Face Shields vs. Face Masks: What’s the Real Difference?

In this new age, face shields and face masks have become a common sight everywhere you look. It’s our new reality. But the question remains, which is better and which should you buy?

Face Masks: Pros and Cons

Face masks, although more visible now than ever, have been around for years. From citizens walking through polluted areas, to doctors operating on a patient, to construction workers using tools that spray dust and debris in the air — masks have long been used as personal protective equipment. 

Pros

Face masks aren’t a new phenomenon, not at all. In fact, they’ve been around for decades, even rumored to be used during the times of the bubonic plague. In the 1800s they were introduced to hospitals, and by the 1900s use by doctors and surgeons became more commonplace.

Face masks mold to your face shape, forming a barrier between yourself and unwanted pathogens that could make you ill. Their lack of gaps and thicker quality means that the mask can help protect you from particles that are projected at you as well as ones that hang in the air.

Wearing a mask not only helps you by filtering the invasion of outside pathogens, it can help you keep others protected from whatever contagious illness or infection you yourself have, or don’t even know you have yet. 

Overall, face masks are one of the most highly recommended options by experts for overall personal protection. 

Cons

Unfortunately, the reliability of masks really depends on the type of mask used. Fit and fabric are the two big deciding factors in how useful a mask can be. As such, buying masks instead of making your own can be more dependable as they’re more consistent with what’s proven to work. 

Masks should cover your mouth and nose for ultimate efficiency. The less gaps between your skin and the mask, the better. 

To this end, N95 and KN95 masks are best since they are so tight fitting. Surgical masks aren’t too far behind, as they are resistant to liquid, but they can sometimes leave a few more gaps than would be desired. 

If a mask is made of fabric, it should be made with a minimum of two layers. One layer alone is not enough for optimum protection. Fabric masks should also be breathable enough so you can bear it throughout the day, and should be washable, to get rid of the daily grime and germs. 

Additionally, wearing masks can cause issues like mask-related acne, strain on ears, or they can cause glasses to constantly fog up. 

Face Shields: Pros and Cons

The more new-age option, face shields have fast been growing in popularity due to their comfort and allowance to see your whole face, instead of having it half covered.

Pros

Other than being a somewhat more comfortable choice, face shields are also preferable for people who have hearing disabilities and must read lips, or those with health issues that make using masks difficult. 

Face shields work well for guarding against particles that are dispelled directly forward. Meaning, it can give aid from a direct hit dispelled by a cough or sneeze.

Cons

Although face shields do provide relief from direct particle assaults, their build has open sides and an open bottom, allowing for particles to have easy entry through those gaps. 

Additionally, face masks need to be fitted correctly, with the forehead and shield in direct contact. Otherwise, there is yet another gap for particles to escape through — rendering the shield near-useless.

Face shields should also reach below your chin to gain full access to its help. However, this can be an odd feeling for people. Because although the shields are usually light, it’s an added weight to the front of the head that your body isn’t used to. 

Unfortunately, face shields can cause similar smaller issues that face masks create as well. For instance, they can create unwanted acne on the spots where skin is in contact with the shield. Head strain, neck strain, and sometimes ear strain can also be a negative result of using face shields, depending on how sensitive the person is to weight distribution, where the shield is placed, and how tight it is. 

Finally, certain face shields can also cause an issue with glasses-wearers, as the frames can bump up against the plastic of the shield. 

So, Which is the Better Option?

Masks cover more of your face, but seem restrictive and invasive. Face shields are easier to wear, but have lots of gaps in its design. So, which is really best in supporting your health and well-being? 

Sickness

In terms of illness, if you yourself are ill, face masks should be your choice. Not going out around others is also highly beneficial, but if you must, then face masks would be your best option to keep others safe from your illness. 

If you are trying to ward off catching an illness, both face masks and face shields provide some manner of support, but face masks provide more benefits. Face shields are good with aiding direct affronts of pathogens, but the gaps around your face still allow for these particles to enter your mouth and nose. Face masks, depending on the type and quality used, are molded to your face and have fewer gaps, therefore providing more help against keeping pathogens out. 

Although they can be restrictive and therefore uncomfortable at times, face masks are a better option for aiding your health when compared to face shields. 

Luckily, our FDA registered, affordable face masks are available! At Hope Health Supply, we stand by our personal protective equipment and their ability to help slow the spread. 

Pollution and Smoke

As the world continues to fight against human-caused pollution, face masks have seen continued use in aiding against inhaling harmful particles that exist in the air as a result of pollution. 

It can also be a helpful tool against smoke inhalation, an especially pressing concern since wildfires have been on the rise. For help against smoke, N95 and KN95 masks are one of the better options to choose, but respirator masks in general will provide some measure of support by sifting out ultra-fine particles the smoke contains or any debris that the smoke carries from the fire. 

With both pollution and smoke, face shields will not provide the support you need, as the particles you’re trying to avoid are all around you and can be inhaled through the gaps in your shield. 

However, as always, face masks need to be worn properly to work. Also, especially in the cases of pollution and smoke inhalation, you should also be careful to not be outside for long periods of time when the air quality is poor. Additionally, be sure to replace the masks on a fairly consistent basis, since smoke and pollution can dirty them quickly. 

In terms of air pollution and smoke, face shields aren’t going to give you any support. Face masks should be your option instead. 

To Conclude

As seen above, face masks are clearly the better option between the two products. However, why use only one when both can help? Overall, it is actually a better option to use both a face mask and a face shield for maximum protection for your overall health and well-being. 

 

Sources:

https://clark.wa.gov/sites/default/files/dept/files/public-health/wildfire%20smoke/DOH_Wildfire_Smoke_Face_Masks_Factsheet.pdf 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7309199/ 

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-face-masks-what-you-need-to-know