Face Masks In the Summer: How to Stay Cool & Safe In the Heat

Now’s not the time to stop wearing your mask.

By Lauren Haslett
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July 7, 2020 — 10 a.m. EST

If you thought wearing a face covering back in April’s cool, rainy weather was bad, think again. Compared to summer’s scorching heat and humidity, April was nothing, and it’s only going to get worse as the temps keep getting warmer. Surviving summer with face masks is going to be difficult. So what are we to do? Especially if we’re having more trouble breathing comfortably in the heat, or are already dealing with the dreaded ‘maskne’ and other face covering-induced skin issues?

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While there are some simple skin tips you can try to improve mask-related skin issues, if those tactics haven’t solved all your problems, your mask itself might be to blame. Hear me out; the type of face covering you choose can actually have a huge impact on the health of your skin. If your go-to is a reusable cloth face mask, you may want to try different types of fabric to see how it affects your skin.

Especially in hot temps, it’s crucial to choose a fabric that is breathable and allows proper air flow — but that can, of course, still filter out unwanted particles and do its job, which is to protect you and those around you from getting sick. How can a mask be both breathable and protective? Is that even possible?

Well, yes, it turns out. Research recently published by the American Chemical Society suggests that the best mask material to protect you from the novel coronavirus may not be just one fabric, but a combination of fabrics. A mix of high thread-count cotton (a tight weave better at blocking unwanted particles) and either natural silk or chiffon (both very soft, light, and breathable) may effectively filter out many aerosols, which are the tiniest disease-carrying droplets. That is, of course, as long as masks are fitted properly to an individual’s face. If your mask doesn’t fit correctly, it won’t do a good job of protecting you and others from getting sick, no matter what material it’s made from.

There are many different types of fabrics, and different people may have different reactions to each. Test out a couple and see what is the most comfortable for you and causes the least irritation.

Tips Everyone Should Know

Always keep extra masks handy. If you know you’re going to be outdoors in the summer heat or performing any kind of activity where you’re likely to get sweaty, bring an extra face mask. Some state health departments, like the Pennsylvania Department of Health, recommend ditching a mask that has become damp or wet. If you always have an extra mask handy, you can easily swap a soiled mask for a clean, dry one if needed, keeping all that moisture off your face.

Keep mask time to a (safe) minimum. This means you should still wear a face mask whenever you’re indoors or in a place where you’re likely to be in closer contact with others and might find social distancing difficult, such as at the grocery store or drugstore, or when riding public transit. But if you are alone in your car, for example, or sitting outdoors on your own back patio alone or  appropriately distanced (i.e. at least 6 feet) from other people, a mask may not be as necessary. Follow CDC recommendations for wearing face coverings in public places, and if you’re in doubt, it’s always better to wear the mask! But removing face coverings when it really is safe and okay to do so will help you and your skin breathe better, especially in the heat.

One last tip! If you wear glasses, and often find your lenses fogging up when sporting a mask, try this simple trick: wash your glasses first. Preferably, in hot, soapy water, just like your hands. A technique published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England suggests washing glasses with warm, soapy water and allowing them to air dry immediately before donning a face mask helped prevent that annoying fogging phenomenon.

Buying Vs. Making

You can certainly make your own masks at home. But if you’d rather purchase a ready-to-wear option, there are several great choices out there.

Majoie Maldives usually makes high-end bath products, but has recently started producing reversible face masks made with a layer of raw silk and a second layer of cotton. While they are a bit of a splurge, you can feel good about treating yourself knowing that a portion of the proceeds go to the company’s “Beyond Sustainable Project.” Remember, if you want to reverse the mask, you need to wash it first — otherwise you’re putting the dirty side directly on your face.

Diop is a Detroit-based outfit that typically produces clothing and bandanas made from batik-printed fabrics inspired by traditional Nigerian designs. Their face masks are similarly covered in bold, colorful prints, super stylish, and made of triple-layered cotton for ample protection. A portion of the proceeds from Diop’s mask sales also go to Feed the Frontlines in Detroit, which provides meals to emergency and healthcare workers throughout the city.

Sanctuary sells three and five packs of their practical, organic face masks for men, women, and children. There are ones available that you have to dispose of after a few uses, but there are also reuseable and washable cotton ones that come with a nose wire for a custom, comfortable fit. Each package comes with masks in a variety of solid colors and prints — so you can choose the hue that best suits your mood in the moment. Sales of these masks also allow Sanctuary to provide free masks to organizations in need. Nice, right?

No matter where you buy your mask or if you choose to make one, the important thing is that you're wearing it to protect yourself and others. Don't let the heat discourage you from masking up; it's an effective way to keep yourself and those around you safe.

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Article written by Lauren Haslett