Masks and facial coverings have quickly become the new normal in Tattoo Shops across Canada and the U.S. As your shop staff and clients look for ways to stay safe and comfortable, let’s check out the options available to you.
From disposable surgical/procedural masks, heavy-duty filtration N95 masks, to homemade and commercially made cloth masks, there are a number of protective face coverings to choose from. While most of the public doesn’t have access to N95 or surgical masks, a question for many people has become: What IS the most effective face covering?
The biggest thing to remember in the case of COVID-19 protection, is that masks are worn primarily to help reduce other people’s exposure to your saliva and respiratory secretions (yep, even grossed myself out writing it).
Disclaimer: Masks aren’t the Holy Grail and should be used in combination with good hand hygiene, and physical distancing.
Now, here’s a look at what’s out there, and what to consider when purchasing masks for the shop or personal use.
Surgical/Procedural masks are one of the most commonly used masks, and they’re now popping up for sale in a variety of places from hardware stores to Amazon. Take note, not all surgical masks are created equal and it’s important to know that there are several things to consider when buying them - like filtration level, thickness and overall quality to name a few. Let's explore the details:
Surgical masks are manufactured in different thicknesses and provide varying levels of protection (see ASTM chart below) from contact with liquids. These properties may impact how effectively the mask filters contaminants around you, as well as how easily you can breathe through it.
When worn properly, surgical masks are intended to block large-particle droplets, splashes, spray, or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria) and prevent them from reaching your mouth and nose.
What does it mean when we say a mask is “ASTM LEVEL 2”? ASTM standards are used and accepted worldwide, covering areas such as metals, paints, plastics, textiles, petroleum, construction, energy, the environment, consumer products, medical services, devices and electronics, advanced materials and much more.
This chart illustrates the ASTM Levels and filtration specifications for various types of surgical and procedural masks. Frontline healthcare workers in hospitals and other medical facilities typically use Level 2 & Level 3 masks.
One of the biggest reasons for price increases on surgical masks (other than supply and demand issues) is that many suppliers (us included) previously offered masks that were Level 1 or below. In today’s world, those masks just won’t cut it, that’s why we’ve sourced two different Level 2 surgical masks.
You won't find a surgical mask in our store that’s rated less than Level 2. If you’re currently buying masks elsewhere, make sure the supplier is being up front about the ASTM level their mask is rated for, and make sure they can back it up. Some masks produced by companies during the outbreak may not meet the ASTM standards.
Adenna disposable face masks (ATSM Level 2) are medical-grade masks that are also suitable for tattooing. These 3-ply procedural masks have a 3-fold design to provide maximum facial coverage, and protection. The inner layer is ultra-soft on your face, and breathable, so you stay comfortable during long sessions. The elastic ear loops and adjustable metal-free nosepiece help the mask conform to your face, providing a secure fit. This mask is suitable for procedures where moderate to light amounts of fluid, spray and/or aerosols are produced. Level 2 masks provide better fluid protection and higher filtration than Level 1 masks, making them a great option for helping prevent the spread of germs and viruses.
This high filtration mask sourced by PriMED offers tattoo artists the highest level of filtration available in a non-N95 Mask. Combine that with Level 2 equivalent fluid resistance, and it's like these masks were designed for life in a tattoo shop.
The Model 186771 mask was designed for use in the fight against COVID-19 and is the #1 mask provided to frontline workers by the Canadian Government. These are now available to tattoo artists for the first time.
These tight-fitting masks screen out 95% of small airborne particles. They usually require professional fitting as they’re designed to seal precisely around the nose and mouth. N95 masks are best suited for use by frontline health care staff working in close proximity to patients in hospital settings, and first responders.
N95 masks are likely to prevent transmission of aerosolized virus — those suspended as a mist in the air, so they're used by healthcare workers during specific medical procedures that generate aerosols, such as inserting a breathing tube or bronchoscopy (imaging someone's lungs and air passages).
At this time we still don’t offer an N95 mask in our store. These masks are costly and to be used correctly, they should be professionally fitted. These masks are in high demand for frontline healthcare workers, so we’ll leave the supply to them.
NOTE: There is a variation of the N95 mask that has an exhalation valve, which makes it easier to breathe but allows unfiltered air to escape. Health Canada does not recommend using this type of mask as a COVID-19 prevention measure.
Non-medical masks, like homemade cloth or neoprene masks, can be used by your clients to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in your shop when physical distancing (AKA keeping two-metres’ distance from others) may be challenging or not possible. Cloth masks provide a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from travelling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face-covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. Clinical studies show cloth face coverings do reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. Since COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), the use of cloth face coverings is super important in settings where people are close to each other, like tattooing.
According to Health Canada, a mask should be breathable, fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops, maintain its shape after washing and drying (so the mask continues to fit snugly), be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment, be made of at least two layers of tightly woven material (such as cotton or linen) and be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping.
For artists and shops, a disposable mask is the safest option for both your artists and your clients. Like all other disposable items you’re starting fresh with each client, ensuring nothing is left from the previous sitting. Fabric masks are a great option for personal use when running in and out of stores, but it’s best to trust your shop to medical-grade products.
While we don’t currently offer cloth masks for sale, a number of retailers, big and small, are now offering various designs in their stores. Some tattoo shops are even having masks custom printed with their shop name, to sell to customers.
Non-medical masks such as cloth and neoprene fall into the low performance category, but they are effective for regular everyday use in combination with good hand hygiene and physical distancing.
Face shields are an excellent secondary layer of defence that can be worn in conjunction with a mask for additional protection. Most face shields provide greater coverage from neck to hairline, while the distortion-free, optically clear plastic ensures your vision will not be compromised. Face shields may also make you less likely to touch your face with unwashed, and potentially contaminated hands, providing the added benefit of keeping your mask cleaner longer.
The Canadian Shield is a personal protective equipment (PPE) face shield that‘s 100% designed and manufactured in Ontario, Canada. The Canadian Shield is a Health Canada Licensed Manufacturer for Class 1 Medical Devices. Their engineering team worked to create a user-friendly design that’s been approved for operations in hospitals as well as retail and commercial environments. An economical choice for artists, the Canadian Shield can be disinfected and sanitized for use up to 14 times, then recycled.
The shield has an adjustable head strap for a snug and secure fit that’s compatible with glasses and other PPE, and was designed for comfortable all-day-wear. With ear-to-ear and hairline to neck coverage, this face shield can help to protect artists from exposure to Coronavirus droplets, as it also provides an additional 2" of coverage on either side of the face when compared to other disposable face shields.
We hope this blog has been helpful. If you’d still like more information about masks and face coverings, the CDC is an excellent resource. If you need more information on the masks and face shields we carry in the Eikon Store, our Customer Service team is available to help - give them a call at 800.427.8198, or chat them via our site.