Wearing face masks in public has now become a routine. After months of acclimatizing to the new normal, breathable face masks for the hottest days of summer, wetter days feel relevant now more than ever. No one wants to spend the summer sweating under a mask, and it can be confusing to know which face covers strike the right balance between breathability and safety. As a result, reaching for a mask that is too thick instead of a more breathable option can be more harmful than helpful.
Dharushana Muthulingam, MD, MS, an infectious disease physician and public health researcher at the University of Washington at St. Louis, recommends fabric masks that find a happy medium between fabric density and comfort for the summer months. “Unfortunately, there is an inverse relationship between protection and breathability,” Dr. Muthulingam tells Vogue. “In general, you don’t want to see the light between the fibers when you hold them in the sun, but the mask should also be breathable, especially in the hot months.” While studies have shown that well woven cotton fabrics such as quilter cotton, batik, and even tea towels are the best overall choices, they are not always the most comfortable fabrics when moisture and heat are added to the mixture. “If the mask is uncomfortable, research has shown that people simply touch their faces even more,” says Dr. Muthulingam. “Aim for the commitment to get protection” good enough “that it also allows a certain amount of air to enter to make wearing the mask tolerable.” The lightest performance cottons, polyesters, or fabrics are acceptable and safe to use.
The shape of the mask is also an important consideration. Many runners prefer to wear balaclavas and bandanas that can pull up or down when they are six feet away from other people. While fabric masks that mimic surgical masks with comfortable ear straps and a secure fit are preferred, Dr. Muthulingam says “the key is to eliminate the gaps between your skin and the mask, but that is accomplished.” . You have to cover your nose and go under the chin.
With more and more options on the market, it’s no surprise that people are investing in breathable summer masks. Here, 18 breathable masks on breathable fabrics like cotton, polyester blends, and other high-performance textiles that you can wear for all your outdoor activities and also throw them on your clothes.
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Athleta 5 pack non-medical face masks
Grayson masks, non-medical
Outdoor Voices OV face mask, pack of 5