Face Masks: A Short Introduction and Evolution

Masked faces everywhere!

The year 2020 marks a huge transition of human civilisation. From getting ready for the office on Mondays to wearing masks at the grocery stores, suddenly the entire situation got unusual. The rush for office simply disappeared as most workplaces adapted to the work-from-home culture and the nightclubs, unfortunately, were shut down for a certain period. The educational institutions switched to online classes and children were prohibited from attending schools in person. All these are to prevent the spread of the stranger virus popularly known as the coronavirus or COVID-19.

As the coronavirus made its presence felt, the normal rhythm of life got significantly interrupted across the world. So much so that people stopped traveling during vacations. The footfalls to the local cafe reduced remarkably, which harmed the food and beverage industry. The movie buffs stopped watching movies at local theatres while quickly switching to the OTT platforms. Overall, the hospitality, tourism, and entertainment industry experienced a major blow on account of the pandemic and consequently, the worldwide economy suffered the backlash.

When the entire world was trying to cope with the topsy-turvy events and the new normal, the mask and sanitizer industry seemed to enjoy the unexpected attention. A report by Graphical Research identified the rising demand for masks which have been growing exponentially. To exploit this opportunity, the renowned brands plunged into the mask-making business, and no doubt, they had managed to earn huge profits from it.

Types of masks

So what did the pandemic teach us? Well, to wash hands, wear a mask, and maintain social distancing. Oh, I forgot to mention the knowledge we derived about the variants of masks. Earlier, a mask, its material, its longevity never mattered, but now they do.

Masks can be of three types, cloth mask, surgical mask, and N95 respirator.

Cloth masks are the go-to masks for Indians mainly because they are cheaper than the other variants. Cloth masks shouldn’t be confused with a handkerchief or a piece of cloth tied around the face. Trust me, they aren’t very effective in keeping the viruses at bay. However, it is safer to use a cloth mask rather than not using any mask at all. Cloth masks are not suitable for those who work in the medical sector taking care of covid infected people.

A surgical mask is made of polypropylene that is very effective at blocking the contaminated air from spreading the viruses through the respiratory system and particle droplets. It works as a filter that strains the infected air and lets in the pure air. Surgical masks come in 3 layers and a metal strip around the nose. The 3 layers protect against dust, chemicals, and other pollutants. These masks are ideal for people in charge of the covid infected patients, the healthcare army, and the front-line workers.

The N95 mask has attached respirators that successfully strain almost 95% of tiny particles. They have the capability of trapping bacterias up to 0.3 microns in size along with viruses.

Just like the surgical mask, the N95 mask contains polypropylene as its main component. These masks are not suitable for regular use. It is advised that N95 masks should be strictly used by doctors and nurses who regularly have to deal with covid affected patients.

Some things to remember

The cloth mask and surgical mask sector has been witnessing rapid growth since the inception of the pandemic. However, people should be cautious about the usage of masks.

The cloth masks as well as the surgical masks should be disposed of after three uses. Although it’s highly recommended that these masks should not be reused, still if anyone thinks of reusing them, it should be done after thoroughly washing them in a disinfectant detergent.

Lots of companies are experimenting with mask designs nowadays which has undeniably made it a cute fashion statement. Nonetheless, the primary purpose of masks should be protecting against viruses and the mask manufacturers should not disregard it at any cost.