“Don’t waste your money on flimsy, doctor-style masks; they won’t provide much protection and will only fool you into thinking you’re protected from dust,” says industry scientist Doug Schoon, who stresses that even good-quality dust masks defend against dust only and provide little to no protection from vapors.

So what should you look for when selecting a dust mask? Schoon offers some advice:

1. Dust masks are rated by their efficiency at removing dust particles found in your breathing zone and preventing them from being inhaled. (Your breathing zone is an invisible sphere in front of your mouth that’s just about the size of an inflatable beach ball.)

2. In the U.S. and Canada, a good-quality dust mask carrying the rating of N95 will provide great protection by removing 95% of all particles, even when these particles are less than 250 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. N99 masks will remove 99% of all particles, but don’t provide that much more protection in a salon setting and can cost three times as much. (In Europe, the equivalent mask rated is FFP2, which blocks 90% of all dust particles and FFP3 which blocks 99% of particles.)

3. The best masks have a respirator valve over the mouth area that allows air to exit the mask, but blocks air from flowing back to your mouth or nose. This helps prevent your eyewear or safety glasses from becoming foggy from the moisture in your breath.

4. These types of dust masks are disposable and should be discarded after eight hours or one full day of use.

5. It’s important to ensure the mask fits correctly, which means snugly with no open gaps between the mask and face. To help achieve this, some masks have built-in, flexible metal nose bands that allow you to shape the mask around the nose area so that it fits better.

6. Some disposable masks contain a thin layer of activated carbon, which can help to reduce the intensity of odors, but do not protect from inhalation of vapors. Masks can’t replace proper ventilation when it comes to preventing excessive inhalation of vapors. Salons still need an adequate flow of fresh air. A good-quality source-capture ventilation system can provide tremendous value.

Learn more in Face-to-Face with Doug Schoon, available on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and Nook, or visit www.facebook.com/DougSchoonsBrain.

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