Is a breathable face mask a thing?
May 23, 2020 12:22 PM   Subscribe

I have a cotton face mask, and I am a naturally sweaty person, so it's fairly miserable to wear for long walks or extended periods. Is there a better option?

I don't mind wearing the cotton mask around my building, to get the mail, take out the garbage, etc., but any time I need to walk to the store, by the time I get about 10-15 min away from home, the mask starts to do what cotton does - it starts to feel like I'm breathing through a wet t-shirt.

And walking home, which involves walking up a hill? By the time I get home my whole head is one giant pool of sweat. I also have to go to my office a couple times a week, and generally wear the mask all day since there's a reasonable amount of foot traffic by where I sit.

I understand that the concept of a breathable mask defeats the purpose of wearing a mask, and if I have to deal with the cotton mask, I will. But is there a mask made of a material that is even a little more breathable than cotton, or is there, like, a thin cotton that I can look for that might be a little less oppressive?

I'm untalented at making anything, so any recommendation should be for something I can buy. In addition to the sweatiness, I also have kind of a large head (hat size 7 5/8), and I wear glasses (I'm basically a walking edge case for masks, apparently). Any ideas?
posted by pdb to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Spunbonded synthetic fabrics (usually polypropylene, which incidentally is often abbreviated PP in listings) would, I think, work better for you. They're not perfect, but they're what I use and they definitely seem less ... damp ... feeling.
posted by aramaic at 12:33 PM on May 23, 2020

Beekeeper's veil with clear plastic panel in front of your eyes?
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2020

I’m similar, and have found that a Buff (basically a neck gaiter) has been more breathable. It’s not cool (covers more) but the surplus of fabric means I can adjust it to keep air from fogging my glasses and becoming annoying. My area mandates masks all the time, but I keep it around my neck when nobody is around (like when I’m walking the dog on residential streets) and can pull it up easily when someone’s in view and I want to show that I believe in masks even if I’m hot.
posted by Pacrand at 12:45 PM on May 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

I also use a neck gaiter for anything where I'll work up a sweat. I currently use one of these Mission Cooling Neck Gaiters. The gaiter has two advantages: more area for your breath to spread out in, and it's a wicking fabric so the moisture that it *does* absorb evaporates more quickly. So far the hottest I've had to wear it in has been jogging in in 70-something degree weather, and definitely I'd be willing to wear it in even hotter weather.

In the Before Times I would get it wet, then wring it out and wear it around my neck on very hot days for evaporative cooling. I've never worn it over my face wet, though, I don't think I would like that.
posted by mskyle at 2:08 PM on May 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Face shield?
posted by bearette at 2:19 PM on May 23, 2020

Sweaty, large head, wears glasses - you are Mr. Kouti :D He will happily second the Mission Cooling Neck Gaiter rec from mskyle; he's been using it for running since early April and it's worked much better for him than the cotton masks we have. I'd still recommend using the cotton ones at work because they will be better at reducing transmission vectors in enclosed spaces, but the gaiter's been great for outdoor continuous-movement use.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 2:21 PM on May 23, 2020

Why not carry multiple masks with you and change them out throughout the day? Carry a ziploc labeled "clean" and one labeled "used" so you don't mix them up. I wear a mask 10+ hours a day for work and always keep a few spares in case they get...damp.
posted by carnivoregiraffe at 2:23 PM on May 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

If the problem is more the heat than the dampness, try freezing a fat plastic bottle of water and using three masks, keeping two of them tied around the bottle and swapping for a new one periodically. You can also press the frozen bottle against your mask while wearing it at times when you are feeling trapped behind a hot wet barrier to cool it down without taking it off.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:41 PM on May 23, 2020

Duck bill style masks give more breathing space while offering comparable protection to same material close fitting masks. Buffs aren’t as protective and I find them super sweaty plus they are tight on my big head and worse on my face.
posted by tilde at 8:55 PM on May 23, 2020

They’re expensive for what they are, but I have one of these for outdoor exercise and find it more breathable than my cotton masks.
posted by blue suede stockings at 2:10 PM on May 24, 2020

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