Should you throw away your mask after getting lip balm on it?

Different types of face masks and how they work

Before discussing the topic of lip balm on your face mask, let’s get familiar with the main types of masks people in the United States buy in bulk and wholesale:

N95 masks, also called N95 respirators, are considered the best option for virus protection in situations with a high risk of exposure to the virus, like the healthcare setting. Their antiviral properties come from the fact they filter out 95% of the non-oil based airborne particles, which includes the flu virus and the coronavirus, as well as other particles like dust and smoke, giving these masks other uses outside the healthcare field.

N95 masks need to be separated from KN95 masks, which are a different type of face mask with very similar properties. However, they’re not a type of N95 mask, like many people think. Some popular N95 mask models are 3M N95 masks, including the 3M 8511, the 3M 1860, and the 3M 8210.

These two masks, along with surgical masks, are medical-grade face masks used in healthcare settings along with face shields. However, in the general public, reusable cloth masks are the recommended type of face mask for virus protection, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge people to use them instead of medical-grade ones to make sure they’re being reserved for frontline workers. Kids over the age of 2 can wear these masks.

Lip balm and face masks: why is it important to use them?

By now it’s been well known and reported the negative effects the prolonged use of face masks can have on the skin of the face. From a simple ‘maskne’ to the horrifying pictures of healthcare workers after long work shifts with respirators on, the effects are very diverse. But, one almost everyone has experienced is dry and dehydrated lips. This is one of the least severe ones, and it’s a very small price to pay to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.

Additionally, this problem is very easy to solve, and experts in different fields have some strategies to minimize the effects masks can have on the lips. Some of them involve the use of lip balm, but sometimes this by itself is not enough to keep your lips feeling comfortable.

But before we get into them, let’s understand why face masks have this effect on your lips. When you wear a face mask, chances are you begin to breathe through your mouth, which produces much more moisture release and dehydrates your mouth much more quickly. The sensation of dry lips leads to you licking your lips to keep them moist, which only exacerbates the problem, turning into a vicious cycle.

Since getting rid of your mask is not an option, the best thing to do is to learn how to live with it. This problem is much smaller compared to the great issues the world is living with, and it’s very easily solved. Here are some tips to keep your lips feeling comfortable and healthy:

Make sure your mask fits well, and that is neither too loose nor too tight to the face. This makes sure irritation is reduced, and that you won’t be adjusting it all the time. The material of the mask is also important, choosing a soft cotton tightly woven material is the best choice.

Wear lip balm and other protective products on your lips to prevent them from getting irritated. Vaseline and eye cream are good options.

Stop licking your lips, make a conscious effort to eradicate this habit as it will dehydrate your lips even further.

Keep yourself hydrated in general: chapped lips are one of the first signs of dehydration, so make sure you’re consuming enough water throughout the day.

Avoid makeup and lipstick with the mask on. Your lipstick can hurt your lips if they’re chapped and dry, and people won’t even see it anyway.

Take mask breaks when it’s safe to do so.

Make sure to wash your cloth masks regularly.

Should you throw away your face mask after getting lip balm on it? It depends

To answer this question, two things need to be considered: the type of face mask you’re wearing and how much lip balm you got on it.

  • About the type of face mask: as the name suggests, disposable face masks are meant to be discarded after every single use. So, whether you got lip balm on it or not, a disposable face mask should be thrown away after being used, or after it’s damp or visibly dirty. Reusable masks, on the other hand, are cleanable, and shouldn’t be thrown away in any situation (only if they get damaged). Cleaning them as you do normally should be enough to take the lip balm off.
  • About the amount of lip balm on your mask: the amount of lip balm one usually puts on their lips is not generally considered enough to contaminate the mask or make it wet. So, if your mask is still visibly clean and feels dry, there’s no need to replace it. However, large amounts of it can wet the mask and lower its effectiveness, or making it a source for contamination.

The bottom line is that, whether is a reusable or a disposable mask, and whether or not you got lip balm or any other substance on them, they should be kept as clean and dry as possible. When they’re visibly dirty, they become a source of contamination, and when they’re damp, they lose efficiency and can be uncomfortable. So, as soon as these two situations happen, they need to be replaced with a new one.

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