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August 24, 2020 4 min read

Will face masks help in the fight to prevent Covid-19 infections and deaths?

The short answer, according to the Mayo Clinic is yes, noting that “face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus”.

While not mandated early on in the pandemic, as researchers learn more about who can spread Covid-19 and how the virus transmits between individuals, masks are increasingly seen as an essential tool in efforts to return to ‘normal life’.

Alongside the Royal Society in the UK, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both now recommend face masks. With the CDC’s website stating; “Your mask may protect them. Their mask may protect you” and including a section advising how to wear cloth masks, and how to wash them.

However, not all masks are created equal and the type of material your face mask is made from is key for a number of reasons. First; how much protection the mask offers, and secondly; how little disruption it causes you as the wearer.

First, the efficacy of different material types, which was confirmed in a paper published this month by the Royal Society. The paper found that the material and thickness used in the face mask was important, with effectiveness ranging from 5-95% depending on the fabric, number of layers and fit. While paper masks reduced infection rates by 39%, researchers found that cotton masks performed much better, with a double layer of cotton and chiffon performing best of all.

Although the short answer to the question “Do face masks work” is “Yes”, wearing them can cause side-effects. For example, many of the better performing masks are made from a synthetic material, which create their own health related side-effects, such as poor mask permeability. This not only reduces oxygen intake but can also causes a build-up of CO2. 

A study published in the Oxford Academic Journals suggests that micro-plastics such as polypropylene, found in many “medical-grade” masks can actually reduce breathing efficiency, as the hydrophobic surface combines with water droplets in the breath, which “may be responsible for blocking the filtration media pores”.

Another increasingly common complaint of non-organic coverings is mask acne, which has been given the moniker “maskne”.

In a recent BBC article,  Dr Mona Gohara, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine insisted that "Maskne is absolutely real. No questions asked". In the same report, dermatologist Angeline Yong, explains that this is caused by “constant rubbing of the masks against our skin causes micro-tears, allowing easier entry for bacteria and dirt to clog up our pores".

Since the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent face-mask boom, many cosmetic companies have been quick to launch expensive Maskne-specific skincare products.

However, prevention is better and often cheaper than a cure. Of course, you could opt for an skin-friendly, organic cotton cloth mask but these inevitably lack in active defensive properties.

It seems we must choose between bio-protection and an absence of health-related side effects. Until now. Step forward the ‘Evolution of Cotton’ (EOC) face mask collection by Protexa.

Our newly developed sustainable and ecologically sound EOC materials are coated with all natural nano-composites with strong anti-bacterial and infection preventative properties, making them vastly more effective at enhancing biosafety than any sustainable and reusable mask on the market.

For example, our EOC range was independently tested and found to have the following reduction rates;

  • Escherichia Coli - 85.41%
  • Faecal Bacteria - 79.21%
  • Rhinovirus - 73.05%
  • Norovirus - 79.69%
  • Candida Albicans - 72.30%
  • Staphylococcus Aureus - 86.20%

Meanwhile, the internationally patented EOC textiles are 100% organic and contain no chemical dyes, pesticides or toxins. They’re also hypoallergenic with a pH of 5.5 that matches the body's optimal acidity range. Furthermore, this means our products are highly eco-friendly, thus tackling the major issue of eco-waste created by PPE made from synthetic textiles.

The numerous impressive benefits of which include:

  • Anti-bacterial and anti-viral
  • Made and produced with all-natural eco-friendly materials
  • Gentle on skin
  • Offer UV protection

So, the question “Do face masks work?” is in fact a complex one, which really depends of your definition of work and whether you want your mask to tick all the boxes or just one.

Nevertheless, in general they do help prevent the spread of disease. We will leave the final word on the efficacy of face masks to the the President of the Royal Society Venki Ramakrishnan, who in July 2020 called on people to always wear face masks in public, saying;

“The virus has not been eliminated, so as we lift lockdown and people increasingly interact with each other we need to use every tool we have to reduce the risk of a second wave of infection.  There are no silver bullets but alongside hand washing and physical distancing, we also need everyone to start wearing face coverings, particularly indoors in enclosed public spaces where physical distancing is often not possible […] We need to overcome our reservations and wear face coverings whenever we are around others in public. It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts. Today both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way. If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive, and we increase the chance of eliminating the virus. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother [...] So, just treat it as another item of clothing that is part of the new normal and wear it whenever you cannot socially distance safely. It the right thing to do, and a small price to pay, to help keep infections down and the economy open in the pandemic.”


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