What to look for in this everyday essential.
Septembers in Hong Kong are always pretty hot and humid, but this year, we don’t blame you if you are feeling even more uncomfortable than usual. The weather in the 852 coupled with the constant friction of a face mask makes the skin feel like it’s about to melt or explode! And yet, we know that masks are super important and we wouldn’t want to put ourselves, our loved ones or anyone else in society at risk by going out and about without wearing one.
As parents, we need to step out of the house or away from our offices for many reasons – school pickups and drops, grocery runs, walking the dog and exercising. Putting on a mask is now second nature, just like grabbing the keys or wallet. As for the kids who are back in school (fingers crossed, it stays that way!), it is mandatory to wear a mask at school and if travelling by school bus. So what should you look for while buying a mask for different members of the family? We’ve rounded up the best masks for kids and adults and where to buy them.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this article should not be treated as medical advice and regular face masks, as mentioned in this article, are not a replacement for hospital-grade personal protective equipment. If anyone in your family is in the high-risk category, please follow your doctor’s or the health authority’s recommendations about masks and protective equipment.
What To Look For In A Face Mask For Adults?
Needless to say, your top priority should always be safety – yours as well as those around you. Your exposure to risk will depend on the nature of your job, how much and where you travel to in Hong Kong, underlying health conditions (if any) and more. This will determine what type of mask you might require. Other factors that should influence your decision are:
- Fit (size and comfort)
- Your lifestyle (how active you are)
- Environment-friendliness and personal preferences
Fabric masks (even with filters) are way more ventilated and easy on the skin than the disposable, 3-ply surgical ones for running your daily errands. In the COVID-19 era, masks are available in any print and fabric imaginable but when it comes to functionality, not all types of fabric masks are created equal.
It’s kind of a Goldilocks situation here. Some cotton masks are too thick which leave you suffocated, damp and sweat absorption even harder. A damp mask equates to more maskne (rather than acne – it’s real, ask your dermatologist!) and more fiddling which defeats the whole purpose of wearing a mask. A mask made in a lighter fabric with perforations to allow a small degree of airflow can feel comfortable, but if you can see daylight through the fibres, it means the weave is too loose and therefore protection is minimal. So you need one that’s just right!
An ideal breathable, protective mask needs to fit like a glove plus have a happy compromise between density and sweat absorption. Do a simple light test – make sure the mask you’re opting for is not too heavy, saggy or too light; preferably a mix of cotton, spandex and moisture-wicking fabric.
Gyms recently got the green signal to re-open and masks are no longer mandatory to use during a workout (correct at the time of publication). Yet, in a closed space with limited airflow, masks offer an extra layer of protection (call me paranoid but we are in the midst of a global pandemic, after all!). For workouts, many people go for the neck gaiters and bandanas to cover their faces but are they effective? Sorry to be a party pooper here but when it comes to face masks, breathability is inversely proportional to safety. Whilst something is definitely better than nothing, a recent study in Science Advance journal suggests that loose face coverings often worn for hiking, running and gym sessions “offer very little protection” against transmission of COVID-19.
What To Look For In A Mask For Kids?
Schools were shut and then opened, then closed for summer and have now re-opened again in Hong Kong. While most parents are celebrating, a big worry is getting smaller children to wear masks throughout the day (or half a day as the case may be) and what really works best for them? Neck wraps, K95s, disposable surgical masks, reusable cloth masks, shields, brackets, the options are plenty.
Most schools have their strict instructions on what protective gear pupils need to wear. Some kindergartens have face shield requirements while others prohibit their use, some mandate face masks to be changed every couple of hours, others trust the maturity of (older) children on this. Your best bet is to follow the school rules and the Education Bureau’s (EDB) guidelines (fill in the health declaration form before sending them to school and fill in the temperature chart every day) carefully and then pick a mask that suits your child best.
Size and fit are crucial for little faces. Masks with elastic ties are good because they allow a closer fit. If not, be sure to make a small knot to keep the mask in place. Many kids’ masks also come with ear saver clips that allow the loops to be held together at the back of the head instead of around the ears. This prevents pressure on the ears and the discomfort that comes with a tight ear strap or a toggle that presses down painfully. However, your child should be able to put the mask back on with the ear saver clip each time after he or she has taken a water or snack break.
If your child is old enough to know how to take off a cloth mask, store it and put it back on correctly, it is a good idea to invest a high-quality reusable one. If your little one is just too little or too excited to be able to handle strict safety protocols, it might be best to use disposable masks and pack an extra one as well. What is absolutely essential is that you prepare your child with proper hand hygiene measures and social distancing protocol as they return to school.
Do Mask Accessories Help?
Mask braces or brackets are bendable, silicone structures designed to keep the mask from touching your face and claim to solve a load of mask issues: maskne, foggy glasses, a poor fit, suffocation during a workout and even preserving makeup. Talk about date night saviours!
Sounds too good to be true? It probably is. These brackets have big air vents, a T-shape to cover the nose and mouth and small hooks to keep the mask snug and secure. But practically, when you’re on the move, the brackets shift in its place, creating a gap between the mask and the face and undermines the whole safety aspect. Besides, silicone and plastics are skin irritants for many. Some dermatologists worry if long-term use will cause even more breakouts and allergies from the material of the brackets than the mask itself.
The trend of using mask braces is so new that there is no real scientific research on whether it lowers the overall protection against COVID-19 or even if it’s safe to use. You don’t need rocket science to tell you that if something can potentially hamper with the fit of a mask, creating even the tiniest possible hole, then you’re just wearing the mask for show, not function.
What about face shields? These can be used with a face mask, but not in place of one. Face shields do not prevent droplets spreading, so a mask will always be more effective, but it may serve as an effective barrier (and reminder) for your little one who has a tendency to rub his or her eyes or nose.
The Best Masks For Adults And Kids
This mask has got rave reviews all around the world and launched in Hong Kong on Friday, 25 September 2020. It has everything you could ask for. It’s triple-layered, feather-light, sweat-wicking, odour-drying, washable and even blocks 90% of the ultraviolet rays. Uniqlo has created this mask with the same Airism signature technology used in their sportswear. The mask is available in three basic colours, white, grey and black and a pack-of-3 costs $79 only. It is available in three sizes (S, M and L) and the small one will fit primary school-going children as well.
Available at Uniqlo stores across Hong Kong
Bamboa has launched its own collection of 100% bamboo fibre face masks for kids and adults. These are hand-sewn by tailors in Hong Kong to meet the growing demand for a sustainable type of face mask. These use three layers of bamboo fabric and are not made with any toxic substances. Adult masks cost $130 while kid ones cost $110.
Available online and in-store
Saupei is well-known in Hong Kong for its recycled and upcycled products. Its cloth masks come in three layers and four sizes. Saupei masks for kids and adults are available at most eco-stores across the city.
Known for its cute and comfortable clothes for children, The Wee Bean is now offering organic kids’ masks. These masks are breathable and ideal for active kids (2.5 years and up). Each mask has a pouch for a filter and you can also buy a set of 10 PM 2.5 filters. For every mask sold, The Wee Bean will donate one to J Life Foundation Limited to distribute to children from low-income families in Hong Kong.
The cotton fabric of this mask feels like an ultra-soft t-shirt but the size is best suited for people with larger faces or bigger heads. This reusable mask comes with a built-in pocket with a filter, plus an additional filter. For each item sold, Casetify donates a medical-grade mask to a health worker in need. So far, 35,000 masks have been donated. The mask costs just over $100 but shipping charges apply.
Created by the founder of Malabar Baby because she struggled to find a mask that her five year old son would wear, these offerings are made with up-cycled organic cotton fabric with beautiful prints (taken from the off cuts of the wearable sleep bag range!). The masks will withstand everyday washing, sweaty weather and your little one running around outside now that the parks have opened up! Shop for kids masks (up to age 7) and teen/women.
Need something while out on your daily run? Trust Adidas to come up with the best in the line active mask – soft, machine washable (added bonus!), sweat-absorbing and fits like a glove. Comes as a pack of three in small, medium and large sizes. It’s sold out on the website (more options coming soon) but available on Carousell.
Currently available on Carousell
These masks are the very definition of summer. Available in solid hues for formal occasions and colourful, tie-dyed designs for the fun times, they look and fit like a darling! The double knit layered cotton fabric with stretchy ear loops is as breathable and comfortable as a mask can get. While the masks themselves are inexpensive ($197 for a pack of 5), shipping charges apply. American expats who are monitoring the situation back home will be happy to know that Everlane donates 10% of its sales to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Other notable mentions
We are quite excited about the feat.MASK that’s available for pre-ordering now. It looks stylish and promises to be functional with anti-bacterial yarns (and we love their tree-planting initiative!). You can also check the masks by Milk Shirts (available for kids and adults) and the personalised ones from Masked by Myers that come highly recommended by mamas in Hong Kong. If you don’t mind the shipping charges, look at some of the masks available on Etsy for kids and adults, the Meo-Air mask for kids (this New Zealand-product is also available on HKTV Mall), the Onzie Mindful Mask and the Under Armour SportsMask.
Editor’s note: Masks are sold out and restocked regularly, check availability for the latest versions.