The new face mask culture in 2021
The 2020 pandemic hit us all by surprise, no one expected that just within a few weeks your family members, friends and work colleagues would have to quarantine themselves and stay at home for months.
Our social lives were put on hold and even now whenever you go outside you have to cover your face with uncomfortable, tacky and irritating face masks. Almost feels like you are in a hospital, right? We can all agree that it’s a huge bummer. Almost straight out of the 2011 movie “Contagion”.
But despite all the misery that face masks have brought, there are some cool fashion solutions out there that make face masks a comfortable and stylish accessory that can still protect you from most of the airborne hazards.
Continue reading and find out more about what’s out there.
Wearing masks before the pandemic
Outside of virus outbreaks and hospitals, wearing a face masks has always been bad news for the people around you, if you wore a mask before the pandemic people would give you weird looks and assume that you are sick or carry some disease.
This negative perception of masks comes from the stereotypical view that they are generally used to prevent the spread of diseases. When you would see masks in movies they were either worn by people that treat contagious patients or try to survive some unrealistic virus outbreak scenario. So naturally when you saw a person wearing a face mask in the street you would want to stay as far away as possible. Now it’s a completely different story.
What has changed?
People are becoming more aware of the benefits of wearing a face mask even if there isn’t a full blown pandemic outside. Face masks don’t only help reduce the spread of infection, but can reduce pollen allergies and protect you from poisonous exhaust gases from cars. In countries such as Japan, Korea, China and India face masks have been used for decades in major cities to filter out air pollutants, which is why wearing a face mask is a long time norm there and a daily personal health accessory.
Here is a short list of reason why you should wear a mask in the city:
- Public transport is often packed and there will be at least one person with the seasonal flu or a virus. It’s the No.1 place where you will most likely get sick. Even with a two-layer cotton mask you can reduce the risk of infection by more than 60%.
- Toxic car exhaust gases in the city are something people rarely think about. You breathe them in every time a car passes by increasing the risk of you getting cancer later in life. Wearing a mask can prevent more than 90% of those toxins from entering your lungs.
- Dust particles can also affect your breathing, small bubbles in your lungs called alveoli are torn to shreds by the microscopic glass and rocks. Long exposure will mean that it will be hard to breath, exercise and you may even constantly feel tired. These effects can last your whole life, so it’s a good idea to wear a mask near construction sites and dusty areas.
Knowing your masks
When it comes to masks there are two important types to remember: Masks with bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE) and with particle filtration efficiency (PFE).
Masks with BFE
The cheapest and most popular mask is the IIR blue surgical mask. It belongs to the BFE mask type, this means that it has an anti-splash feature made to prevent other people from getting infected if you are sick and sneeze. Officially this type of mask doesn’t protect you from airborne diseases. If you want complete protection from biological agents then you need to have a large respirator that you see in biohazard labs.
Masks with PFE
The white FFP2/FFP3 masks that you probably have heard so much about belong to the PFE mask type, before the pandemic they were mainly used in the construction and sanitation industries. The purpose of these masks is to protect the wearer from harmful non-biological airborne particles and gases but they still have a higher chance of stopping viruses than the IIR surgical mask, again it’s not guarantee. What you probably don’t know is that fashion masks can also be classified as PFE masks, although they are less efficient, they can still protect you well from airborne particles.
Can I use a fashion mask and still be safe?
Simply put, it's complicated. According to WHO and governmental regulations fashion masks are non-medical, which means officially they can't be used in surgery or patient care, but for individuals outside a fashion mask can still be used to reduce the risk of infection. One good thing to know is that if you decide to get a fashion mask it should be at least 2 layers of material. The same goes for fashion masks that you want to use against air pollution and dust particles. Are they as good as FFP2 and FFP3? Well depends on what you buy.
What fashion mask should I choose?
There are several cool fashion mask options out there in different price ranges. You have probably heard of high-tech brands like Airinum or Cambridge masks, they are ones of the most expensive masks out there, but there are still some affordable options from famous brands such as MaskZ, Atom, NAKD, H&M, Adidas, Nike and others.
The most important thing to look at is the amount of layers that the mask has, as we mentioned previously a fashion mask must have at least 2 layers of material to be effective. There are even some awesome new waterproofing and anti-viral coating technologies that are being applied to these masks, which means that they can soon replace the ugly single-use masks.
The best part is that fashion masks are the only sustainable type of mask, if you don’t want to spend cash on pieces of cloth that you have to throw out every 6 hours, then a fashion mask is the best choice for you.