Updated: Nov 6, 2020
A trip to the grocery store. A trip to the bank. A day of running errands could mean hours under a mask, and at that point, it becomes increasingly clear that the mask not only needs to be efficient and functional, but it needs to make hours of prolonged wear easy to do. This is where silk comes in.
Silk often brings up images of luxury and elegance, and rightfully so, but surprisingly and more importantly, silk actually holds up as an effective material for personal protective equipment. Part of why we still need masks is that they not only protect others, but they can protect us from ourselves if the mask discourages unnecessary face touching that would otherwise expose the face to outside pathogens. So, silk’s non-abrasive qualities can be of great value in facilitating easy and proper mask usage. As stated in News Medical, silk does not “irritate the skin or increase local humidity around the face beneath it, making it suitable for prolonged wear, and avoiding accidental stimulation of face touching.”
The integrity of silk is also worth noting. The virus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets and aerosol particles, and with some studies suggesting that the level of transmission may impact the severity of the symptoms, fabric with tighter weaves is essential for transmission protection. According to the MedRxiv research reviewed on News-Medical, silk is effective at “preventing the penetration of droplets, and the least absorptive of water [out of similar fabrics], because of its intensely hydrophobic character.” In addition, when testing for the effectiveness of mask materials after repetitive sterilization, the same researchers found that silk managed to maintain its hydrophobic or water-resistant qualities, which makes it an ideal material for reusable masks.
In short, we have high standards for our masks because we need to. Optimal personal protective equipment needs to be breathable, but still be resistant to droplet and aerosol penetration. Yes, silk grants the fun and elegant aesthetic, but its real value lies in its ability to safeguard against the transmission of the virus, and that is of utmost importance.