Why Facial Coverings Aren't Going Anywhere

Facial coverings are not new, and should become a more permanent clothing accessory.
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woman with brown eyes and face covered with scarf
Image Source: Pexels

A lot has been uncovered in the last couple of years, but 2020 caused one thing to become widely covered. Faces. Controversial or not, face masks and other facial coverings have garnered global attention due to the pandemic.

While those blue paper-like masks have come to the forefront as our idea of a mask, facial coverings have historically been used in a wide variety of ways. 

This article will largely be focused on those many other applications to facial coverings that have been used in ceremonies, hobbies, professions, and everyday life. There are so many possible applications for facial coverings, you are likely to keep a couple in your wardrobe for future usage.

Facial Coverings Have Many Functions

Masks and facial coverings have been utilized in functional ways for a long time. In almost every single application, facial coverings have one overarching motive: protection.

Masks offer the wearer protection from being identified, protection while offering a performance, protection from the cold, from unwanted particles and other potentially harmful substances or foreign media.

Certain cultures have facial coverings built into their clothing styles. Facial coverings can be a lot of fun as well, like Halloween or masquerades and fancy events.

Religious and Spiritual Applications of Masks

In some of their earliest applications, masks were used in religious and social scenarios. They offered protection from the inner-self while channeling or symbolizing gods or spirits in rituals.

Masks have been utilized in this fashion for some 30,000 years and all across the globe by a multitude of cultures. They have maintained relevance in some cultures more than others, but their history within ceremonial usage is strong.

In more modern-day applications, facial coverings and masks offer more physical protection than spiritual. However, the physical protections are likely more versatile and widely useful than you may have considered.

Facial Coverings Protect From The Cold

Winter sports with gaiter and balaclava
Image Source: TheSkiGirl

In cold weather, a facial covering offers protection and warmth. When you hear the phrase "ski mask", you may actually picture a bank robber before an actual skier.

Ski masks were originally created to essentially be a sweatshirt for your head. Winter sports take place in cold and sometimes extremely windy environments, so protection from the elements is essential.

Facial coverings for winter activities have evolved, with more options like buffs, gaiters, and balaclavas becoming commonplace for people looking to hit the slopes.

Clothing keeps you warm by trapping air near your body. That air is then warmed by our own warmth and body heat, and kept near your skin in order to keep you warm. That cycle then continues, as warmer air being near your skin will keep your body warmer and will produce more heat. This is why layering clothing is very effective in creating and keeping you warm in colder weather.

The exact same principle applies with a facial covering. Albeit a single layer of coverage, the amount of warmth trapped from your body heat as well as exhaled air makes a huge difference.

I actually kept a face mask on when I got home from work and had to shovel my driveway this winter. I completely forgot I had a mask on after wearing one at work all day and was surprised with how warm I was during the completion of the chore. Wearing warm clothing otherwise, feeling the cold on my face is typically what would make me uncomfortable in the winter. A facial covering solves that issue.

Facial Coverings Provide Sun Protection

Facial coverings like bandanas, buffs, and gaiters also provide valuable protection in the summertime or hot sunny weather. Many people in both work and hobbies utilize facial coverings during their days in the field or on the water.

Two women migrant workers talk during the workday, one with facial covering
Image Source: Our World

This image shows two women laborers talking during their workday. They both have large hats, long sleeves and pants, gloves, and headwraps with facial coverings. It is clearly a very sunny day where they are working, likely quite warm if not hot as well and yet they are almost entirely covered.

The workers are utilizing physical barriers for protection from the sun. A physical barrier can work as well or better than sunblock to keep UV rays from damaging skin and making you extremely uncomfortable.

Facial coverings in particular offer great physical protection for one of the more sensitive areas to sunburn, also creating a shaded area to help keep the wearer cooler overall.

Fisherman with gaiter holding a caught fish
Image Source: TH Marine Supplies

This fisherman shows the use of a gaiter in combination with sunglasses, hat, and gloves while fishing. It is also a sunny day on the water, and all of these clothing items offer physical protection from the sunshine and the heat. Reflective sunshine off the water adds another dimension that needs to be protected against.

TH Marine Supplies has these gaiters listed for sale with "UV Protection". They are specifically designed to protect the wearer from harmful sun rays and protect against damage and even potential skin cancer. Wearing this physical barrier becomes easier, cheaper, and equally if not more effective than applying and reapplying sunblock all day long.

Facial Coverings Offer Particle Protection

Graph showing results from allergic rhinitis study with masks
Image Source: US National Library of Medicine

An interesting study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information uncovered the potential for face masks to reduce seasonal allergic rhinitis. While COVID-19 has brought the uses of face masks to the forefront, their protection against airborne particles is one of the largest benefits.

Likely the biggest argument in favor of masks is to stop the wearer from spreading their own particulates through exhalation. Facial coverings also have the capacity to physically filter out some particles coming in as well.

What the study here found was that wearing face masks increases the temperature and humidity of breathed air between masks and airway openings, which may decrease nasal responses to bothersome allergens.

Whatever allergens are still able to get in may have a lesser negative impact on the wearer. Many of the negative effects of allergens are compounded by the dryer, lower humidity air being breathed during allergy season.

It is important to note that this study did not conclude a universal improvement, but did show improvements in some of the individuals who participated in the study.

Every individual is different and will have different reactions to different methodologies. The study did show reductions in allergic rhinitis symptoms and may provide you with extra protection if you have allergies.

I personally do have seasonal allergies and I know the feeling of when they are coming on. This past year when I woke up feeling like allergies were setting in, I wore a face mask outside during a windy day while playing disc golf in the woods. I did not have information on effectiveness but I gave it a try. Anecdotally, at least, I truly felt like it helped me stave off the onset of my allergies.

Surgeons performing an operation with surgical masks on
Image Source: Pexels

Many professions utilize masks as a way to protect the wearer, but mostly the people around them. In an environment that needs to remain safe, sterile, and clean, masks, gloves, and hairnets are commonplace and standardized.

Falling under 'universal precautions', doctors, nurses, and surgeons will wear such equipment in order to minimize risk and maximize protection for patients and coworkers.

In scenarios like surgery, when a patient has to be cut open and their insides are exposed, the infection becomes an extremely important issue to protect against.

Face masks, gloves, and hairnets all provide barriers to prevent germs, bacteria, and other potentially unwanted particles from leaving the doctor or surgeon, then entering and possibly infecting a patient.

Special forces member with facial protection
Image Source: Special-Ops.com

Special forces around the globe often wear facial coverings to protect themselves against being identified, as well as exposure to the elements. Whether they are looking to keep from inhaling dust on tours that require them to be in harsh desert climates or protection from the hot unrelenting sun, facial coverings help them achieve that protection.

They also are able to hide their faces and are much more difficult to identify by anyone they want to remain hidden from. Again, these uses are not new and unique to recent events, they have been utilized for a long time by many groups around the world.

Facial coverings have come to the forefront with the pandemic, however, there are multitudes of different ways in which they remain relevant and have used in our daily lives outside of stopping the spread of disease. We have seen the effectiveness of facial coverings in many functions, and they likely will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

Enjoying an active lifestyle, focused on family and community. Writing on relevant and helpful topics that most people can relate to.

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