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Face masks 101

Make your mask work for you

This article was last updated on Aug. 19, 2021. 

Wearing a mask or face covering in public has become the new normal. Due to the highly-contagious Delta variant, many people you see are once again wearing some sort of face covering to protect themselves and others against COVID-19. And, even if your local authorities don’t require wearing a mask in public, many stores, schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other businesses do.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right mask for you and your family. And once you have one, how can you wear it and take care of it appropriately? We’ve got you covered with tips to make your mask work for you.

wear and care for your mask during COVID

Choosing a face covering

Masks can be as unique as you. Consider the following options when choosing face masks.

  • Disposable masks. These masks are lightweight and made of a paper-like material. They often come in high-quantity packs and are a good option if you cannot easily store or wash your mask between uses.
  • Cloth masks. Reusable masks are an environmentally friendly option because they can be washed and reused. Plus, you can show off your personality with fun colors and patterns. Use a cotton material. The CDC recommends at least two layers of fabric for the best results 
  • Medical-grade masks. Also referred to as N-95 masks, these have a tighter seal and are able to prevent smaller virus particles from spreading. Unless you are closely interacting with someone you know is infected, leave these masks to the medical professionals — they need them more than the general public.

How to wear your mask

A mask is only effective when you’re wearing it properly. Always check these three things when wearing your mask.

  1. Correct size. Just like clothing, masks come in different sizes. Youth masks come in a variety of sizes to match your growing child. And adult sizes usually come in smaller or larger options. Take the time to make sure you’re in a size that works for you.
  2. Correct coverage. It seems simple, but your mask needs to cover both your mouth and your nose. If your mask is too large and hanging down or you have it pulled to cover only your mouth, it will not work correctly.
  3. Correct usage. Try your best to handle your mask as little as you can. If possible, wash your hands before and after you put on your mask, and try to only touch the ear straps.

Caring for your mask

Regularly wash your cloth masks using laundry detergent and warm water. This helps keep your masks sanitary and effective. If you keep a mask in your car for a quick errand to the grocery store or a pick up from school, you may not need to wash it after every use, but you do need to store it properly.

Consider keeping a Ziploc bag or Tupperware container in your car for each member of your family to keep masks organized and clean between uses.

Common mask questions

  • Do I need to wear two masks? 

    The CDC released a study in early 2021 External Site showing that wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask provides extra protection against the coronavirus — and some health experts agree. Especially as new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are discovered, two masks provide more layers of fabric, and help to ensure that your mask fits snugly over your nose, mouth and chin External Site

  • How many masks should I have?

    It’s always good to have the one you’re using, plus a few backups. Consider keeping your clean masks in a central location in your home. That way you and your family members always know where to grab a new one before leaving the house.

  • How can I get my kids to wear a mask?

    As with most things for children, model good behavior and explain to them why it’s important. Then, get them involved by letting them choose fun colors or patterns. Kids may also benefit from wearing their mask on a lanyard or necklace so they don’t misplace it. While it is a big change, most kids are resilient and adaptable. Keep in mind that children under the age of 2 should never wear a mask.

  • How do I deal with skin irritation?

    Wearing a mask regularly for an extended period of time can cause break outs and mask acne, or “maskne.” Your first line of defense is to always start with a clean mask. If you’re still experiencing skin trouble, try switching the type of mask or fabric; this can make a big difference.

Do your part during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hopefully wearing a mask in public won’t be the norm forever, but for now it is. So, do your part to slow the spread and use these tips to make wearing a mask as easy as possible.

For more information on COVID-19 and coping with the pandemic, check out our resources here.