We’ve been donning the number one accessory of 2020 for months now and with cases skyrocketing nationwide, it looks like we’ll be continuing to keep our faces covered for the foreseeable.
Remembering to wear a mask can be tiring, but it’s never been more important. In one recent CDC study that looked at patients who developed Covid-19 symptoms, the transmission of the virus within their household and close contacts was reduced by 79% when face coverings were worn.
So we’ve rounded up the best hacks and tips to make sure you’re protected, while not having to sacrifice fashion along the way.
Masks are widely available, now being sold in your local supermarket and discount store, but it’s important to make sure you’re buying one that has the right protection.
The World Health Organisation recommends that masks contain three layers: an absorbent inner lining, a middle filtration layer, and an outer layer made from a non-absorbent material.
Two strong and tightly-woven layers can also provide significant protection, as set out in a recent study by Linsey Marr, an expert in virus transmission and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. Your mask should fit snugly without gaps at the side of your face, and be secured around the ears, or the back of the head.
Local doctors spoken to about this topic before publication said they understood a clean, thick, one layered mask made from materials such as cotton or nylon can also provide a level of protection. They emphasised research continues to evolve in this area.
Cotton or linen are the most breathable materials, particularly if you are an active person. While nylon can be harder to breathe in, it will keep in those dreaded droplets.
Disposable masks are a waste both for the environment and your health.
"There's no reason for non-medical staff to be using disposable masks," Cork-based GP Dr Philip Kieran says. "They're super flimsy, they tear easily and get damp very fast. The only reason [medical staff] wear them is because we throw them out after each patient.”
Seeing as 129 billion face masks are going into landfills every month while we deal with the pandemic, do your bit and stick to your reusable mask.
Make sure you do invest in a proper fabric mask, however. Throwing your scarf around your face to run into the shop is simply not cutting it, as studies show that scarves, bandanas, and snoods don’t block respiratory droplets as well as cotton masks, coming in at around only 24% effective in research done by the.
Likewise, visors are only about 10% to 20% effective, versus the 80% protection offered by masks, according to Dr Corinna Sadlier of Cork University Hospital.
If your mask doesn’t fit snugly around your face, you may need to buy a new one. However, if you’re in a pinch, you can tie a knot in the strings.
This dentist goes through the steps in a post on the video-sharing platform Tiktok.
If your mask is too tight and is hurting your ears, you can always clip the strings into your hair with a cute hair clip rather than letting them snag on your ears.
Experts recommend that we treat our masks like underwear, and wash them after every use. Doctors we've spoken to in the past about mask-wearing also recommend keeping your mask on if you’re heading out to multiple shops instead of contaminating it by taking it on and off. Once you know you’re done with it put it in a plastic bag and wash it when you get home.
Simply pop it in the washing machine with your regular load at a high temperature, such as 60C, or wash it by hand with extra hot water and antibacterial soap. They should dry in less than an hour when left hanging up indoors.
If you're looking to get more crafty this year, making your own mask is an easy place to start. Craft shops can offer fabric advice online and many are delivering nationwide. Beads are cheap and easy ways to make straps adjustable or else use elastic cord and leave it cut to tie a knot behind the ears.
The HSE has step by step videos available online.
Masks aren't just for street style anymore, with face coverings gracing more and more runways. If you feel like your mask will ruin your outfit, especially when the service industry starts to eventually reopen, look to Balenciaga or Rick Owens for inspiration.
Why not invest in one or two special ones for going out? Many high street stores such as Topshop are selling fashion masks online and there are some gorgeous options available from Irish designers like Jennifer Rothwell and Stable of Ireland. Buy neutral colours, like black or nude, in luxurious fabric or with some added bling for a hint glamour on your next outing. Even if it is just to Supervalu.
According to Specsavers, there has been a 242% increase in online searches about how to stop glasses from fogging up since mask-wearing came to town.
The eyewear company says that a snug fit is key, along with choosing a mask that's fitted with nose wire. Look for one that has words like "contoured" in the description. Some websites, such as Etsy, also have speciality masks available to find around glasses.
An even easier option might be to buy a special spray that will prevent your glasses from fogging up. Many opticians, such as Crowley’s Opticians in Cork or online shops such as Opticalrooms.ie, have anti-fog sprays available for around €15.
Look no further than your granny for inspiration to avoid leaving your mask at home. Many are sporting special necklaces that hold your mask around your neck like eyeglasses. Keeping your mask exposed isn’t the best idea, but it can be a lifesaver for someone who needs to keep taking their mask on and off without touching it too much. You can find options for as little as €10 on craft sites such as Etsy.
Leaving your clean, bagged, masks on the hallway or kitchen table is a good idea too, right next to your keys preferably. It’s also a great idea to leave a clean mask in a plastic bag in your child’s schoolbag once they get back to the classroom.
Likewise, leave one in your car or purse for those times you accidentally run to the shop without thinking or someone has realised too late that they’ve forgotten theirs. We’ve all been there.
Handmade by Hexe is a great option for mask shopping for the whole family as most of their masks can be ordered in kid, teen or adult sizes. They’ve just introduced a whole new range of budget-friendly, Irish-made, designs.
Irish Linen House is now offering gorgeous monogrammed masks made out of 100% Irish linen.
This Galway-based company just recently ventured into the face mask biz. Their cotton ‘Howya’ masks are not only funny but also well layered and breathable.
Dublin-based sustainable store The Kind is new selling handmade adjustable Irish masks.
Tipperary native Laoise Carey released her gorgeous handmade silk face masks late last year to rave reviews. She's currently restocking her website and you can even specify if you would like the straps to wrap around the head or ears when ordering.
Mask4U is a small Irish company which donates 10% of their profits to a Sligo hospice. Their adjustable masks come in four different styles for just €7.50.
Order one of Face It’s fashionable multipacks to always be prepared. Face It is a product of Irelands Eye Knitwear, so they know a thing or two about quality. The company also donates masks to healthcare facilities and frontline workers and currently have a ‘buy three get one free’ sale online.
We Make Good’s cloth masks are made by women from a refugee background who are present and past employees of The Textile Studio, a charity that provides jobs and training to refugee women. For every mask purchased, one goes to someone living in Direct Provision.
If you want a custom face mask but aren’t keen on making your own, turn to Giving Irish, a company created by an Irish nurse. You can design your own mask with the team for as little as €23.