*Produced by SilverKris for 1929 Mask*
Masks have become the new norm since the onset of the pandemic. From complimentary fabric masks to disposable alternatives, there are many options to choose from. Reusable stylish fabric masks are also hitting the market at warp speed, and folks have come to terms with the fact that masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
So just which mask should you be wearing? Here, we take a look at the major categories, compare them with the WHO recommendations and see what’s in the market in Singapore.
These papery pale green classics are widely available everywhere from gas stations to supermarkets. But according to the WHO, though, surgical or medical masks only need to be worn by healthcare workers, those with Covid-19 symptoms and those caring for them.
In areas where safe social distancing is tricky, medical masks should be worn by the elderly and those with health conditions. If you do have reason to wear them, be sure to handle them carefully, washing your hands before and after wearing/removing them and replacing them if they get wet. Never re-use or share your medical mask.
While they’re the most heavy duty-looking of the lot, there has been much debate about the feasibility of our bulky old friends, the N95s. Many homes have a stash from recent haze episodes, and the government has even distributed them in years past. But local government guidelines advise that N95s should be used by medical workers under specific circumstances.
And while you may have reused them during the haze, they should not be reused under current circumstances, making them less cost-effective. Besides, when worn correctly, with a good seal around your nose and mouth, N95s actually make it a little hard to breathe, so they’re not suitable for exercise or even walking on a warm day. Luckily, they’re not necessary either.
Since the Singapore government started distributing these during the circuit breaker, fabric masks have quickly become the top choice. They’re by far the most comfortable option, and can safely be worn by people who have no symptoms as they travel on buses, trains and taxis or spend time at grocery stores, workplaces and restaurants. According to the WHO, they can also be worn by cashiers, social workers and servers.
Despite their comfort and wide applicability, though, fabric masks must be washed daily, and most single- or double-ply options in the market can only withstand about 10 to 30 washes. And while a good fit over the nose and mouth is critical, the majority are fitted for adults who don’t wear headdresses, turbans or hijabs. Moreover, few masks in the market today have both water-repellent and anti-microbial properties.
Back in March 2020, family-run textile company Rengitex took up the government’s call to produce more masks. Leaning on his parents’ four decades of industry knowledge in fabric manufacturing, Keenon Lee founded an offshoot company, 1929 Mask, and developed, tested and launched a high-quality reusable face mask that is not only non-toxic and eco-friendly, but can also eliminate fungus and bad odours.
Using active ingredients approved by the FDA, EPA and WHO, the homegrown brand’s three-ply mask has a water-repellent outer layer made of microfibre and spandex, an anti-microbial middle layer (treated with benzalkonium chloride, a chemical used in sanitisers) and a cotton, moisture-wicking inner layer for optimal comfort. The reusable masks have been tested by Bureau Veritas, a leading global certification agency, to last 100 washes.
In addition, they have passed stringent tests for chemical safety, including for perfluorocarbons (PFCs), which has traditionally been used as a water-repellent coating for fabric. Exposure to high levels of this chemical, which has been listed as a probable human carcinogen, has been linked to the increased risk of certain cancers.
The brand’s classic designs come in both adult and children’s sizes. 1929 Mask – its name inspired by the birthdate of Keenon’s one-year-old daughter – also ensures a good fit for those who wear hijabs or other headdresses through stylish mask extenders with gold or silver buckles.
In April this year, the socially conscious brand donated 2,000 of their reusable masks to migrant workers. It also recently launched a new line of masks (available only in adult sizes) featuring an assortment of bold prints and hues, using a specialised printing technique that doesn’t compromise the protective properties of its products. Shop now at 1929 Mask’s website.