upwards of 80% blockage has been achieved in human experiments that have measured blocking of all respiratory droplets, with cloth masks in some studies performing on par with surgical masks as barriers for source control.”
The CDC also recommends multi-layer cloth masks to aid in filtration, but they make note of some different materials that can serve specific purposes. Polypropylene masks “may enhance filtering effectiveness by generating a form of static electricity that enhances capture of charged particles.” While silk masks “reduce fabric wetting and thus maintain breathability and comfort.”
Masks are more effective at source protection than at filtration, but with multi-layer cloth masks still blocking up to 50% of the smallest particles, they can play a big part in stopping the spread.
If you have sensitive skin, then every product or material that touches your face has the power to cause redness or worse. Maskne, bumps, irritation… many people have had to work through barriers to mask-wearing. If you have sensitive skin, listen to what celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar told PopSugar:
"In terms of fabric types, for sensitive or easily irritated skin, I recommend 100 percent cotton or silk masks. Silk is cooling, naturally hypoallergenic, and tends to absorb less moisture than most materials, so it won't dry out your skin or cause further irritation. Cotton is also breathable, lightweight, and won't cause any irritation."
If you are assembling a multi-layer mask, these fabrics should be considered for the inner-most layer.
Yes, there are as many mask options as there are things you can do while wearing a mask, but some simple things remain true: the most effective cloth masks are made of two to three layers of tightly-woven, breathable fabric. Wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping distance from those outside of your household – these are the best consistent practices for keeping our community safe.
We also recommend making a consistent use of a maskSAFE face mask holder. They’re sleek, they’re chic, and they’re a useful tool for preventing cross-contamination and for prolonging the life of a mask. You never forget to leave the house with money, because you have a wallet; you’ll never forget your mask at home either when you get maskSAFE!
-the maskSAFE Family