We all know that any mask is better than no mask, that it must cover the nose and mouth, and that wearing masks protects everyone around us. But we’re starting to learn that some masks are more effective than others.Lab-based research from the University of Cincinnati, recently published in PLOS One, has found a fabric that best protects us from COVID-19: Silk. But how can something that normally inspires images of runway fashion be effective in a global pandemic? Let’s investigate.
Another day, another face covering – but this time it’s super soft silk face masks. By now, a reliable change of face masks has (hopefully) become part of your daily uniform – or at least the finishing touch to any outfit you put on in the real world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a face shield whenever you’re in public spaces where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, and studies show they reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Not all masks are created equal; one study showed that stretchy fleece collars made of nylon and polyester do next to nothing to prevent the spread of particles, while cotton and silk masks can be much more effective. Research has shown that high thread count cotton and natural silk or a chiffon fabric can effectively filter out particles when worn properly (read “tight and secure to the face, with no openings around the nose, chin or cheeks”).
Quality protection isn’t the only benefit of silk face masks – if you struggle with irritation caused by constantly wearing a cloth mask (I’m looking at you, masquerade), consider switching to silk. Of course, you still need to make sure your face cover is always clean (and preferably double), but silk or silk-like fabrics can cause less friction and irritation, making them a potentially better option for acne-prone skin. Not to mention, they look prettier than your average face mask – just keep it simple with Chrissy Teigen, who is known for masking herself a few times with the popular cover up slip.
Approval of silk masks
The authors of the PLOS One report explained that their goal was twofold. They wanted to find out which fabric was best for everyday use, and which fabric was best for workers wearing an extra layer of protection on top of their already overused N95 masks. The researchers measured the hydrophobicity of the fabrics (which determines how tiny, aerosolized water droplets can enter and exit) as well as the breathability of each mask (since we all know it can be difficult to take a full breath while masked). It was also tested how the fabrics behave after several cleanings.
Silk was able to repel and resist penetration of aerolized droplets the best, which means it has the greatest hydrophobicity compared to cotton and polyester. As a face cover and as a cover for a mask, even after repeated washing, silk remained remarkable. “Although respirators are still the most appropriate form of protection, face covers made of silk have properties that enable them to repel droplets,” the study authors said. This is not the first time silk has been used in medicine. Sutures are made from silk, and current research is investigating other new applications for silk in healthcare.
Benefits of the silk mask
Silk is produced by none other than the caterpillar, the insects that turn into butterflies and moths. In the case of silk, the caterpillar of the silk moth (Bombyx mori) has been widely bred for silk production. It is even believed that the silkworm was bred before the Neolithic period (yes, that was over 12,000 years ago). These tiny insects spin semi-impermeable cocoons (sometimes spinning for days at a time) of silk to be safe and protected from the outside world. Interestingly, the gift of the caterpillar, silk, is not only beautiful and water repellent, but also naturally antiviral, antimicrobial and antibacterial. What gives silk its many health-giving properties may be due to the presence of copper (which comes from silk spinners eating copper-rich mulberry leaves). In fact, some research has shown that copper in the form of food and supplements may even offer protection against oxidative damage. Can’t we just combine fabrics with copper? The PLOS One report states, “Other fabrics and non-specialized personal protective equipment (PPE) require copper particles to be incorporated during manufacturing, an expensive process that can be bypassed by using natural silk fibers.”
Silk has long been recognized as a medically useful material. David Kaplan, an engineering professor at Tufts University and an expert on silk biomaterials, says silk is strong yet pliable. It also does not cause an antibody response when introduced into the body and biodegrades over time. Silk has been used for sutures for centuries. More recently, Kaplan said, scientists have shown that silk is an excellent material for tissue reconstruction. Typically, surgeons take fat from other parts of the body or use synthetic materials for reconstruction when patients lose a large amount of soft tissue, such as in a car accident or because they have had a cancerous tumor removed. However, Kaplan says neither solution works well – the body often reabsorbs the fat and patients find that the synthetic material rarely feels natural.
Silk Masks Switzerland
Whether you like it or not, face masks are here to stay – at least for a long time to come. And really – would you ever want to be on a crowded subway without one again? Exactly. The thought of a stranger’s face inches away makes us queasy…. So it is of great importance that you find a face mask that fits well and is comfortable at the same time, and silk masks from Switzerland meet these requirements. And functionality is not the only advantage of silk masks Switzerland. They are also good for your skin. Not only do they feel good, but silk also lowers the risk of masque (acne, pimples, and congestion on the lower half of the face caused by wearing a regular cloth mask) because it’s breathable and causes less friction. The more friction, the more you risk minor skin damage that contributes to the formation of congested skin. Are you seeing the hype now? Okay, good.