To say that personal protective equipment like masks and face shields are vital right now would be a severe understatement. We’re currently experiencing a global pandemic and if throwing on a face covering is what it takes to save even a single life, well, that’s more than worth the sacrifice of marginal discomfort.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing “cloth face covers” in public settings—but according to some health experts, face shields may be more effective than masks in preventing and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“There’s a lot of at least biological possibility to suspect that [shields] are definitely better than homemade face masks, and maybe even better than other types of masks as well, because they not only prevent you from spreading it … [and] because it also covers your eyes, it provides more protection to the mucus membranes of your face where you might be getting infected,” Amesh Adalja, M.D., a pandemic preparedness expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told AARP.
With that in mind, I decided to switch out my usual hot pink face mask for a face shield for a week. It’s great to have effective options and I figured that if both are effective in preventing the spread of the virus, I may as well try out the different options. Here, exactly what happened when I tried wearing a face shield for a week and which one I prefer.
While tracking down face shields or face coverings has been quite the challenge for some areas, including my city, my brother-in-law owns and operates a packaging company and shifted to producing PPE during the onset of the pandemic, so I’ve been lucky enough to always have at least one face mask and face shield.
I’ll be honest: I much prefer the look of a face mask over a face shield for going about my day-to-day life. It feels much less invasive and more comfortable—but as of today I forewent my usual cotton face mask for a much more industrial feeling face shield. I’m not going to lie here: it takes a while to get used to a face shield compared to a face mask but it’s not uncomfortable and if it does work better than a mask, I’m all for making the switch.
Despite the fact that businesses are starting to open back up and social distancing rules have been relaxed, I’ve still been staying inside and only socializing with my boyfriend (who lives with me). The only time I go out is to embark on daily walks to get my 10K steps in and I always wear a mask when I’m out walking.
Today, I went out in my face shield for the first time and I definitely noticed some weird looks and double takes—especially given that face masks and PPE are sadly not very popular in my neighborhood. Strange looks aside, wearing a face shield while walking was admittedly nice. I felt the breeze on my face and was able to get some sun on what was inevitably becoming a face mask-shaped tan line.
By day three, wearing my face shield felt like second nature: much like wearing a face mask has become—but it wasn’t until today that I realized how beneficial a face shield is for certain safe, socially distanced activities like grabbing take out coffee on my daily walk. A face shield allows such easy access to your mouth compared to a face mask. I could easily sip my iced coffee without worrying about having to fuss with my PPE or touch my face with my unwashed hands outside the coffee shop.
I definitely get that wearing a face mask in the summer isn’t the most comfortable for many people, especially those sensitive to the heat. Day four was a wildly hot day—we’re talking over 100 degrees—and having the option to throw on a face field rather than a mask was really, really pleasant. My face didn’t get nearly as sweaty as it would have if I was in a mask and I was able to catch the occasional breeze on my face.
Honestly, after wearing a face shield for a week I will admit that I prefer my face mask. I’ve actually come to like my bright pink mask quite a bit—with the right sunglasses I actually feel quite stylish!
That being said, I do think that face shields have a time and place—anyone working construction or doing gardening work would probably prefer to feel the breeze on their face, perhaps those working in hot restaurant kitchens as well, and of course medical workers. I’ll hold onto my face shield for particularly hot summer days as well—but for my daily walk around my neighborhood I think a face mask will do just fine.