While disposable face masks are convenient, a recent study by University College London calculated that if every person in the UK wore a single-use disposable face mask for a year, it would create 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste. I can only imagine how much waste Australian’s would create or the combined global measure. With that in mind, opting for reusable, washable masks seems like the obvious choice – especially now that face masks are the new reality for the foreseeable future.
Hear are some tips on how to make the most of your mask, brought to you by COMO Hotels and Resorts.
Wear moisturiser, especially in the areas covered by the mask
This includes behind the ears, where ear loops can chafe and cause irritation. Masks can absorb moisture from the skin it touches, leading to gradual dehydration throughout the day. Apply a good moisturiser that has skin barrier-protecting ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid to prevent this.
Use a strong lip balm
The only lip product you need for daily mask wear is a balm that protects and hydrates your lips. Similarly to your skin barrier, your lips can get dry and chapped from long hours wearing a mask. Coconut oil works well; apply it after washing your face, before you put on your mask and before bed.
If you wear glasses, prioritise a more snug fit on your nose bridge
A loose fit lets more of your breath through the top of the mask, causing your glasses to fog up. Don’t go for masks that lie too tightly across your face and mouth for comfort, but make sure you choose one that can lay firmly across your nose: masks that tie in the back, have adjustable ear loops or a wired, bendable nose piece.
Add a drop of peppermint oil to the base of your mask for easier breathing
Beyond choosing breathable fabrics like 100 per cent cotton, some people still find it hard to adjust breathing with something over their mouth and nose. Peppermint has a zingy scent that can help your nasal passages feel clearer, and is widely available in concentrated essential oil blends that you can carry around with you. Add a drop to the base of your mask and wait five minutes before wearing it to avoid irritation, or add a drop to the water while you’re washing your mask for a gentler alternative.
Keep a small, re-usable Ziplock bag in your bag or pocket
Minimise all contact between yourself, others and objects with the outside of your mask by storing it in a small, sealable bag when you’re not wearing it. This prevents the germs that accumulate on the front-facing side from getting all over your things, and avoids picking up more bacteria from tables, chairs and other surfaces. This small effort is very useful for a few hours while you have a meal or overnight if the mask doesn’t need to be washed. You can also add a drop of organic tea tree oil – known for its antibacterial properties – to the bag for extra cleanliness and a fresh scent.
Sanitise your mask on the move
Your mask is only as useful as it is clean. This includes when you’re out and away, when washing it may be inaccessible. Spray your mask from a distance of 30cm and let it air for two to five minutes before wearing.
Use fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic detergent to do your laundry
You should always follow the washing instructions for each mask, but most masks can be washed along with the rest of your laundry. This method is the most efficient, but certain detergents can leave residue on fabric that can irritate delicate facial skin. Using fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic detergent can prevent developing reactions or ‘maskne’ for all skin types, sensitive skin especially.
Safe disposal of face masks
Dispose of single-use masks responsibly in the general rubbish bin. For safety, where possible, put it into a sealed bag before putting it in the bin to ensure others won’t touch it. Don’t put disposable masks in the recycling. Most single-use masks contain soft plastics and cannot be recycled. They can also get caught in recycling equipment and be a hazard to waste management workers.