7 Things you need to know about face masks

1. What Do Researchers Say About the Effectiveness of Masks?

There is no doubt, face masks provide significant protection from COVID-19, and other infectious diseases. Recently published research results have clearly indicated that face masks prevent transmission of various bacteria and viruses.

In the first part of their study, researchers examined exhaled breath and droplets of the patients without face masks. According to Professor Benjamin J. Cowling (a member of the study team), they detected the virus in the exhaled breath not only in the large droplets but also in the small particle aerosols. In the second part of the study, they looked at how well a face mask blocked that virus from getting into the environment. They found substantial reductions in the virus that were able to get into the environment when those patients wore a surgical facemask. Another key study by Royal Society DELVE Initiative found an important role of commonly used face masks in reducing community transmission of COVID-19 within the general population. This means everyone should wear a mask, even if they are asymptomatic) to hold their own droplets to prevent transmitting the virus to one another.

Since there are many kinds of respirators and masks out there in the market, this has created confusion around masks.

2. Why do masks have so many different names? Confused… Let's Understand.

Face masks have three categories:

  1. Respirator
  2. Surgical or Procedure (Medical)
  3. Non-Medical Cloth Mask

These masks are categorized according to their levels of barrier protection or bacterial filtration efficiency.

3. What are Respirator Masks?

Respirator face masks are also called Filtering Face Piece (FFP) ,‘N’ or KN and YY 0469.

Countries have named these masks according to their own set of standards. European call them FFP and American N95 masks whereas Chinese brands are known as KN95. Respirator masks offer the highest level of protection offered in a disposable face mask. American N95 masks are often molded, whereas KN95 masks are often softer and form fitted to your face.

*See mask chart below

4. What are Surgical Masks?

The original purpose of surgical masks are for surgeons to use during surgery. A surgical mask helps to contain microorganisms expelled from the mouth and nose of the surgeon or the support staff from the patient during surgery to avoid infection. Surgical masks are generally  3 or 4 ply, depending on the type of material used. Therefore, they contain more filtering material than a general procedure mask & more protection. Since surgical masks have a thicker layers, users tend to report that they are harder to breathe through. Please note, you should change masks frequently – as soon as they get moist & in between patients.

5. What are Procedure Masks?

Procedure masks are very similar to surgical masks, but they tend to be 2 or 3 ply variations. This means they usually contain less filtering material than 4ply surgical masks, and therefore have a lower barrier protection. Good for single-time use only – change masks when they become damp and in between patients.

Video courtesy of the World Health Organization (WHO)

6. What are Non-Medical Cloth Masks?

As the name suggests, non-medical cloth masks are made from cloth fabric. They can be hand made or purchased from a retailer. A non-medical cloth mask may cut down on some large respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze, or help splashes of fluid from getting into your mouth. A fabric mask is used to protect those around you.

Mask Levels 1, 2 & 3 Explained

Non-medical cloth masks are:

  • Made of layers of fabric – ideally 3 layers
    • the outside layer should be water resistant
    • the inside layer (touching your face) should be water absorbent
    • the middle layer can act as a filter
  • Fully washable & can be disinfected with a proper wash & dry
  • Soft & comfortable for all age groups
  • Very easy to carry with you

Please ensure you are properly wearing a cloth mask, and are safely applying & removing the mask from your face.

Video courtesy of the World Health Organization (WHO)

7. What are Suitable Masks for RMT, Massage, Cosmetic and Therapeutic Practitioners?

Please follow the guidelines for your Provincial and Canadian standards.  These guidelines may vary from Province to Province. Some Provinces are recommending Surgical grade or N95/KN95 masks for most treatments. In many instances 2 and 3 ply procedure masks are acceptable.

Health Ontario has issued a detailed guideline for RMT, Massage and Therapeutic Practitioners.

Related to use of Masks, the guideline states:

  1. RMTs must wear a surgical or procedure mask (not cloth) during treatment and whenever within two (2) metres of clients. Masks should be changed after each client and must be changed whenever wet, damaged or soiled.
  2. The RMT must instruct the client to come to the appointment wearing a clean disposable or reusable mask to be worn throughout the treatment. RMTs may also (if PPE supplies permit), provide a surgical/procedure mask to be used by the client during treatment. In either case, the RMT should advise the client how to properly put on and take off the mask to limit possible transmission of COVID-19. If the client cannot wear a mask (e.g. due to a health condition or difficulty breathing), the RMT must use their professional judgement to assess the risk of providing or continuing treatment.

The COVID-19 virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing [Single-use-Masks] and cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission”.

To ensure you have purchased masks that have been assessed and certified, look for an ISO Certification & a CSA Certification.

Although masks provide protection and consideration for your client, consider additional precautions before inviting your client to your spa and clinic during this serious health crisis.

The additional important things to consider are:

Different Types of Masks Explained

What is an N100 Mask

N100 provides maximum barrier protection (99.97%) filter efficiency of airborne particles, including bacteria. This respirator offers the highest level of protection. N100 means, capable of filtering out 99% of airborne particles toxic particulates including asbestos, bacteria, viruses, and radioactive particles. The filter material for this standard is so thick that an exhalation valve is almost always fitted. N95 Respirators are not for use by the General Public. This mask MUST be reserved for health workers or those at particularly high risk.

What is FFP Level 3 or N99 Mask

FFP Level 3 or N99 provides maximum barrier protection. N99 designation means that the mask is capable of filtering out 99% of airborne particles, including bacteria. They provide users protection against fine toxic particulates including asbestos, bacteria, viruses, and radioactive particles. The filter material for this standard is so thick that an exhalation valve is almost always fitted. N99 Respirators are not for use by the general public. This mask MUST be reserved for health workers or those at particularly high risk.

What is FFP Level 2/N99/KN95

FFP Level 2, N95, or KN95 provide a moderate level of protection. N95 and level 2 designation means that the mask is capable of filtering out 95% of airborne particles, including bacteria. This type of masks has exhalation valves that help to reduce the build-up of heat inside the mask, improving the comfort for the wearer. N95 Respirators are not for use by the general public. This mask MUST be reserved for health workers or those at particularly high risk.

What is an FPP Level 1 Mask?

FFP Level 1 contains less amount of partials filter material. This means low barrier protection used for general use for short procedures and exams that don’t involve aerosols, spray, or fluids. These are particularly for filtering mechanically generated particles, e.g., particles formed by crushing, grinding, drilling, sanding, and cutting. This kind of mask gets wet quickly and creates difficulty taking a breath. Another weakness is, it often fits loosely over the face leaving gaps between the mask and the wearer. The air also flows in over the sides that means that mainly protects others from infection rather than the wearer.

N100, N99, and N95 are the three models of the N-series. These masks are not oil resistant.

What are Valved and Unvalved Masks? And Which One is Effective?

Valved and Unvalved mask means the built the filtration system. Valved respirators make it easier to breathe but it might be uncomfortable to wear. This only protects the wearer, not the other people around. On the other hand,  un-valve provides two-way protection: protecting both the wearer and the patient.

*We make no claim or recommendation about the medicinal benefits of the products listed in this article. We advise you seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.