Since face masks became mandatory in a number of indoor settings around the world to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, more people have discovered how to make their own. On DIY mecca Etsy, you’ll find face masks with filter pockets, pretty printed fabrics, layered versions made from 100% cotton, and masks contoured with wire inserts for a better fit — but of all the safe and stylish options, it’s the silk variety that’s spiking in popularity.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently lists a handful of different types of recommended face masks. According to WHO, medical masks — those disposable, usually blue masks you’ll often see on health professionals — should be worn by those with underlying health conditions and people over the age of 60. Fabric masks are known as non-medical masks, and WHO says they should be worn by people who have no COVID-19 symptoms in places where COVID-19 is widespread or in instances where it is not possible to socially distance. Masks are especially important if you are in close contact with people, such as on public transport or while shopping, and must be worn over the mouth and nose to be effective.
Silk fabric face masks are new, but the luxe material has already proved to be useful in the beauty industry. Hair experts recommend silk bonnets or turbans for protecting hair types prone to damage, tangling, and drying out. Skin professionals also champion silk pillowcases for minimizing creasing and friction on the skin. Are silk face masks similarly beneficial — and more importantly, are they effective against potential transmission of coronavirus compared to other materials?
“Silk masks have been shown to be an effective mask while also preventing facial irritation,” says Howard Sobel, MD, attending dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital and founder of Sobel Skin. “It has been discovered that high thread count cotton and natural silk can effectively filter out particles.”
With maskne on the rise, perhaps silk is a better option than cotton or other thicker materials when it comes to skin. “Maskne causes breakouts due to the combination of friction, heat, moisture, and clogged pores,” says Dr. Sobel. “If you haven’t already experienced maskne, you very likely could, as spending more time outdoors mixed with heat, humidity, sunscreen, facial products, and makeup can cause breakouts.”
Dr. Sobel goes on to list the specific benefits of silk face masks. “They are especially beneficial if your skin is sensitive,” he says. “Certain mask materials can cause issues because some textures can be irritating and leading to spots.” Silk is a material that is less likely to cause problems. “Silk is cooling, naturally hypoallergenic, and tends to absorb less moisture than cotton, so it won’t dry out your skin,” Dr. Sobel continues. “100% silk does not clog pores, so finding a mask like this is an added benefit,” especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin.
While Dr. Sobel says that silk face masks are considered better for preventing skin concerns such as maskne, he points out that it’s important to remember mask hygiene plays an important part in skin care and overall health. “Wash your mask after each use, make sure your mask is completely dry before wearing it, and change your mask right after you sweat in order to fully prevent breakouts,” he says. Those tips aren’t just best practices for the sake of your skin — they’re public-health essentials.
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