Yes, when using the correct type of material, such as neoprene, a face mask can be used as sun protection and has an equivalent of upwards of UPF +50. It is always advisable to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen when you are consistently outside, even on cloudy or winter days. If you think about all of the sun your skin absorbs over the course of a year, you can quickly rack up the sun exposure hours. Any bare skin exposed to the sun will also be exposed to harmful UV rays and sun damage. Compounded this can add to the effects of the photodamage of your skin. Daily use of at least an SPF 30, broad-spectrum, can actually improve the quality of your skin over the course of a year by protecting your skin and preventing additional sun damage.
Don’t count on your clothes, including your face mask to always protect you. That 100% fair trade cotton face mask isn’t any better than the equivalent of using an SPF 7 cream. To fix the problem and continually protect your skin, particularly, your face, you have two options. The easiest is to always use a sunscreen everyday of at least SPF 30. However, this isn’t always practical. Instead, you should just invest in a face mask that isn’t a cotton base material.
How Face Masks Can Help Protect Your Skin From UV Damage
What Are The Common UV Conditions Across Australia?
Of all of the types of cancers that are diagnosed in Australia, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers account for the largest percentage. In 2016 alone over 13K new cases were reported. Though family history and genetic susceptibility can affect your likeliness of developing this type of cancer, UV is the main culprit. UV radiation, which is a middle band radiation, is actually made up of three different types of rays. UVC, the 3rd type, is dangerous but usually doesn’t reach the surface of the Earth, but instead reacts with ozone in the high atmosphere. UVA and UVB are the more important types to be concerned with.
UVB rays have more energy that UVA rays and are thought to be the main contributor to sunburns and skin cancers. UVA rays have less energy and cause photoaging via damaging DNA in your skin’s cells. However, combined with UVB, UVA increasing the radiation in totality, increasing the potential for cancer to grow.
The Cancer Council recommends wearing sun protection any time the UV Index is at least 3. Annually, the average UV index for Australia goes from moderate (3-6) in Hobart, to high (6-8) in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, to very high (8-10) in Brisbane and Broome, to extreme (11-14) in Halls Creek and Darwin. So, annually, you could assume that some type of sun protection is required all the time. Only in Melbourne during certain winters does the UV index drop below 3.
The Cancer Council advises to do five (5) things to protect your skin against photoaging and cancers. SLIP – SLOP – SLAP – SEEK – SLIDE You should slip on some clothes, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek out shade, and slide on some sunglasses. However, since face masks have become more and more common to see as an everyday accessory, due to the smog and smoke in the air, it only makes sense to have one that also doubles as a sun protection mask.
What Are Face Masks Made Of?
Generally, when you buy a face mask it is going to be made of cotton or a cotton – polyester blend. Unfortunately, most of these “summer materials” like flax, cotton, linen, silk, 3 ply, and wool aren’t going to add any UPF to your outfit. Flax is the lowest at UPF +3 and wool is the highest at UPF +11. Instead, you need to focus on the material in the facemask that is of a specific type. Polyester, hemp, merino wool, and neoprene will all have significantly higher UPF ratings. This means that they will offer broad-spectrum (UVA & UVB) protection. Polyester offers UPF of +30, while neoprene rocks the sun protection at UPF +50.
Invest In the Best: Use A Face Mask
When you are picking the face mask for your sun protection think of the following factors to help you make your choice.
- Polyester is stifling in the summer because it traps heat
- Tightly woven material like neoprene protects better because there are fewer gaps in the material for the sun to sift through
- Darker materials protect better than lighter materials because the ink not only reflects but absorbs as well
- Fully synthetics protect better over natural or blends. Hemp or merino wool may be appealing but they don’t protect as well as neoprene against the sun
- Don’t get a mask that is tight over your face. As the material stretches, gaps open, allowing the sun in. Looser, or at least not tight, face masks don’t allow gaps to form in the material
- The more coverage the better. If you can visually see the skin, so can the sun
Finally, don’t expect your foundation makeup to protect you. It isn’t that the sunscreen in the makeup is defective. The common amount of sunscreen that is required to be used to be effective is more than what is used in a daily foundation application. Investing in a sun protection face mask is money in the bank. Your face will be smiling back at you a year from now.