By: Wendy Lee, WPICC of Asian Fusion Weddings
Face masks are still a relatively new item on the market place for general consumers. With my health care knowledge, I’m sharing some insights about how and what to look for in a quality face mask.
“These masks are so wonderful that I have purchased two of them! I loved that Wendy took the time to ensure measurements were accurate as we did it together over Face-time.” Tracey Manailescu, WPIC Co-founder
Not many people in the wedding world realize that there is more to my work career history than being a wedding planner. During the SARs epidemic, I was working at Ground Zero as a medical social worker for the Intensive Care Unit, Coronary Care Unit and the respiratory/cardiac units. It is from this experience, that I have gained invaluable knowledge about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and want to share some insight given that the CDC and Health Canada have now recommended that the general public wear face masks. `Wendy Lee of Asian Fusion Weddings
Function of a Mask
Many of us have heard about the “N95 mask”, but how many of us truly understands what that refers to? An N95 mask means that it is capable of filtering out 95% of the particulates in the air when the wearer has both an appropriately sized mask, and wears it properly. Just simply wearing a N95 mask doesn’t provide you with optimal protection because you must actually be fitted for the correct size. There is no such thing as one size fits all. The other important factor is to wear one properly. Health care professionals are not only fitted for their N95 masks (some every two years), they are provided instruction on how to put them on and how to take them off.
Masks in a health care setting provides protection to the health care provider. At times, they need an N95 because they are in environments with a high concentrations of germs, viruses and/or bacteria. Health care providers also handle patients with COVID and other diseases up close and personal. Normally, the general public isn’t at the same level of risk as a health care professional. This is why cloth masks are recommended by the CDC and Health Canada and not a N95.
When the general public is wearing a mask, the intent is to keep your germs to yourself and NOT to spread it to someone else in the immediate vicinity. You will be able to find many illustrations of a two men standing close together with 4 different scenarios. Scenario A – both men don’t wear pants and one man pees. Both men can get wet. Scenario B – Man peeing doesn’t wear pants, but the other does. The one wearing the pants still gets somewhat wet. Scenario C – Man peeing wears pants and other one doesn’t. Man peeing gets wet and other man might not get too wet. Scenario D – both men wear pants. Man who pees gets his pants wet and the other man in pants is not likely to have any moisture on his legs. Hopefully this illustration makes sense. Essentially, if both people wear masks, then the one that doesn’t have any COVID is not as likely to get sick.
Fit of a Mask
If the N95 mask is the gold standard for fit, then you can look for a mask that has similar properties. Have you ever seen an N95 mask with straps around the ears? Likely not, because it doesn’t provide enough support. Health care professionals don’t want the mask moving around their faces while they have one on. This is why the made to measure masks that I have designed and created have adjustable elastic straps around the head and the neck; just like the ones on an N95 mask.
Another reason not to have ear straps is that many of my nursing friends have told me that their ears get sore or end up with open areas or broken skin after long periods of these elastics around them. This was something that I considered carefully before making non-medical cloth masks for the general public.
In order to keep the nose area of the mask secure to your face as much as possible, there needs to be a wire in the mask. The wire helps contour the fabric around the nose and cheek areas of your face. The wire must be both pliable and sturdy at the same time. This is how the shaping of our masks are achieved. When you are able to achieve this fit, then you shouldn’t experience much fogging (if at all) should you need to wear glasses.
A better seal against the face helps keep your own droplets within your own mask. If there is gaping around the mask and your face, this means that there is an opportunity for your droplets to escape from your mask. Your mask provides a physical barrier, so find a mask that provides a good “seal”. Essentially what you are trying to achieve is when wearing a mask, is to force the air exchange through the multiple layers of fabric when you inhale and exhale, rather than via the gaps.
Feel of a Mask
Wearing a comfortable mask is a must. You are less likely going to fiddle around with it when you have it on. If it is expected that the outside of your mask is going to get dirty or “contaminated”, then obviously touching it as little as possible when it is on your face is important. Therefore the choice of fabric that a mask is made out of becomes relevant to you as the consumer.
My masks are all lined with 100% Egyptian cotton. We already know that when it comes to bedsheets, Egyptian cotton is universally known as the best. So it only makes sense that you would want something luxuriously soft against your face as well. If you are comfortable, you are less likely going to keep touching it to shift it around your face.
Your masks should provide full coverage over your nose and mouth. It is essential that you cover both. You may need to purchase several different masks on to determine which fits you the best and which ones feel most comfortable on. However, if you opt to go for a custom fit, or made to measure – then there is generally no comfort issues and the first one should really “fit like a glove” on your face.
I believe that the next fashion trend will be face masks. They will become a creative way of self-expression just like clothing. However, you need to be mindful that masks need to be frequently washed. Therefore, if you pick up a mask and aren’t sure that you can thoroughly wash it to keep it clean – you might want to rethink your selection.
Your mouth carries a lot of bacteria. Should you sneeze and cough into your mask when you have it on, you will most definitely want to wash it well. It is recommended that you wash your mask after each time you wear it. Therefore, select something that you can wash at home versus something that needs to be dry cleaned after each use.
When you do select the look of your masks, you may need to be mindful of the environment that you will be wearing it in. If you are outdoors, then a black mask might be a bit warmer than a white one because black attracts the sun. If you work with young children, then scary or non-child friendly prints may not be recommended. If you work in a very conservative environment, then loud prints may not be appropriate. Being conscious of who else is viewing your mask when you wear it; especially if the workplace environment is sensitive.
Financial Investment and Costs
We should all be prepared that wearing a mask isn’t going to go away any time soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if most places encouraged masks for the next year, or longer until a proven vaccine is available.
This means that if you decide to use disposable masks, you will literally be “throwing” out more money in the end compared to purchasing a good cloth reusable mask. Overall, I personally feel that if you have a good quality reusable mask, and take care of it properly, you’ll likely make it through this pandemic with the same mask(s).
We also need to remember that there is a cost of disposable masks to the environment. Our waters and landfills are already polluted enough with plastics and other materials that don’t easily biodegrade. Disposable masks only add to the environmental problems we already need to solve.
Therefore, I would recommend selecting something that is custom made, made to measure. The overall fit is better. It is more comfortable to wear. You can select your own prints and patterns and the financial investment is quite reasonable for the amount of time you will be using it.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Wendy@AsianFusionWeddings.com or find me on Facebook as I am offering to help fit one face at a time, with one of my custom made, made to measure reusable non-medical cloth masks.