In traditional societies face masks were worn as symbols of social status. Face masks have also, in modern times, become symbols of beauty. A cloth face mask, also known as a cosmetic mask, is a disposable mask designed primarily to cover the nose and mouth, often with a cloth lining to prevent steam from entering the eyes or nose. While disposable face masks may not offer full protection against facial trauma, they can be used to soften wrinkles and promote skin tightening. When facial distancing is not possible and if often impossible, cloth face masks can help reduce the appearance of lines around the eyes and cheeks by temporarily reducing the size of the skin between the eye and the cheek.
In some cases, however, the use of a face mask may be a futile gesture. When air cannot penetrate the skin, and even when temperature control is difficult, only a few layers of skin are able to retain moisture. Air, whether coming from a tube in the top of the mask or blowing onto the filter, can be blown directly over the moistened skin, causing the drying out of the skin. When more efficient filters are impossible, and even when physical distancing is practically impossible, the use of a face mask may prove all but futile.
The use of a face mask in situations where air circulation is possible, and the surrounding temperature is tolerable, is sometimes not necessary. For instance, when one is swimming, in an indoor pool, or in a hot room, there is no need to wear a face mask. The sweat on the body will already keep the water cool enough. One may also wear an a cloth diaper.
However, in colder climates, where one must contend with lower humidity and higher temperatures, a face mask does make sense. If there are multiple layers of fabric covering the body, any additional material added to the surface area would increase the rate at which perspiration evaporates from the skin, thus raising the relative humidity. As the skin dries out, bacteria and fungus grow more easily, causing an unpleasant odor, as well as to the spread of mold or mildew.
Face masks do little to reduce the spread of uncomplicated colds and flu, but can be used to limit the spread of other viral agents. A simple example is the way that the wearing of a face mask in health care facilities has limited the spread of a very common virus, like the enterovirus. While it cannot currently be transmitted via bodily fluids, it can be spread by contact. This includes touching an individual who has the virus, or by coming into contact with a contaminated object that has been handled on or after the patient had been administered the virus.
By far, the best method of prevention is to always wash hands thoroughly before touching any part of the body. This is the safest and most efficient method of preventing the spread of any form of virus. It is also the most comfortable. While you can use your hands, your fingers are generally not clean enough to avoid spreading illnesses and bacteria through contact. Washing your hands is the easiest way to reduce the risk of being infected with either a cold or a virus; the next best thing is to avoid using your face masks in places where they have been used.