Before the onslaught of COVID-19, the term “face mask” was comfortably used to identify half-face or full-face face coverings and masks of different styles — from moisturizing and skin toning options, Halloween costumery, to NIOSH certified and medical-grade protections covering the nose and mouth. The pandemic has changed everything - the term face mask has undergone its own defining face lift. As the world slowly emerges from our shared pandemic haze, we’re reflecting on the evolution of the term and why now is the best time to clarify key differences.
Face Mask - Beauty
Face masks in the beauty industry refer to skin care treatments designed to improve the overall appearance of one’s skin while also providing a form of relaxation therapy. Face masks help hydrate skin, remove excess oils, improve the appearance of pores, and extract skin impurities. Skin care aficionados rave about the results of face mask treatments which result in firm, glowing, and hydrated complexions. To achieve desired results, the industry avails a plethora of sheet-style or gel options rich in antioxidants.
Face Mask - Halloween
Freddy Krueger, Darth Vader and Jason Voorhees are recognizable characters whose images have been plucked from silver screen blockbusters and transformed into plastic and silicon models worn by costumed children and adults alike. Annually brought to life outside our front door, favorite movie characters are brought to life by trick-or-treaters blanketing our neighborhoods. Veiling their everyday identities, Halloween face masks add a level of fright (or delight!) to those in their orbit. Safe for occasional wear, we’re confident that none have been proven to protect against COVID-19.
Broad plastic barriers frequently used by dentists and medical professionals, face shields safeguard wearers from patient “splatter.” They serve a simple purpose—protect the wearers from rogue spray of any type. Ineffective at protecting from COVID-19 contraction, face shields are predominantly used as an added layer of protection by front line workers and those in the medical industry.
Although a generic term, face coverings and veils define flowy layers of material used to obscure faces, hair, and in some cases, entire bodies across Middle Eastern and Indian nations. Fabric coverings, commonly referred to as a ghoonghat, hijab, burqa or niqab, are so named based upon how they are worn as well as the demographic and culture of the individuals wearing them. The coverings are worn for reasons of modesty, spirituality and cultural identity.
Face Mask Worn During COVID-19
When the pandemic hit, many were left scrambling to obtain appropriate face coverings and masks to enclose the nose and mouth. Store shelves were emptied, sewing machines emerged from attics, and YouTube videos highlighting how to create DIY face coverings and masks gained significant views. From no-sew options made from socks or old t-shirts to gem-encrusted non-medical face masks designed by celebrities, face masks used during the pandemic ran the gamut. In our rush to protect ourselves, the environment took a hit as our landfills and water sources are now littered with piles of disposable, non-recyclable masks.
Respirator masks are protective face masks on steroids that fit tightly to the face and provide filtration efficiency, protecting wearers against exposure to pathogenic and airborne particulates across various industries and daily life. They provide higher levels of protection against viruses, bacteria, wildfire smoke, and toxic fumes, and are popular with emergency preppers, survivalists, factory workers, contractors, miners and travelers. One example of a elastomeric respirator mask is the OCTO® Respirator Mask (ORM) that kills viruses on contact. OCTO® Respirator Mask (ORM) has a shelf life of 10 years and can be used, easily sanitized, and reused multiple times—thus denting the negative environmental impact caused by other types of easily discarded options. The OCTO® Respirator Mask (ORM) can also be safely stored and used whenever needed to protect wearers from numerous airborne particulates and pathogens-- a capability not available in fabric options.
Edible mask (Really? Yes, really).
Goku No Kimochi The Labo
Just when you thought the world was taking masking seriously, onto the scene arrives a company capitalizing on trend with an unexpected yet fascinating approach. Bread manufacturer Melon de Melon's almond powder melon bread was used to create the world’s first-ever edible face mask that, according to research, provides protection as well as immediate access to a snack-- nibbled from the inside. Who knew that humans needed a two-for-one protect and snack combination?
In a world riddled by a contagious respiratory pathogen, wildfire smoke and other pollutants, the very definition of what is being used to protect our health is one search term away from absolute confusion. Do you need a “face mask,” a “respirator mask,” a “face shield?” The answer is contextual. Not long ago, face masks were defined by their purpose rather than standard of protection. But COVID-19 has literally jinxed the term “face mask” to the point where any item construed as one must be more thoroughly researched prior to purchase. Are you planning a costume party? Are you looking for a basic cloth face covering or mask to limit your potential for getting COVID? Or, are you headed overseas with the Peace Corps and need a respirator mask to protect you from foreign particulates?