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Face Masks vs Face Shields: Which Should You Choose?

It’s everywhere—on every news broadcast, newspaper, social media feed and conversation. Coronavirus thrusted itself into our “new normal,” and now you can’t walk into a classroom, store or restaurant without seeing everyone in face masks or face shields.

But how do you know which type of face protection works best for your lifestyle? There are masks, shields, scarves and even more options! 

Chances are, you have to make enough decisions throughout the day, whether it’s with work, your family or even just what you want to eat (why is that one always so challenging?!). That’s why we want to help you with this one by highlighting the pros and cons of two of the most popular options: face masks and face shields. 

Face Masks

Face masks are the most common form of facial protection, with thousands of parents nationwide dusting off the old sewing machines to protect their families. But why are the majority of people donning these face masks instead of the other options?

Tighter Fit

Face masks have the tightest fit around the face, plain and simple. They either have tieable strings in the back to make them form fitting, or they have elastic rings to fit snugly over your ears. Either way, they are tight across your face, making it challenging for large particles to escape. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, masks “help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.”

Easier to Customize

We’ve all seen them—the colorful masks covering the bottom half of everyone’s faces. These masks come in a multitude of colors, fabrics, textures and designs. They proudly feature quotes, logos and other small personalizations that make them reflect those who wear them. Finding a face mask that shows off your style or personality is easy with all the variations available.

More Portable

We have enough to carry, don’t we? As women, we have purses filled to the brim with our wallets, makeup and million things we need to carry for everyone else. As men, our wallets or backpacks are filled in much the same way. The last thing we need is another bulky object to stuff in our bags or pockets. That’s why the compactness and flexibility of a face mask is so helpful.

Can be Homemade 

Throughout the late winter and early spring, the sound of sewing machines hummed throughout the country. That’s another big perk of face masks—they can be made from the house. You don’t need to buy them at the store when someone’s parent is inevitably taking orders. Plus, making them from home makes it easier to create it exactly how you’d like stylewise. 

Widely Distributed

If you don’t know someone who is making these masks themselves, you can also find these pieces of clothing in stores all over the country—and even online. In fact, CNN Business reported in August that 110,000 Etsy cloth face mask sellers sold a total of 29 million face masks in its second quarter—totaling $346 million in sales.

While cloth face masks are more widely distributed than face masks, you are in the right place if you’re looking for a face shield!

Face Shields

You don’t see face shields nearly as much as you see face masks in the age of COVID-19, but they provide real benefits that the masks don’t. They are easier to clean, easier to communicate with, cover your eyes and more. 

Easier to Clean 

Especially during a pandemic, cleanliness is the most important consideration when looking for protection. Some of us do several loads of laundry every single day without a second thought. For those people, washing masks in the laundry isn’t a big deal. However, there are others who can’t get to laundry as frequently, whether it be because they are working long hours, don’t have enough clothes to run the wash every day or travel frequently. If that is the case, face shields are much easier to disinfect on a daily basis. Check back at our blog later for a step-by-step guide on how exactly to go about cleaning yours!

Doesn’t Need Readjusted

With every itch, fidget and head movement while wearing a face mask, there is a shift in position. It could be big or small, but it’s there. And it’s annoying. But more so, it’s not great for the spreading of germs. Imagine how much you touch on a daily basis. Do you always have the ability to clean your hands before adjusting your face mask? That answer is most likely no.

AARP recently spoke with Amesh Adalja, M.D., a pandemic preparedness expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Adalja said in the interview that a face shield “doesn’t really put you in a position where you’re touching your face so much, because it’s not as cumbersome to wear.”

Easier to Communicate

“What?” 

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?!”

“Can you repeat that—a bit louder? Your mask is muffling your voice!”

Phrases such as these play on a constant loop these days. There’s no denying it, this muffled symphony is annoying, to say the least. But for those who are hearing-impaired, it’s much more than a minor inconvenience. In fact, WTAE reporter Elena LaQuatra recently shared a story about how masks impact communication. She broke the issue down to three issues:

  1. Masks eliminate visual cues such as lip reading
  2. They also affect the pitch range of speech
  3. They muffle the loudness of the speaker’s voice

Face shields help with these issues because mouths are visible for lip reading, and the shields aren’t so tight fitting. That means they don’t affect the pitch range or muffle the speaker wearing them. 

Cooler in Warm Weather

While this might seem like a moot point with summer coming to a close, you never know what will happen with the weather at this time of the year. Especially when it’s hot and humid, masks tend to amplify that sticky, hot feeling. They cause you to sweat around your mouth and keep that sweat locked in under the cloth. And don’t even get us started on those tan lines!

However, face shields have a more open design, even if the best of them make sure to thoroughly cover the areas most at risk on your face. This spacious design prevents that capture of moisture and makes everything much more breathable.

Cover Your Eyes

Perhaps the biggest pro of a face shield is that it provides protection for the entirety of your face, including your eyes. While face masks are helpful for most situations, they leave the eyes completely vulnerable to germs and the possible spread of the Coronavirus infection.

AARP also interviewed James Cherry, M.D., a distinguished research professor and infectious disease expert at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. According to Cherry, experts are not entirely sure how vulnerable our eyes are to COVID-19. However, Cherry also said that eyes are important to many viruses, so it’s essential to take precautions.

Also, those who have glasses know how frustrating it is to have constantly foggy eyewear due to face masks. Because of face shields’ open design, fogginess is much less of an issue.

Stay Safe With Your Facial Protection

There are definite pros and cons to both face masks and face shields, but the most important way to combat the spread of COVID-19 is with knowledge and knowing what is right for you. 

Our Anti-Fog Face Shields protect the front and sides of the face from exposure—learn more about them here!