wearing masks in the new normal

Mysterious Masked Person – or Fashion Forward Friend?

The image at the top of this article is from a controversial Belgian study.  It shows first findings of the scatter of unseen droplets in the air as one person jogs past another. Scientists are checking the findings – but for those of us venturing out into the world at a ‘social distance’, it shows just how exposed we are to the people around us.  These people are just moving, not sneezing or coughing.  Protect yourself.

It looks like wearing masks outside of our homes is going to be the ‘new normal’ for all of us for a while. We are told not to buy the N95 surgical masks to make sure that they are available for health professionals on the front lines and fortunately many companies are giving us a great selection to choose from.  Masks need to be washed every time you return home (in case you got spattered when someone ran by – or passed you in the grocery aisle), so you will need several.

In addition to masks, you should wear glasses to protect your eyes from contact with the virus. Sunglasses are perfect when you need them outside.  If you already wear glasses, you are in luck.  If not, find some large frames you like without a prescription and wear them when you are out in the world. Of course, the goggles we wear underwater have a seal and probably provide good protection – but they might be too much for the grocery store. We have friends who put on ski googles to travel on an airplane.

glasses to be worn wearing a mask

I like these Boardroom frames in shiny antique crystal.  With ‘reader’ lenses with no power (clear), and with a complimentary hard case, they are $89.  Eyebobs Boardroom glasses.

eyebobs for masks

Warby Parker also has clear glasses.  Look for a style you like, but remember you want to protect your eyes from splatter.  Coley Clear Frames with no prescription, $95.

Fabric masks may be required in public for quite a while.

According to the CDC, fabric masks should

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Practical mask advice:

  • Masks with elastic loops over the ears are MUCH more convenient than the ones which require tying.
  • Many masks have an internal wire which can be pushed into shape to hug the bridge of your nose. These keep your breath from fogging up your glasses and they let less unfiltered air in and out.
  • Experts have recommended that we use cloth masks with a ‘pocket’ into which we can slip a clean, extra layer of HEPA filter.

Papercape kids wearing masks

Check out these adorable masks for children from Paper Cape (my daughter’s company). They are made from two layers of organic cotton and have adjustable ear straps.  From Paper Cape:

“Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by COVID 19.  For each mask purchased, we’ll donate a mask to the families that depend on San Francisco’s Homeless Prenatal Program.

We designed this 100% GOTS certified organic cotton face mask with embroidered bear face and adjustable elastic ear loops because we couldn’t find one that felt safe to us and exciting to our kids.

This mask is designed for children 2Y – 8Y.  According to the CDC, Face masks are not recommended for children under age 2Y.  This mask is for personal use only, it is not medical grade. Country of Origin, China.”

papercape masks

Paper Cape Children’s Mask, $15 per mask, Two masks, $25.

For you adults, there is no need for you to look like you want to hold-up your neighborhood store.  Fashion brands have chosen to pivot to manufacturing face masks. Many of them are donating one mask for every one they sell, so buying a few for yourself also helps protect someone in need. Often these masks feature a pocket for an additional filter.

vida masks in many colors

These Vida protective cloth masks are made of 100% cotton.  They have an integrated metal nose piece for a snug fit. The have adjustable straps. They are washable.  In addition, you can purchase disposable five-layer PM2.5 filters which you can insert into the pocket in the mask for extra protection.

4-Pack of masks in two colorways. $36

A pair of masks.  $18

Single mask. $10

PM25 Mask filters

Replacement PM 2.5 filters with six layers, including melt blown fabric and activated carbon for Vida masks. Pack of five replacement filters. $12.

abacaxi wearable masks

Abacaxi sewers are making these masks at home.  They have double layers of fabric and a pocket to hold a filter (buy separately).  They are washable and have elastic over the ears.  Choice of fabrics, colors and sizes.  For each cloth mask you buy, Abacaxi donates an N95 mask to frontline hospital workers.  Each Abacaxi mask, $30.

Charlotte Brody – Made with love, cotton fabrics and elastic ear loops. They do not have pockets for filters.  Set of four adult or 5 adult and children’s masks.  $50.

Rag and Bone wearing masks

Rag & Bone offers washable masks with 68% Lyocell 32% Viscose outer fabric, lined in 100% Cotton.  The ear straps are elastic.  They do not have a pocket built-in for a filter.

1 Mask $30           3 Mask Pack $55

Alice and Olivia offer this Staceface adjustable face mask. Buy one and Alice and Olivia will donate a mask to someone in need.  Machine washable and tumble dry. $10.

Birdwell makes a two-layer, reversible, washable mask.  You need to get comfortable tying the over earpieces.  Buy one and Birdwell will donate one.  $19.95

These ACE masks made by Rendall Company have elastic loops over the ears, two layers of 100% woven cotton, embedded copper nose band bends for a snug, custom fit (and reduces eyewear fogging), and a built-in pocket lets you add your own filter. Washable. For each mask you buy, Rendall will donate one. Four pack is $65.


Christy Dawn masks have two layers of fabric (cotton or linen) and elastic bands over the ears.  They are washable, but do not have a pocket for a filter. She will donate one mask for every mask you buy.

Five cotton masks $25Three linen masks $38.

DIY? Are you inclined to make your masks?

US Surgeon General video on making your own fabric face mask.

DIY coffee filter mask

If you do make your own mask or are thinking about purchasing masks made in your community.  Look for thick, tightly woven fabric, often cotton, because it is filtering small particles close to the size of a virus (0.3 to 0.5 microns).  Experts suggest that you hold a mask up to a bright light or the sun.  If you can see the light through the fabric, it is not likely to be good at filtering out virus.

DIY filter ideas include the use of a coffee filter, or a section of a non-fiberglass HEPA vacuum bag can be cut fit inside a fabric mask as an additional layer of filter.  Vacuum bags are often made with a material called melt-blown fabric. It’s an extremely fine mesh of synthetic polymer fibers that forms the critical inner filtration layer of a mask, allowing the wearer to breath while protecting you from airborne particles.

Whatever mask you use – remember that its purpose is to pick up stray virus if you encounter it.  Wash your hands before putting on the mask, handle only by the straps. When you take it off, handle it by the straps, wash it and wash your hands.


After thorough washings, treat your hands well.

Hand Care in the Time of Covid

Soothing hand cream

Header image credit: ANSYS