Updated: Aug 12, 2020
It's compulsory to wear a face mask on public transport, shops and other enclosed spaces
More people have started using public transport, going to shops and other public places, and the government has made it compulsory to wear a face mask while doing all these things. (Young children, anyone with breathing difficulties and disabled people are exempt from this for obvious reasons.)
We're happy to be able to social-distance-meet friends and spend more time outside, but we should all be cautious about preventing a second or third wave. Luckily, in July the government released a set of detailed guidelines on how to help stop the spread of coronavirus when you’re outside of the house.
Of course, it's important to recognise that JUST wearing a face mask does not protect you from catching Covid 19. Face coverings do not trump social distancing measures when it comes to preventing the spread of the virus, either, so make sure you keep two metres apart from other people at all costs. Frequent and thorough hand washing is also still essential.
As more high street stores start creating fashionable iterations and a trend inevitably starts to take hold, the question on everyone's lips is: are all masks made equal? And, more importantly, are they safe?
What does a face mask do, exactly?
Outside of a medical environment, face coverings are not primarily there to protect the wearer. Instead, they're worn to prevent you inadvertently transmitting the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.
In short, a face mask could stop you spreading the disease – even if you don’t think you have it.
"It is said that fabric masks could reduce spread by 50 to 100%, depending on their design and use,"
Are some masks more effective than others?
Yes, medical masks are different to face coverings. Medical masks are disposable and are costly long term, whereas face coverings are usually reusable and more cost effective.
The most common material being used to create face masks is cotton, because of its high thread count. It is thought that the more tightly woven the fabric, the more droplets are likely to be contained.
It comes as no surprise, then, that face masks with several layers of fabric are considered more effective at keeping things in, and out. This can be as simple as sandwiching the cotton layer with other fabrics or adding internal quilting. Or, you can insert a filter.
The more tightly-fitted your mask, the less likely you are to spread the disease – but don't worry, you won't suffocate in there! The fabrics used are breathable, but if you're concerned, go for one with valves that can be twisted to let in air (although obviously don't do this in a crowded space).
If you have breathing issues, always check with your GP before buying a mask. However, if you just tend to feel a bit claustrophobic, styles with a concertinaed front like a surgical mask will create more space for your nose and mouth.
Where to buy face masks online:
Before just adding the prettiest face mask to your basket, take the time to read the fabric breakdown and the care instructions. Here are some questions to ask yourself while browsing:
Is it breathable?
Does it fit snugly over the model's face?
Does it have elastic or tie-up fastenings?
Is it washable?
Will it arrive quickly or is shipping delayed?
Is it medical-grade? (If yes, consider if you really need it.)