Opinion: What Your Mask Says About You

Photo by Vera Davidova on Unsplash

COVID-19 has taken over our lives, and masks play a key role in keeping our communities safe and healthy, as stipulated by the Centers for Disease Control. As face masks become a staple in our daily wardrobes, there are many options on the market for people to protect themselves and others while expressing individuality. At the beginning of quarantine, there wasn’t much variety, but as of recently you can buy masks almost anywhere you go to fit any occasion. 

When looking for masks, people should prioritize effectiveness, but this doesn’t mean that aesthetics and comfort need to be sacrificed. Masks have now become a political and social statement, rather than only a public health precaution. Researchers have proven that certain demographics such as women, college graduates and Democrats have a higher percentage of those saying they often or always wear a face mask. As much as clothes can say about a person, nowadays someone’s mask can also say a lot about them too. 

The blue disposable mask is synonymous with the pandemic. Pretty much everyone has a couple of them lying around in their car or home that may or may not have been used already. These masks are effective at blocking the majority of respiratory particles emitted from entering the air and protecting from COVID-19. This style of mask is one of the most popular, as they were some of the first masks sold at the beginning of quarantine. Although these masks are effective, the single-use nature makes them less environmentally friendly than other options. Additionally, there’s no opportunity to make a fashion statement when wearing them since it’s the equivalent to wearing the default option before outfit customization in a video game.

Reusable cloth masks are very popular. They are better for the environment, allow for individuality and are overall more cost-effective. Since lockdown, many people have started sewing their own masks to protect against COVID-19. Different mask shapes, adjustable ear loops or masks that tie behind the head can offer a better fit than the traditional surgical mask. Additionally, most people find them more comfortable for everyday use. Cloth masks come in all types of colors, patterns, and designs to complement any look.

Researchers have proven that 100 percent cotton masks are the most effective at preventing particles due to the structure of the fibers. Cloth masks with at least three layers are also proven to be more effective to block smaller particles. Filters provide additional protection from particle exhaustions but vented masks do the opposite as they allow air to escape. Lots of people have been having fun matching their mask to their fit by playing with color and design. 

Using a bandana as a face mask is proven to be less effective compared to the surgical and standard cloth mask. Although this style of mask is usually used as a last resort if you forgot a mask when out in public, it is less recommended since it doesn’t prevent droplet spray as effectively. Also a con of this style is it does make you appear like you have the intention of robbing a bank. 

Neck gaiters have gained popularity during the pandemic. They provide added comfort and breathability. However, they are proven to be less effective than other styles because they are made of synthetic materials that are proven to be less effective against droplet containment and are often only one layer thick. As of recently, neck gaiters have faced controversy over their effectiveness. Researchers have proven that gaiters made of synthetic fleece may actually spread droplets more intensely than not wearing a mask because the droplets are aerosolized. 

Anti-maskers have begun to express their dislike for mask mandates by wearing masks made of mesh or have holes in them. Although this would add breathability and comfort, it defeats the purpose of masks which are intended to prevent droplets from spreading. If you wear a mask with holes in it, there is a strong chance you might be called a “Karen.”

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