If you live life to the fittest, you likely have a dedicated workout mask that you reuse. I mean, why wouldn’t you? Reusable masks are better for the environment. And by the time you’re done exercising, that mask is smelly, sweaty, and probably just gets tossed into your gym bag (where it will stay until you wash it and repeat the process). Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not doing yourself any favors here.
The truth is, the only mask you should be wearing to the gym (and in general) is a medical-grade surgical mask. This is what people mean when they refer to single-use masks and disposable masks.
Why should my gym mask be a disposable one?
There are plenty of perks to wearing a disposable mask. But before I get into them, let me explain why you shouldn’t feel guilty about switching to these masks.
First and foremost, as a climate and wildlife protections activist, I completely understand your distress. Single-use masks do add up to a lot of trash. But that shouldn’t be our main concern––especially given current events. It’s actually quite a privilege to even consider options outside of the one that’s been proven best (the surgical mask). While caring for the environment is definitely a responsibility that belongs to everyone, we’re living in a pandemic. And for some, these extenuating circumstances are life-threatening.
This is why we need to really reconsider our priorities for the time being. The environmental impacts of individuals are nowhere near as potent as the ecological consequences of the hundred or so corporations that get away with polluting and hoarding natural resources. But that’s neither here nor there, so what I’m trying to say is that our social responsibility–presently––outweighs our environmental one. As long as you discard your mask properly, there should be no shame in the game!
Surgical masks offer superior protection
That said, the most obvious reason for wearing a surgical mask to the gym is that it offers superior protection. In order for a face mask to be medical-grade, it must be tested by the FDA and meet its high standards. This is why you’ll never see a cloth mask touting an FDA stamp of approval. They’re just not as advantageous as their non-woven polypropylene counterparts. So by wearing that cheaply-made cloth mask, you’re doing a disservice to others. It’s science!
We’re far enough along in this pandemic to know that not all masks are created equal. (Especially that useless COVID-spreading athletic neck gaiter of yours). And when you’re enclosed in a very sweaty environment surrounded by heavy mouthbreathers, you want to be wearing the safest option.
They’re less likely to cause you to breakout
Another reason you should be wearing a medical-grade mask comes at a price that’s more personal. It has nothing to do with other people but it has everything to do with your face and overall health. Are you a victim of maskne? Then you’ll be (not so) happy to hear that this is probably a direct result of wearing a cloth mask. That’s not to say that acne won’t occur from wearing a surgical mask. But it’s much less likely to come about, and here’s why.
Mask wearing, in general, can give acne-causing bacteria occlusive, humid conditions in which they thrive. Unless you’re wearing a mask all day, sweating a ton, and refuse to wash your face, your acne is presumably caused by something else you’re doing. Like washing your mask with irritating chemicals or fragrant soap. For those of you with cloth masks, this is nearly unavoidable.
Hand soap, laundry detergent, antimicrobial face soap, or any cleanser strong enough to act as a disinfectant may contain the detergents triclosan, and/or triclocarban. These chemicals will wreak havoc on normal, dry, or sensitive skin due to their hormone-disrupting, dehydrating, and abrasive nature. Dry, irritated skin leads to inflammation which breeds acne. And if you avoid washing your cloth mask, you may as well give up on taking any precautions. Plus, you’ll just be dressing your face with a bacteria and sweat-laden cotton petri dish. It’s a lose-lose situation. You’re much better off packing a sterile surgical mask for the gym. Not only will your skin thank you, but so will your gym attendants! One less person wearing a subpar mask is one less person they need to worry about exposing the gym to COVID-19.
Medical masks fit better than cloth masks
This oh-so-eloquently transitions us to the next problem posed by reusable cloth masks: their inability to stay in place. Whether you’re speedwalking, power-lifting, or dancing your booty off in Zumba, cloth masks slip and slide faster than your heart’s BPM during cardio.
As you continuously put your mask on and take it off, the elastic used in many masks wears and stretches out. Without sturdy elastic, what’s going to hold your mask in place? Your hands? I don’t think so! Not only is this extremely annoying, but it’s also a hazard to your health and the health of others. The more you touch your mask, the more you cross-contaminate your surroundings. Additionally, if your mask doesn’t fit right, it won’t create the seal necessary for protection––which is the only reason we’re still wearing these things! So the next time you catch it sliding, wash it and save it for use as an outer layer mask (or a mask that protects the surgical mask you wear under it).
But maybe your issue isn’t acne or a runaway mask as much as it is suffering from a recurring respiratory infection or throat irritation. Well, you can also blame your cloth mask for that. A study in Vietnam shows that wearing a cloth mask instead of a surgical mask actually increases your chances for a respiratory infection or flu-like illness. Scientists blame the moisture retention, poor filtration, and reusing of cloth masks for the increased risk (but more research is needed to fully confirm this).
Aside from getting your gym bag to smell less (sans stinky mask), switching from a cloth mask to a surgical mask can help alleviate the stress of more than one problem. Irritated skin, a lingering cold, too many masks that need laundering, or masks that don’t stay on when you run, are all issues for past you. Your current mask-related dilemma should be figuring out where you can safely purchase surgical masks. And luckily, we can point you in the right direction.
Where can I purchase medical-grade workout masks?
Unfortunately, your options are limited. Amazon has been caught pushing bootleg products that filter at rates below cloth masks. Some of these masks have been hosting millions of mold and mildew spores after not being stored properly. Despite the United States ramping up its production of medical-grade masks, most of these aren’t available to the public. Companies like Kimberly-Clark won’t sell stock to consumers because it’s so focused on making masks available to healthcare workers. This is understandable but sorely lacks compassion for everyday people and the frontline workers that don’t have access to hospital supplies.
However, a manufacturing company in Austin, Texas is making sure that people who want medical grade face masks made in the USA can get them. Armbrust American is an FDA-registered surgical mask supplier that allows consumers to purchase medical-grade masks directly from its warehouse. Armbrust masks are regulated to prove they meet the required filtration rate of 98%. That is enough to block .1 micron of COVID particles. It just doesn’t get more legit than this, folks.
Armbrust is dedicated to stopping the spread of coronavirus, which is why the company offers bulk masks at wholesale prices in addition to smaller, more budget-friendly packages. Armbrust masks are available in an array of colors, too. Just in case you want your mask to match your gym clothes.
Prices start around $13 for a pack of 10 masks. But first-time buyers can save 20% by using the code DAILYDOT at checkout. You can find Armbrust masks for sale through the company’s website: www.armbrustusa.com or simply by clicking on the button below. Remember, before you can GTL you’ve got to mask up––we don’t need any more Situations!
The Daily Dot may receive a payment in connection with purchases of products or services featured in this article. Click here to learn more.