Are Plastic Face Shields an Effective Face Mask Substitute?

In a post-pandemic world, people are looking for more and more ways to protect themselves from viruses, germs, and any other unwelcome elements from the outside world. Wearing a visor in place of a fabric face mask has become a common practice, both for those working in the customer-facing industries and for the average person in their day-to-day life.

But are face shields really effective when it comes to protecting your face and stopping your own droplets from traveling too far? We’ve put together this article to describe the advantages of face shields when compared to masks, along with giving our verdict on whether a face shield is a truly effective substitute.

Advantages of Face Shields

The typical face shield visor does offer some extra protection when compared to a fabric mask.

Face shields offer protection for more of the face, including the eyes, which can be an easy access point for viruses and germs to get in. Similarly, as they cover most of the face, they make it much less likely for wearers to end up touching their face with hands that might be carrying the virus.

Also, while face masks often have to be taken off for wearers to effectively communicate with other people, face shields can be left on during conversations. Finally, a face shield, if properly kept and maintained, can be used indefinitely, being washable time and time again, while fabric face masks need to be replaced regularly.

Disadvantages of Face Shields

While there are multiple functional factors that contribute to the argument for face shields as virus shields, that doesn’t excuse the evidence against them.

Researchers have found that face shields are only truly effective in the right circumstances, with close-quarters contact with droplets being something of a problem. One report states that while these shields are around 96% effective against larger droplets, smaller cough aerosols were only deflected at a rate of 64%. Another report showed that in certain situations, a face shield may only be 45% effective.

The reasoning behind this is that while plastic face shields do act as something of a barrier against flying droplets, they still have open sides, and the nature of aerosol sprays is that at least some of them will find their way out. For situations with some distance, face shields can be highly effective, but closer up, the droplets will likely transfer more than you might think.

However, it’s worth noting that not all face masks are created equally. You can find ones with more ventilation that wrap around the face more comprehensively, which can be used for work and virus protection in equal measure.

What Now?

While plastic visors have become the go-to alternatives for face masks, scientific study has shown that they’re not as effective as people might believe. The most commonly accepted argument is for a comprehensive protection shield, using both a plastic shield and a face mask if you want to best protect yourself and others.

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