In a culture where airbrushing and other beauty enhancement techniques are as common as face creams, it may seem odd to think about a face mask. However, in many parts of the world, including Africa, the face is often covered up until the onset of the rainy season. This ritual, which goes by the name of ‘mabu’, often lasts all week long. It is thought that this ritual has been practised since ancient times to keep dirt out of the face and thus keep it clean and healthy.
DescriptionA traditional cloth face mask is typically a loose-fitting cloth mask worn tightly over the nose and mouth, typically with a face veil attached. While effective, manual transmission (wearing the mask without holding it with your hands) is almost never possible when wearing a face mask. Manual transmission means the face must breathe through the mouth, making breathing harder and often resulting in drips. The droplets, sometimes large enough to be noticeable, can also serve a number of purposes. Some have been shown to prevent bacteria growth, while others help to remove or at least reduce the amount of oil collected by the skin which, in turn, can contribute to acne.
Protection Mechanism Of the seven natural oils in the human body produces, only two are produced naturally. These are termed’sebum’ and ‘lipids’, and the body needs both for healthy skin. So, when the face mask is worn, it provides protection from the harmful effects of these two oils. The extra protection provided by the mask means that the wearer is not as susceptible to acne, irritants, debris, or other pollutants in the environment. So, even when the wearer’s lifestyle does not include much activity outside the house, they are still able to maintain clean, clear, skin.
Emotional As well as practical reasons, some people choose to wear face masks on a regular basis. For example, they may feel uncomfortable if the liquid droplets do not completely cover their faces, or if they feel guilty about their looks. Others simply want to look better. Plastic surgery is invasive and painful, to use a surgical mask requires no incisions, injections, or stitches – even the plastic surgeon will not know where it has been fitted!
Surgical masks are most effective when they are used to treat acne. They stop the sebum production at the pores, thus reducing the amount of oil that gets into the surrounding skin. However, a surgical mask is not effective against other potential irritants. Therefore, it is important to select one designed to deal with the source of the problem. A medical practitioner who specialises in cosmetic surgery can advise you of the best facial mask for your needs. Although surgical masks are effective against a small number of external irritants, they are less effective against a wide variety of other small particles.
Respirators are often used by the general public to protect them from the harmful effects of air pollution. The idea is that the wearer should be protected from the pollutants that cause the pollution, rather than just the visible air pollution. However, respiratory protection is an important consideration for the general public, as well as for the professional care givers who look after our young patients and school children. While masks may reduce the number of dust and other small particles entering the lungs, respiratory protection is more important for adults, who are more likely to be exposed to indoor air pollution than children. As such, the public should invest in high quality respirators, rather than cheap face masks.