Everything You Need to Know About Face Masks | Material, Size, Fit, and More
The CDC recommends that all people should, with little exception, wear face masks when leaving their house to help reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. While at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a rush to find any mask to use (leading many to create their own makeshift masks at home), now you can find a multitude of mask options on the market, including our Tokki x Gravitas face masks.
When the pandemic struck, Tokki pivoted. We could see that people needed high-quality masks for their entire family, and we partnered with fashion company Gravitas to make it happen - fast. Our five sizes of masks fit kids as young as two all the way through grown men with big beards and everyone in between.
We knew that masks were going to be a household staple for everyday citizens, as well as a basic necessity for essential workers, and we sought to fill both needs. For every Tokki x Gravitas mask purchased we donate a KN95 mask to a worker on the frontlines.
In this guide we’ve decided to take our focus on face masks one step further. We know that there is a lot to think about when it comes to choosing the right mask such as fit, function, filters, and material. How do you know which is best for you and your family?
Well, let’s tackle some of those topics, shall we?
Why is a Face Mask Important?
Coronavirus is mainly contracted through contact with infected aspirated particles, such as those generated by breathing, sneezing, coughing, and talking. When used in conjunction with social distancing, cloth masks can drastically slow the spread of the virus. A face mask helps diminish the possibility of coronavirus infection by reducing the amount of aspirated particles in the air and on surfaces. A face mask has been deemed essential to keep you and those around you as safe as possible.
NBC News recently conducted a test to better understand if masks are truly effective in containing germs. NBC News Investigative and Consumer Correspondent, Vicky Nguyen, coughed into 4 Petri dishes: with no mask, a Tokki x Gravitas cloth mask, a surgical mask, and KN95 mask. After 2.5 days, there were no bacteria growing on any of the Petri dishes that she wore a mask when she coughed, but there was an abundance of bacteria growing on the Petri dish with no mask. Proving the importance of wearing a mask to protect you and those around you from any potentially harmful germs.
This helpful infographic gives us a look at how effective a mask can really be. Of course, since we are a gifting, e-tail company and not actual doctors (despite the most fervent dreams of our immigrant parents), our math is common sense and relies on others. Infectious Disease Expert, Peter Chin-Hong, at the University of California San Francisco says it best: "I think the biggest thing with COVID now that shapes all of this guidance on masks is that we can’t tell who’s infected. You can’t look in a crowd and say, oh, that person should wear a mask. There’s a lot of asymptomatic infection, so everybody has to wear a mask.” More helpful information in this article.
Will a Cloth Mask Protect Me as Much as a KN95 Mask?
No - but a good cloth mask with a filter will get you pretty close. It is also recommended to spare the KN95 masks for essential workers on the frontlines. Truth is, for the day-to-day, you don’t need the same level of protection as an on-duty medical professional. A high-quality, well-fitting cloth mask will do the trick just fine.
What to Look for in a Face Mask
How will you use your face mask? If you are using your mask for outdoor activities such as going for a walk, taking a trip to the beach or park, or hiking, standard nose-to-chin coverage is perfectly fine.
However, if you are going on a plane, to the hospital, or even on a long grocery store run, you’ll want the maximum amount of coverage. This means you’ll want to look for a mask that fits snugly well above the nose to under the chin, and perhaps all the way to the ears as well.
For example, our Tokki adult regular or XL mask is great for both men and women on plane trips, but the adult small will do well for women in the summertime who still want protection while at the beach, but who also need their mask to be a bit more breathable to account for the heat.
The important thing to consider is the amount of protection the material stands to give you. A recommended “light test” is easy to perform to get a sense of how well your material of choice will stop the inhalation and exhalation of aspirated particles. Hold your mask or fabric of choice up to a light. The less light that leaks through, the better protection you will receive.
Our masks are made with a double layer of 100% quilter’s cotton, which is considered an ideal choice for everyday masks. Other options include flannel, polyester, or any breathable, but non-porous material.
Face Shape and Size
Remember, you want the full nose to chin coverage. For most, the standard size offered by many companies and makers will work. However, for some - such as kids, men, and petite women - that may not be true. If the mask is too small it will feel uncomfortable, but if it is too large, it won’t provide enough protection, as air can escape and enter from around the sides of the mask.
Gravitas prides itself on being extremely size-inclusive with their designs, and that awareness has extended to our masks. With five sizes of masks, Tokki x Gravitas can outfit the entire family. For women in specific, Tokki recommends a combination of the adult regular and the adult small - one for interior and one for the exterior. For men, the adult XL, and for kids, there are two sizes for ages 2-6 and 7-12.
Ear Loops or Behind-the-Head Bands?
Some situations (like going to the hairdresser) require you to have ear loops on your mask. Beyond that, you can choose the option that feels the best for you. Some find that ear loops are uncomfortable due to material (latex allergies) or size (too small and the ear loops will pull on the ears) and so prefer the ties or the behind-the-head bands.
Young children sometimes have trouble with the ear loops as their ears are small, which is why we chose to add behind-the-head bands to our kid’s masks. These bands can be worn around the crown of the head, or at the nape of the neck. As your child grows, you can snip the latex-free, knitted elastic and turn the bands into ear loops to extend the longevity of the mask.
Our adult small mask is also built with the behind-the-head bands, but these can be worn around the top of the ear and at the base of the neck so that you can still wear your hair down. Who said wearing a mask and looking good were mutually exclusive?
Pleated vs. Non-Pleated
Pleated masks are prevalent on the market due to their quick-and-easy construction. They are also less expensive to manufacture and purchase. The downside is that they do not contour to the shape of the face, and they do not offer as much protection as the non-pleated options. They are also generally less comfortable and less attractive.
Gravitas makes masks the way they make dresses. They carefully construct the design with multiple fabric panels and seams so that they fit perfectly to the face. They even have an air pocket built in, which provides additional comfort to the wearer, but also allows for healthcare workers the space to wear them over the top of their KN95 masks for added protection.
Men have a longer nose-to-chin ratio and therefore generally need a slightly larger mask than a woman. Facial hair, as well, requires more room to accommodate. The Tokki adult XL was designed with these needs in mind. The masks have been tested on multiple men - including Sam Brock from the Today Show - and the results have been two thumbs way up.
How Should Your Face Mask Fit?
For most applications, you want your mask to go above your nose and under your chin. While most faces will accommodate the standard size mask, some require a slightly larger (adult XL) or smaller (adult small) size.
In addition, you want your mask to contour to your face shape to stop air from leaking out the sides of the mask. It is not necessary for the sides of the mask to extend all the way to your ears, but many find that the full-coverage masks are more flattering for the face.
Knitted elastic in the ear loops, like what we use in our masks, will be the most comfortable in the long term, as opposed to braided elastic, which can be rougher and more uncomfortable. You can also opt-out of ear loops and go for behind-the-head elastic, which is a great choice for children whose ears may not be large enough to secure the mask with ear loops.
Can You Increase or Decrease the Size of Your Mask?
Our adult small and kid’s masks are constructed with tunnels for the behind-the-head bands, which can be adjusted for a snugger fit by pulling the lower band through. This will secure the top band at the nape of the neck or around the crown of the head.
If you have a mask with ear loops that seem a bit too tight, you can loosen them by running a hot steam iron over just the loops for ten seconds. This will cause the ear loop elastic to stretch enough to give you a more comfortable fit behind the ears.
If you find that your mask is too large, you can wash it in hot water and run it through the dryer. As our masks are 100% quilter’s cotton, they will shrink. This is especially recommended for women who find that their adult regular mask is too large.
Do You Need a Filter?
To filter, or not to filter - that is the question on a lot of minds these days. The truth is, unless you are going to be in a high-risk area (such as a medical office or hospital, or on an airplane) you can get by without a filter unless your mask is ill-fitting or is made out of thin, porous material. For example, a single-layer bandana will not provide sufficient protection, so an additional layer of fabric or a filter is advisable.
Tokki x Gravitas masks come with a filter pocket for you to use at your convenience. Static-charge materials such as pantyhose and chiffon are recommended for use as a filter, as they are more breathable and have been shown to be more effective at blocking particles. Other good filter options include coffee filters, paper towels, silk, or flannel.
Want to make a filter to add to your face mask?
We created this filter pattern PDF, download to create your own filter.
How Many Masks Do You Need?
Our motto is: “One to wash, one to wear.” If you aren’t leaving the house that much, then two masks will be sufficient for one person. As long as you refrain from touching your mask unnecessarily, and you use a bag or the Tokki x Gravitas Within Reach: Mask Keeper to keep them safe from contamination, you should be able to wear one mask for 2-3 days.
However, if you are currently an essential worker, or if you must be in highly populated areas on a regular basis, then we recommend a mask for every day of the week. You should not wear your mask for more than one day before washing it.
For more information about how to wash and care for your face mask, check out this post.
Final Face Mask Guidelines
Face masks have become one of our best tools to minimize risk during the pandemic, but there are still some important precautions to keep in mind when using them.
- Never put a mask on someone who is having trouble breathing, or who cannot remove their mask without assistance.
- Do not put a mask on children two and younger.
- Face masks are not a substitute for social distancing.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your face mask.
- Refrain from touching your face mask as much as possible.
- Keep your face mask in a bag or other container to avoid contamination when not in use. You can also use one of our mask keepers for this.
- For face masks with ear loops: touch only the ear loops when putting on and removing your mask.
- For face masks with behind-the-head bands: use two fingers to secure the mask on your nose as you stretch the band behind your head to secure.
- For face masks with ties: hold the mask by the ties to properly position the mask over the face before tying.
- Masks must cover both your nose and down to the base of your chin to be effective.
Make Sure You’re Covered with Tokki x Gravitas Masks
At Tokki, we’ve partnered with fashion company Gravitas to create masks for your entire family. Gravitas employs high-level dress-making techniques to construct our Tokki x Gravitas masks for the best fit and function on the market. For every mask purchased we will donate a KN95 mask to an essential worker on the frontlines of the pandemic. Shop our styles now.