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Category: Apparel, Athletics

Polyurethane helps conquer unique challenges for face masks

Today, face coverings have become a part of our daily lives and a necessity whenever we’re outside the home. In the early days of the pandemic, medical masks and N95-style masks were our only options — and often in short supply. Soon, manufacturers of all kinds stepped forward to fill the void and now a wide variety of non-medical masks are available in a range of styles, colors and prices. Polyurethane has proven itself an indispensable material as some manufacturers look to create masks like these that cater to specific scenarios. 

A mask that can handle your workout

For athletes who are exerting themselves, a mask that allows optimal airflow is key. Several athletic brands have come out with their own designs for exercise-friendly masks. Many are designed to cover the user’s airway while not sitting directly on the nose and lips. Incorporating lightweight open-cell polyurethane foam allows these masks to retain their shape, which helps to maximize airflow.

Then, there is the issue of sweat from pores and condensation from breathing, which can combine to turn a cloth mask into a sopping mess in just a few minutes. In sports masks, polyurethane is used to help repel moisture on the outside of the mask as well as to wick moisture away from the inside, keeping skin dry and comfortable.

The world’s first clear mask

Ever had the experience of smiling at someone and then realizing that they can’t see your smile underneath your mask? Now, imagine if being able to see a person’s lips was vital to your ability to understand them. Many people who are hearing impaired rely on lip-reading to understand those around them. 

A new mask made of clear, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) could be the answer. The TPU in this mask is extremely soft to the touch, so it can be worn for extended periods of time without causing facial irritation. Even those who don’t need to read lips can appreciate the effects of being better able to show their emotions while keeping their nose and mouth covered, which may help to give clear masks even wider adoption. 

Polyurethane’s benefits shine through

Thanks to polyurethane, comfort, flexibility, durability and moisture-resistance all come together in these non-medical designs. These specific masks have the benefit of being hand-washable, which helps to extend their use and minimize waste. And all of them can be manufactured relatively inexpensively, making them widely accessible. 

As mask wearing appears to be the likely norm for the foreseeable future, continuing improvements in their design will help with everything from compliance to performance.