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8 Face Mask Mistakes People Make Without Realizing It

It's Not Enough to Wear a Mask to Prevent Viral Transmission - It's How You're Using It, Too

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The contents of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It's important to consult with your medical providers and the CDC before making any medical decisions or changes to your health plan, particularly with regard to COVID-19 and its variants.

Now is not the time to get comfortable with the way things are. Despite COVID-19 vaccines now made widely available, there are still vulnerabilities to address in attempting to contain the virus's spread.

As it stands, there are nearly 24 million cases of COVID-19 and just under 400,000 deaths in the United States alone. Even though more Americans have decided to wear masks regularly, cases are still increasing in states like California, Texas, Florida, and New York.

It may be time to take a more surgical approach to face mask usage. It's not as simple as putting one over your mouth and nose. Below are common face mask faux pas you might be committing to keep yourself COVID-free.

Read More: Where to Buy N95 Masks Online for Biden's 100-day Masking Challenge

1. You Don't Fully Cover Your Nose and Mouth With Your Mask

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It's been the subject of many PSA posts on your social media pages to the point where it's being joked about in memes, and that's why this sits at the top of the list. Wearing your mask right below your nostrils is counterproductive to preventing the transmission of COVID-19 as you're inhaling air without a protective barrier and potentially exhaling viral particles (especially if you're asymptomatic).

Yes, it's uncomfortable wearing a mask for long periods, and that's without consideration of external factors. But half-mask wearing must be completely avoided, as it defeats the purpose of wearing one. Covering your mouth and nose with a mask is a selfless act that not only protects yourself but others as well. It's not an infringement on your freedom but a choice you make in pursuit of a greater good and to prevent transmission in the small way you can.

2. You Don't Throw Away Your Disposable Mask After Use

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It's a lot more cost-efficient to invest in reusable masks than disposable ones - however, it's not such a bad idea to have a pack of disposable masks in your bag or car as a contingency. If you forget to put on a mask before leaving the house, at least you have disposable ones handy to follow the mask-wearing mandate. But here's the thing: Don't hold on to those disposable masks after use - throw them away, stat!

In a 2020 study, nearly 44% of participants shared that they used disposable masks a few more times before throwing them away. Perhaps you think that it might be a waste to throw a disposable mask immediately, so you give it a few more uses to get your money's worth. The thing is, you can't extend the life of a disposable mask after its initial use. The filtration system of a single-use mask breaks down and becomes completely soiled after several hours.

3. You're Reusing Your Single-Use Mask

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Let's say you decide to stick to your used, disposable mask for everyday wear. You think there's nothing to worry about since you wash it between uses anyway. Nearly 41% of the same study's participants also admitted to washing single-use masks to somehow extend their expiration, but doing so actually does more harm than good.

Once a disposable mask is dampened or soaked with sweat or water and laundry detergent, they're no longer of good use to you. Washing a disposable mask can damage the fibers needed to filter contaminants and unwanted particles from your nose and mouth, making them less effective. Wearing a three-day-old, reused, washed disposable mask is akin to wearing no protective face covering at all.

Read More: Where to Buy FDA-Approved N95 Masks and KN95 Masks Online

4. You Don't Wash Your Reusable Mask After Days - or Weeks!

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All right, so you've decided to invest in reusable masks - hooray! It's a great decision to make as it lessens your environmental impact, reduces unnecessary waste, and lets you become more sustainable even during a pandemic. However, therein also lies the question: How often do you wash your reusable mask? Once every three days? After a week? A month? If you chose any of the three options, you're in for an education.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your reusable mask after every use. However, a consumer survey conducted in 2020 found that 79% of participants didn't wash their cloth face masks after every use. It might be ideal to have more than one reusable mask, so you have a set of clean ones to choose from, too.

5. You Don't Wash Your Hands Before and After Using Your Mask

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It may seem like a small thing, but most of the time, neglecting to wash your hands - or at the very least, sanitize them - can spell the difference between infection control and infection, period. It's not just after touching public surfaces and objects, but also before and after using your mask, too. Unfortunately, around 35% of study participants admitted that they don't wash their hands before wearing a face mask. In comparison, almost 44% of respondents said they don't wash their hands after removing their masks.

Frequent washing of hands and wearing face masks were two of the earliest protocols recommended by the CDC to prevent transmission of COVID-19, and yet, these two remain the most challenging measures to follow. In the subject of mask-wearing, make sure your hands are clean when putting on your mask and after taking it off to ensure you're not spreading contaminants.

6. You're Not Washing Your Face After Wearing a Mask

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Dermatologically, wearing masks for long periods of time can wreak havoc on your skin. A breakout may occur where bacteria, dirt, sweat, and makeup are trapped between the inner lining of your mask and your skin and could irritate the area.

In addition to preventing breakouts, washing your face after wearing a mask is good practice, in case you involuntarily touch your face. After all, a 2015 study found that the average person touches their face 23 times every hour, and 44% of those touchpoints involved the eyes, nose, and mouth.

7. You're Letting Others Borrow Your Mask

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You're not lending your toothbrush to anyone else, are you? So, why would you lend your mask to other people? It seems unbelievable, but apparently, 25% of respondents from this 2020 study claimed that they shared a face mask with someone else - and did so without washing the mask, too!

Like refusing to cover your nose and mouth with your mask and reusing a disposable mask, sharing your mask with others can contribute to the coronavirus's spread rather than inhibit it. For whatever reason you're lending your mask—perhaps you're trying to cut costs or maximize the use of one—you end up sharing each other's bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens in the process.

8. You're Not Properly Storing Your Mask

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Don't leave your mask just about anywhere. Remember, your mask is a petri dish of trapped bacteria and other contaminants while you've worn it, so placing it on the dining room table, kitchen counter, or any common room surface after usage actually propagates the spread.

A simple storage solution is to designate an area in your home or office where you can safely isolate the masks from other people. If you're not going to wash used cloth masks immediately, store them in a ziplock bag to prevent potential transmission, at least until you decide to do your laundry. When it comes to storing clean masks, keep them in a dry, breathable bag (a paper bag or a mesh fabric container works) until it's time to wear them.

Keep Stock Of Face Masks At Home

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In case you don't know where to get a supply of N95 or KN95 masks, check out these in-demand masks from Samtone and Bona Fide Masks:

SAMTONE KN95

Price: $11.99 (5-piece), $46.99 (20-piece)

Samtone KN95 masks are made from thin, lightweight, and high-quality materials that compose its four layers of protection. It effectively filters at least 95% of airborne particles and serves as the ideal protective barrier from inhaling pollution, exhaust gas, seasonal allergies, and smoke. Wear the Samtone KN95 mask to stay safe while exercising, running, and cycling outdoors, or use it while you're traveling, too.

Get the SAMTONE KN95 mask here.

Bona Fide Masks Black Powecom KN95 Face Mask Respirator

Price: $12.50 (10-piece)

The Black Powecom KN95 personal respirator filters 95% of air particles sized 0.3 microns. It's made of a multilayer filtration system of non-woven breathable fibers that keeps you protected from contaminants.

Get the Bona Fide Masks Black Powecom KN95 Face Mask Respirator here.

Harley N95 Respirator Face Mask

Price: $71.64 (20-piece)

The Harley L-188 N95 Particulate Respirator Mask is NIOSH certified to filter at least 95% of airborne particles. It's NIOSH certified, meaning breathing resistance, strap strength, and filtration meet their standards. Compared to other N95s, the Harley Respirator is foldable and moldable to the wearer's facial structure.

Get the Harley N95 Respirator Face Mask here.

Protect yourself and your loved ones, keep up the good habits, and equip yourself with the right PPE here.