A face mask, sometimes called a nasal mask, is a thin membrane, usually cotton or linen, placed over the nose and mouth. It covers the opening to the nose and prevents wind, sweat, and other material from entering the nose. The purpose of a face mask is to prevent irritants, such as dust or pollen, from entering the nose and throat and entering the airway. It also helps to drain excess mucus from the nose, thus reducing congestion. While effective in some masks are still not available when physical distancing is not possible, and even when available masks can be bulky and uncomfortable.
The first face mask was invented in 1530 during the middle ages in Europe. A Hungarian doctor named Jobst von Mutius developed this type of mask for use by infants who were breastfeeding. The mucus draining quality of the mask allowed the infant to nurse without risk of nose blockage and thus allow the mother to breastfeed for longer without worrying about irritants getting into the nose and damaging the baby’s delicate skin. This type of mask was eventually patented in 1540 by a doctor named Julius Czentmihle. Dr. Czentmihle’s invention was later adopted by the Spanish and Italian church doctors.
Over the centuries, different cultures adopted different types of face masks according to their own beliefs and needs. While some used it as an aid to maintain good health and well-hydrated skin, others believed that it had magical properties, helping them overcome illness, defeat evil and bring good fortune. The traditional Indian face masks were thick, black and watery; considered unattractive and sometimes even sinful. Westerners adopted thick, white and clear varieties according to societal views, but only in the past hundred years have there been attempts to apply science to the practice. Modern face masks, with its application of modern technology, has brought about many changes in the way people perceive and use facial masks.
One example is the face mask called the ‘Halo’ which is worn by members of the Halo Association, a non-profit group that works with young children who have autism, cerebral palsy and other learning disabilities. The face mask itself is made up of two pieces: a base with elastic straps attached to the face; and a helmet-like piece which are worn either over the entire head or over the nose and ears. The elastic straps attached to the base can be adjusted to fit around the individual’s head snugly, so as to make sure the mask does not slip down.
Another type of face mask that has gained popularity is the ‘Sculpting face mask’, also known as ‘Halo’ or ‘Crest’. It is similar to the traditional face mask in its purpose, but the way it is worn makes it more aesthetic, as the wearer’s hair is cut short, framing the shape of the face. It has elastic bands around the ears, which when adjusted, ensure the wearer’s hair is well held in place.
While face masks are worn primarily for appearance, there are some very good reasons for using them, which may go far beyond vanity. Some masks to prevent the spread of infection, including cold sores and hepatitis. They also reduce the risk of allergic reactions to deter the spread of bacteria. And, if your hands are clean, using a hand sanitizer on your nose and hands can reduce the chances of you spreading harmful bacteria.