There’s a lot of good and bad information running around about face masks right now. And let’s face it, it’s not a whole lot of fun to wear them. Masks can pick up and keep traces of pollen and makeup and other irritants. Masks made from synthetic fabrics can set off allergies and cause rashes. There’s even a term, “mask,” for acne caused by constant mask wear.
However, the benefits of wearing a mask when out in public right now well outweigh the detriments. Here is what happens to your body when you wear a face mask every day.
Face masks do not cause carbon dioxide poisoning
This claim gets a lot of attention, but it’s simply not true that masks cause carbon dioxide poisoning. Carbon dioxide molecules are too small to be trapped by the fabric in a mask. What does get reflected by the mask is moisture and heat and ambient scents, but carbon dioxide does not accumulate. If that were the case, then doctors would be wearing something else during their long shifts. They can spend whole days and even perform whole procedures with their face covered, and it does not impact their ability to breathe or move or think.
Face masks do not reduce oxygen levels
By the same token, if masks don’t affect carbon dioxide, they won’t affect oxygen molecules either. There are claims that mask-wearing causes hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation to the body’s tissues. But if that were the case, simply wearing clothing would be harmful to the skin. The discomfort in mask-wearing, again, is caused by just not being used to wearing them. We don’t think twice about bundling up in scarves in the winter, so why would a mask be any different? The trick is to treat a mask-like any other piece of essential clothing.
Masks help prevent the spread of coronavirus (and other diseases)
Mask wearing in Asia has been a standard practice long before COVID-19 became a concern. There are many reasons to wear a mask when in public. It not only protects you from other people’s germs that can leave the mouth and nose during a cough or a sneeze, but it also protects others from anything you happen to be carrying.
But if masks don’t stop oxygen and CO2, how do they stop disease? The actual virus molecules themselves are indeed very tiny, but they are not spreading on their own. They are being transmitted by water droplets coughed or sneezed out. It’s those droplets that the masks prevent from reaching your respiratory system.
Studies in China found that a person not wearing a mask is five times more likely to contract COVID-19 than one who is. And since people can carry the disease without symptoms, protecting others will help stop the spread. But even if you’re just sick with a cold, or are too ill to risk picking a cold up, wearing a mask in public is a good thing for everybody.
What to do about mask irritation
The more you wear a mask, the more chances are you have to deal with mask irritation. The problem is that masks need to fit close to be effective. But close-fitting clothing of any sort causes friction and redness. There are ways to get around the trouble.
First of all, it’s a good idea to take off the mask every couple of hours when safe to do so, and only to wear it when you’re among other people. You don’t need to wear it at home all day.
Also, choose a more natural fabric like cotton for your mask. Don’t get heavy or scratchy fabric, no matter how cute it looks, or you’ll just make yourself unnecessarily miserable. If your mask is too small it may irritate your ears to have the loops attached. One solution is to get or make the kind of mask that ties around your head.
Dealing with mask
There are a few things you can do to help prevent getting a rash across your face. Use a good moisturizer and use gentle cleansers on your face. Also, don’t worry about wearing makeup under the mask, it’ll just rub the makeup off. Step up your eye shadow game and forget the lipstick, although lip wax to keep lips from cracking is a good idea.
Wash your mask often, but lay off the fabric softeners and fragrances and stuff. Have several masks on hand so you can alternate them. You wouldn’t wear the same pair of socks every day, so don’t do that with your mask. You can control or even eliminate the irritation by following these simple suggestions. These are unusual times and require unusual actions. Here’s hoping you can make the most of it.