They are a versatile fashion accessory and a staple in every woman’s wardrobe.
But now researchers say wearing ladies tights on your face could slash your risk of getting Covid.
One of the criticisms aimed at commonly worn face coverings is that they do not fit tightly enough to significantly block viral particles from being inhaled or exhaled.
As part of a new study, Cambridge University experts reviewed a variety of DIY hacks people have used to make masks fit better, including using rubber bands or tape.
Curiously, they found the most effective tactic was to wrap pantyhose around the bottom half of the face — on top of a mask.
This, the scientists said, could reduce the amount of viral particles by up to seven times more than a loose mask on its own, by sealing the gaps around the nose and mouth.
But recognising the social and physical implications of wearing tights on your face in public, they noted it was ‘unlikely to be tolerated for extended periods of time’.
The jury is still out on how effective mask-wearing is at reducing Covid infections at a population level, with conflicting results from both sides. Most scientists agree that they at least make a small contribution.
Tight-fitting medical grade masks, such as KN95s, are exceptional at blocking out the virus but they are often described as uncomfortable and are harder to acquire.
The most common surgical or cloth masks are far less resistant.
To test how effective mask alterations are, Cambridge researchers recruited four volunteers to try seven different mask hacks on the KN95 mask (left) and surgical mask (right). These included wrapping different brands of panyhose around the head on top of the mask and knotting the ear loops on the masks. They also use three rubber bands to create a ‘brace’ around the nose and mouth and fabric tape to stick the mask to the face. Volunteers also had first aid gauze wrapped around their head to tighten the fit of the mask, as well as gauze stuffed into gaps inside the mask
The graph shows how much each mask alteration improved the fit of KN96 masks. The Cambridge researchers found pantyhose were the most effective hack, followed by cloth tape, gauze and knotted ear loops
The graph shows how much each mask alteration improved the fit of surgical masks. The Cambridge researchers found pantyhose were the most effective hack, followed by cloth tape, knotted ear loops and gauze
For the latest study, published in the journal PLOS One, Cambridge researchers recruited four volunteers to try seven different mask hacks.
Other methods included tying the ear bands to make the masks fit more tightly, or stuffing the gaps with bandages.
The study looked at both surgical and KN95 masks.
While wearing each mask and hack combination, participants did seven minutes of various exercises designed to mimic real world interactions.
WHAT ARE THE RULES ON FACE MASKS IN ENGLAND?
The legal requirement to wear a face covering in England no longer applies.
But the Government advises people to wear them in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as on public transport.
And masks are still required in health and care settings, such as hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes.
Transport providers, such as Transport for London, require passengers to wear face coverings or be refused entry.
And many major shops and supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and John Lewis, have asked customers and staff to keep wearing masks.
These included talking, turning their head side to side, bending over, smiling, nodding, and breathing normally and heavily.
The researchers measured how well the masks fit by monitoring the filtration efficiency and calculating a ‘fit factor’ score.
The results show better fitting masks have fewer gaps between a person’s face and the edge of the mask, ensuring the air inhaled is filtered through the mask.
Pantyhose and cloth tape were most effective at improving how well the KN95 mask fit, increasing the fit factor by 27.7 and 14.7, respectively.
Meanwhile, using gauze to stuff the gaps between the face and KN95 masks only offered a ‘minor improvement’ of 2.7.
And using gauze on top of the KN95 covering barely improved the fit (1.6). Tying the earbands of the KN95 mask only improved the fit by 0.8 — because they already fit so tightly.
Surgical masks performed better if worn in combination with pantyhose (7.2) or if the gaps were sealed using cloth tape (4.8).
Rubber bands and tying ear bands (2.5) were the least effective way of getting a surgical mask to fit better, but still offered more protection than wearing the mask alone.
However, the researchers noted many of the hacks, including the most effective ones, were uncomfortable.
Rubber banks put pressure on the ears and face and reduced blood circulation to the ears for some people.
Meanwhile, pantyhose gave volunteers ‘high levels of discomfort’, caused problems speaking and sometimes covered the participants’ eyes during the exercises.
And while fabric tape was comfortable to wear, it was uncomfortable to remove and the researchers noted sweat or movement over time could dislodge the tape.
But they noted that the hacks are ‘accessible to the general public’ and could help health workers, who commonly wear both surgical and KN95 masks, modify their mask to gain more protection.
The findings could also help designers to improve masks and mask fitting devices, the team said.
Face masks are no longer legally required in England after the restriction was lifted last month.
However, some transport providers, such as Transport for London, and shops, including Sainsbury’s and Tesco, still require customers to wear coverings.
And masks are needed in certain venues, such as shops, pubs, restaurants and gyms in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.