Just because you look good in your facemask doesn’t mean it’s protecting you.
A new study by researchers at Duke University found that chic face coverings such as bandannas, gaiters, and knitted masks might cover your face but aren’t necessarily protecting you and preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Researchers tested 14 different kinds of masks, according to the study, and the winner was the N95 mask, which is often worn by medical professionals. The study was published in the journal ScienceAdvances.
While there was a time where public leaders advocated for basic face coverings, it’s become more known that certain masks offer better protection. The N95 respirator – considered the gold standard of protection – was hard to come by at the beginning of the pandemic due to production shortages. That turned the masses to DIY masks or buying branded masks from retailers.
Of the 14 masks that were tested, only the N95 and one made of mask material were part of the experiment. Researchers based their findings off speaking tests where participants were asked to repeat certain sentences and a camera would record droplets emitted during the test.
Researchers concluded that beyond the N95 mask, ones made from cotton or surgical masks were protective against respiratory droplets. Coverings like neck covers or gaiters, which tend to be spotted on runners and athletes, were not as protective.
“We were extremely surprised to find that the number of particles measured with the fleece actually exceeded the number of particles measured without wearing any mask,” Martin Fischer, one of the study’s authors, told CNN. “We want to emphasize that we really encourage people to wear masks, but we want them to wear masks that actually work.”