Lash Artists wear surgical masks to help protect their spit or breath from getting on the client (nobody wants their lashes filled by a mouth breathing Lash Artist with bad breath). When you are in such close proximity to someone else it helps everyone to feel more comfortable about the situation.
As more education and information came out about cyanoacrylate and the fumes it can cause, half face respirator masks, N95, or masks marked CV began showing up. When we throw coronavirus in the mix, with the CDC telling us we can even make our own masks out of cotton...things can get confusing really fast. Let’s break down the different types of masks, what they do and don’t do for Lash Artists and all the deets on how to protect yourself and your clients from viruses and bacteria, and also cyanoacrylate glue fumes.
Cyanoacrylate fumes (a volatile organic compound or VOC) have been directly related to a myriad of symptoms, not limited to but including; flu like symptoms, respiratory issues, rashes, and coughing.
These masks are only mildly protective and can do more harm than good if you are constantly touching it to readjust. They have been shown in studies to only protect up to 28% of the smallest particles measured down to .007 microns.
Surgical masks are meant to block your bacteria/viruses from getting on someone else. It can also be helpful to block larger droplets of other bacteria/viruses getting on you but they are still only about 80% efficient.
Activated carbon is often made from coal, charcoal, or coconut shell and is designed to act as an adsorbent to remove smaller ranges of particle sizes; like gases, chemicals and VOC's (volatile organic compounds). It does this through a process called adsorption, not to be confused with absorption. These gases and most viruses/bacteria can get in and around a surgical mask because of gaps, whether or not it has activated carbon in it.
Certain types of activated carbon filters can work well for filtering out smaller particles but the fit of the mask plays the biggest role in how well it will work, especially with viruses and VOCs.
They can have numerous activated carbon layers as well as silver infused in the material, but the most important reason why these masks are able to filter out so much is because of the way they fit on your face.
N95 masks should have a valve or two that are dedicated for the exhaled air. The valves will help to reduce moisture in the air near your nose bridge, and help to reduce fog in glasses as well.
Note: An N95 disposable respirator does not protect against oily particles (some solvents or pesticides); a R95 does; a P95 also does and has a longer service life than the R95, but we don’t deal with oily particles as Lash Artists.
Masks that come with an N99 rating can filter up to 99% of the particulate matter in the air. Basically, they do an even better job at filtering the smallest particles, viruses and bacteria, and have always been Lash Happy’s preferred mask protection.
Some N95, and N99 masks will also be marked with a CV.
The ‘C’ in CV stands for activated carbon filter. Which helps to fight pollutants like Ozone and Sulphur Dioxide. The ‘V’ signifies that the mask has a built-in valve for the air we exhale. The ‘C’ in CV stands for activated carbon filter. In addition to combating foul smell, this filter helps in fighting pollutants like Ozone and Sulphur Dioxide.
Any mask tightly covering your nose and mouth is considered a half face respirator. There are full face respirators as well. You may have seen some pretty intense looking industrial respirators (full and half face masks) that you can purchase through your local hardware store. These are often used by painters, or floor refinishers and have replacement activated carbon filters. They are meant to be worn for the purposes of filtering out air pollutants and VOCs unlike doctors who need disposable masks to protect against viruses and bacteria then be able to throw them away.
Because supply for these N95 or N99 face masks is so low and doctors/nurses have been required to wear them multiple times, you may see photos like this one below that look confusing. These nurses have on surgical masks as well as N95 masks underneath to protect the mask that they are being required to re-use (N95) from getting contaminated.
When buying a N95 or N99 mask, be careful of the size you purchase and read the instruction manual that comes along with the mask carefully. It is only as efficient as the fitting on your face — gaps between the mask and your skin will allow for cyanoacrylate fumes, or pollution to enter your nasal passage and cause health issues.
Our Favorite Mask Options
In particular the Cambridge Mask meets N99 filter requirements, and it has been tested by Nelson Labs of America. In Addition, the Cambridge Mask PRO uses British Military Filtration Technology. It filters almost 100% of pollution, gases, and 99.6% of viruses and 99.7% of bacteria -- as long as it fits properly -- and meets the American National Institute of Occupations Safety and Health (NIOSH) N99 filter requirements under 42 CFR Part 48.
These N95 and N99 masks last approximately 40 hours before they need to be replaced. I have one that I haven’t been able to replace because of the current supply and demand issues. Until I can find a new option, I place it out in the sun for an hour to help reactivate the carbon.
Protecting yourself and your clients from viruses and bacteria is important, but so is protecting yourself from the harsh vapors that come from cyanoacrylate. We talk more about this subject in the Lash Happy online course because not all lash glues are created equal, and some are much more harmful to your health.
When and if you do purchase from Cambridge Mask, enter code “happylash” at checkout for 10% off your first purchase.
A FUN extra tip:
Believe it or not, some researchers have noted that certain species of potted plants are effective for VOC removal. Greenery such as bromeliad, jade plant and dracaena have been shown in controlled studies to absorb certain chemicals released into the air, which can help to prevent lung distress.
Malaena Kelson, is a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist, Lash Artist, Speaker and Creator of the world’s most comprehensive Lash Artist Health online course. She teaches Lash Artists to recognize how their small actions over time can affect their mental, emotional, and physical health, so that they can learn to live their best life, and eventually teach others to do the same.
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