A face mask, sometimes called a full facial mask, is a thin, flexible mask designed to cover the entire face, usually covering just the nose and mouth areas. When no other facial masks available and if physical distancing is completely impossible, fabric face masks are used. Usually these types of masks are used by plastic surgeons during surgical procedures.
The use of a face mask became popular during the 1920’s during the First World War. The concept was to protect the eyes from the poisonous smoke from a burning engine, which was common at the time. It was also believed at the time that the smoke did not enter the eyes; hence, the name “mask”. In addition, this was the first type of respirator used by doctors.
Currently, there are three layers to a face mask. First, a mesh-like substance, called the particulate filter, which is open at the top to allow airflow while still keeping particles like smoke and dust out. At the second layer, the inside of the particulate filter is filled with a fine mesh of particles that allow air circulation but keep small particles out. Lastly, at the third layer, air is allowed to pass through a ventilation hole in the top of the particulate filter.
The three layers work to keep the air flowing smoothly but prevent large particles from entering the lungs and cause discomfort for the user. However, some manufacturers have developed face masks that have four layers to ensure even greater protection and to allow air to move throughout the mask. Usually these types of masks have a thin padding on the inside that reduces pressure on the face, while allowing airflow. The padding may contain air pockets or air-filled spaces to keep bacteria and foreign matter out. Some masks also include a seal between the mask and the face to reduce air leaking from the mask into the face. This seal also allows for easier removal of the mask by hand, eliminating much of the mess and hassle of removing a breathing mask.
Aside from the function of protecting the user from airborne debris, a face mask should be comfortable. There are several factors that go into this comfort level. First, it should fit well and not dig in. If it’s too big or too small, it will be uncomfortable to wear and will fall off during movement. Similarly, the fit of the mask should be tight enough that it doesn’t cause tugging on the skin but loose enough so that it’s easy to breath.
In addition to the fit of the mask, the design of the face mask should offer ease of cleaning and removal. It’s important to note that the mesh should be completely see through to allow for easy airflow through the fabric. Also, the cloth or vinyl used to make the face mask should be easily removed by hand, without any difficulty. Finally, all layers should be equally spaced apart so that air can pass freely through the mask fabric. By following these simple guidelines, a wide variety of styles, sizes, fabrics, and designs of face masks are available.