Hi, I’m Sinae, the CEO of HMNKIND. Being in the mask business, I research, review, test out and talk about masks a lot. Even though the market is inundated with endless options and every fashion brand has their own cute version, I have friends and family who complain that they still can’t find the right mask. If you’re in that boat, looking for the mask that won’t annoy the heck out of you, I’ll try my best to go through key mask features to help you get some clarity on what to consider and look for.
My research, personal experience, and customer feedback have shown that the features that are valuable to the mask-wearer align with their specific, personal lifestyle. The right mask for you may not be the right mask for someone else. Similarly, the right mask for one activity may not be the mask for another. If your mask collection has grown as big as your sock collection but you’re still not happy, here are some of the fundamental features that you should consider as you continue to search for the right one.
If you are a medical professional or have an underlying medical condition that puts you in the high-risk category, then a medical grade KN-95 or N-95 mask will be the most appropriate for you. There is a dire shortage for medical grade PPE for front-line workers, so those who do not fall into this group should responsibly source other masks.
So aside from the CDC’s recommendation to wear a 3-ply cotton mask, what level of protection is sufficient for those of us just trying to get by during a global pandemic? How do we access proper protection? For one, how protective a mask is depends on a myriad of factors: the materials used, how it was made, how it fits your face etc. Still, there is an objective standard we can use to evaluate protection by testing a material’s bacteria filtration efficiency (BFE) or viral filtration efficiency (VFE). For example, 3-ply cotton masks have an average VFE of 65.8%. But for those who prioritize protection, the following masks have been tested for filtration efficiencies higher than 3-ply cotton masks:
Additionally, it goes without saying finding a snug, secure fit is essential to the function of a protective face mask. However, this is easier said than done. Oftentimes, you cannot try on before purchase and most mask companies do not have return or exchange policies. If you’ve had a tough time finding masks that fit, try looking for masks with size options or adjustable features. Seek brands with 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, that allows flexibility for refunds, replacements or size replacements. Trust me when I say in the mask category, one size does not fit all.
When it comes to finding the right mask, it’s all about striking the perfect balance between protection and breathability. A mask’s breathability can be measured and a higher rate means the material is more difficult to breathe through. 3-ply cotton masks and silk masks have a pressure differential of 4.29 and 4.57, respectively. The HMNKIND Antibacterial Performance Mask has a breathability rate of 2.36, making it nearly two times more breathable than cotton and silk masks.
Another factor to consider is scent. A funky smelling mask is impossible to ignore, especially in the latter part of the day as it gets worse! Unfortunately, that unpleasant odor is coming from a build-up of bacteria inside the mask. Look for masks with antibacterial properties that help combat any odors and can be washed daily.
Ease of wear for a mask can be based on how easy it is to put the mask on and take the mask off. Can you put it on with one hand? That’s easy. If you need two hands and a graduate degree in engineering to put it on, you’ve got a fussy one. When a mask is uncomfortable, we are more likely to fiddle with it, touch our face, take it off periodically or maybe even forgo it altogether. For these reasons, comfort isn’t a luxury, it may be a necessity.
Big or small, our individual choices have a collective impact on global environmental issues. Is this mask reusable? What is it made of? What impact does it have on the environment when I’m done with it? With the start of Covid-19, single use plastics have become prevalent again, causing a 30% increase of waste in our oceans. Honestly, I hate the embarrassment that comes with wearing a single-use mask when the cheap ear-strap breaks in mid-conversation. Trying to rig that thing back on my face and going about my day with a jerry-rigged mask is an experience that I do not want to relive. The ideal solution would be a mask that is reusable and recyclable at the end of its life cycle. The HMNKIND APM Mask maintains its antibacterial properties through multiple washes, even when washed up to 50 separate times. After you’re done with the mask, you can send it back to us, and we will send the mask to a polyurethane recycling center to be up-cycled to mattress padding. No waste whatsoever.
Are a few pimples here and there a trivial price for the sake of public safety during a global pandemic? No doubt. But is it a bummer nonetheless when it happens? Absolutely. Prolonged mask-wearing is irritating, moisture stripping, pore clogging and causes adverse reactions in the form of acne, eczema and inflammation. If you have sensitive or acne prone skin, this may be one key factor to consider when choosing a mask. Last week, our journal discussed that while 100% cotton is commonly used in masks, cotton can cause dryness and irritate the skin with prolonged use. On the other hand, 100% silk masks–while a softer, more luxurious alternative–compromises Viral Filtration Efficiency (58% VFE). Contrastingly, the HMNKIND Antibacterial Performance Mask, created by Korean Beauty experts, was designed with skin in mind. So, before you end up on page 14 in a frantic Google search for DIY maskne solutions, consider your possibilities in your choice of mask to prevent maskne before it even occurs.
One of the frustrating things we’ve run into is investing in a mask that doesn’t look as good as it did on the first wear, especially after washing. The APM maintains its shape, color and fit– wash after wash. It doesn’t wrinkle or lose its original shape.
Its functional simplicity in shape is met with a diverse, colorful assortment of outfit-friendly shades. Essentially, your mask acts as the lower half of your face when in use, so consider whether it aligns with or distracts from your overall look. For some, the less distracting the better, and for others, the quirkier the better. It’s really up to you. In this way, let masks become a vehicle of your self-expression rather than an inhibitor of it.
Cost & Value
So, all things considered, does the mask offer a value to you that’s worth what you’re paying for? It may seem cost-efficient to buy 100 face masks in bulk for $15.99, but in reality the longevity of those masks is quite short and limited to single use only. The value of the mask should reflect how long you will successfully and effectively be able to use it. We can all agree that masks are now the MVP of 2020 and have become added to the essentials we never leave the house without: Phone? Keys? Wallet? Mask? Check, check, and triple check. So taking the plunge and investing in one that checks all the boxes–protection, reliability, and quality–is all the more worth it.
With an over saturated market and endless mask options, it can be difficult to determine what your standards are. It is our primary goal to reassure you with the facts and empower you in your quest to find your holy grail. And while it seems like there are a lot of factors to worry about, it is what you don’t have to worry about that will make all the difference. In many ways, your search is–and should be to a large extent– intuitive. You will know when you found the one. You will wear it proudly, feel empowered and venture onward knowing that you are making the secure choice that ensures you and those around you are safer because of it. Oh, and don’t forget to smile.