You can find face masks made out of just about any type of fabric. There are masks made from cotton, nylon, polyester, paper fiber, and even vacuum cleaner bags.
But a new study shows that silk masks may be more effective than any of them.
In fact, researchers found that masks made from silk might be the next best thing to the N95 respirators that health care workers use.
Scientists at the University of Cincinnati say that silk has properties that make it superior to other mask materials:
- It contains copper, a natural antimicrobial. Studies show that copper kills viruses on contact.
- It repels water. The researchers found that silk works far better as a moisture barrier than polyester or cotton, two of the most common mask materials.
- It’s breathable and comfortable. Silk is softer than other mask materials.
The researchers concluded that silk performs similarly to the standard protection that medical workers now use, which is an N95 respirator with a surgical mask on top of it. But silk has the added advantage of being washable and far more comfortable.
Professor Patrick Guerra led the study. “Cotton traps moisture like a sponge,” he said. “But silk is breathable. It’s thinner than cotton and dries really fast.”
Silk gets its copper-based germ-fighting ability from the primary food of silk moths. They eat mulberry leaves, which are high in copper.
“They incorporate copper from their diet into the silk,” Professor Guerra said.
Silk masks may also prevent mask-caused acne, known as “maskne.”
Dr. Mathew Avram is director of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital. He said silk glides easily across the face, reducing irritation that can lead to acne.
“You want to decrease the amount of friction between your face and the mask,” Dr. Avram said. “That is what causes some of that (acne-causing) irritation.”
Silk face masks are widely available from online retailers.
In addition to wearing a silk mask, there’s another simple way you can shield yourself from coronavirus, according to new research.