When you have melasma, you may be willing to try anything to keep it from getting worse. One of the best ways to manage melasma is to protect your face from sunlight, which has damaging UV rays. While many people do this by wearing a hat and sunglasses or using sunscreen, you can also get great protection from wearing a face mask. In this post, I review different UV face masks for sun protection and melasma care.
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What is melasma?
Melasma is a skin condition that causes brown or gray-brown patches on the face, typically on the cheeks, forehead, nose, and upper lip. It is most commonly seen in women, especially during pregnancy, which is why it’s often called the mask of pregnancy.
Melasma is caused by an overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair, and eyes, and is often triggered by sun exposure, hormonal changes, and genetics.
It can be difficult to treat and may require a combination of approaches including skin-lightening products, sun protection, and avoiding triggers.
Can wearing a mask help treat melasma?
Masks reduce direct sun exposure and protect the skin from UV radiation, so wearing a mask can help reduce the risk of melasma worsening in areas that are already affected or developing in unaffected areas.
The best masks for melasma are those with sun protective abilities, specifically those that are UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of 50+.
UPF ratings indicate the level of protection a fabric provides against both UVA and UVB rays. UPF face masks are made from materials that have a high UPF rating, such as polyester or nylon, and are typically treated with UV-blocking agents that provide additional protection.
Why not wear a regular face mask?
Regular face masks, such as cotton or cloth masks, are not tested or certified for UV protection. It is estimated that many cotton masks have a UPF rating between 5 and 15, which is considered low to moderate protection against UV radiation.
Cotton clothing only has a protection factor of UPF 5-7. That’s not enough for adequate sun protection.
Regular masks may become wet or damaged over time, which can reduce their ability to block out UV rays.
Moreover, regular masks may not meet the amount of physical coverage you need for optimal sun protection. Most regular face masks cover only a portion of the lower face. They usually cover the mouth, the lower part of the nose, and possibly part of the chin and cheeks.
If you’re looking for the best sun protection, check out these masks.
- Coolibar Zenith UV Half Mask UPF 50+
The Coolibar Zenith UV Half Mask is my absolute favorite mask of several that I’ve tried. I love it for so many reasons.
- The UPF 50+ blocks 98% of both UVA and UVB rays.
- The material is lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking, which makes it comfortable to wear.
- It has a shapeable wire around the nose to keep it from sliding down, adjustable ear straps, and shirring with elastic around the chin to comfortably cover the face.
- There’s an overlapping opening at the nose for breathability. You can breathe fresh air while wearing it.
- It has wings that go up toward the sides of the face and eyes for extra coverage. This is great for those who have melasma between the eyes and hairline, an area that sunglasses typically don’t cover.
- It comes in many colors. I’ve purchased some to match my outfits and others to go with the seasons.
- Coolibar states that the UPF 50+ sun protection never washes out, so they’re more likely to wear out than lose their protective quality.
I’ve washed my masks at least 20 times and they’re still in great shape. I place them in a netted laundry bag to keep the ear loops from being pulled out of shape, then line dry them versus putting them in the dryer.
This mask looks similar to regular masks, so it blends in well for everyday wear. Note though that this isn’t a medical mask, so it doesn’t prevent the spread of germs, airborne illnesses, or viruses. It’s only for sun protection.
I think I have an average size face for a woman and the S/M size fits well. Some women like the larger L/XL size for a looser fit.
- At over $30 per mask on the Coolibar site, this may be cost-prohibitive for many people. But this mask can be used for a long time. I expect them to last at least a year in regular rotation.
Sometimes certain colors and patterns go on sale. Check the Coolibar website periodically or sign up for emails to be notified of when the sales happen. In my experience, the gray and black ones don’t go on sale. It’s typically the brighter ones like the bright pink and floral ones.
- Coolibar Blackburn UV Mask UPF 50+
The Coolibar Blackburn UV mask is great depending on your sun coverage needs.
- The UPF 50+ blocks 98% of both UVA and UVB rays.
- The material is lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking.
- It has a shapeable nose wire and elastic back that adjusts to fit different head shapes and sizes.
- This does not have an opening at the nose but the front panel of fabric hangs straight down versus against the face, so there’s plenty of space to get air.
- It comes in many colors and patterns.
- It’s currently $20 at full price on the Coolibar site, which is more economical than the Coolibar Zenith mask. You can find certain colors and patterns on sale from time to time.
- This doesn’t cover the upper half of the face. If you have melasma on the upper part of the face, you’ll need a hat and/or sunglasses to protect that area.
- The elastic on the back of the mask needs to fit well to sit tautly against the head/neck or will hang and not support the mask.
- Coolibar Vermilion UV Layered Mask UPF 50+
The Coolibar Vermilion UV layered mask is a good option for people looking for sun protection from the nose to the chest.
Note that the Amazon listing for this product actually has two products under one listing. I think this is an accident. One of the masks shown is the Vermilion. The other is the Crestone.
- The UPF 50+ blocks 98% of both UVA and UVB rays.
- Provides lower face and neck coverage. This is great if you’re wearing a lower cut shirt or out receiving a lot of sun exposure to the chest such as while gardening or in the car.
- Loose fitting down toward the neck for comfort and the ability to eat and drink with the mask on.
- Has two snaps at the back of the neck for adjustability.
- The adjustable straps on ears can also be looped onto sunglasses.
- Elastic at the front for a versatile fit.
- This doesn’t cover the upper half of the face. If you need that covered, you’ll need to wear a hat, sunglasses, and/or sunscreen.
- It’s currently priced at $29 on the Coolibar site. Some colors and patterns go on sale from time to time.
Where to buy Coolibar masks
You might have noticed that I chose to highlight masks from Coolibar. I think they have the best masks for sun protection.
Other companies that specialize in sun-protective clothing and accessories like Solbari tend to sell masks that are a combination of hats and masks. For this post, I wanted to cover masks only, not those in combination with hats or balaclavas.
Here’s where you can find them.
I prefer to purchase Coolibar masks from Amazon because Amazon allows for returns and I get 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime.
- Coolibar website
I’ve purchased from the Coolibar website when Amazon did not have the color or size that I wanted.
The Coolibar website tends to offer a wider variety of colors, patterns, and sizes than Amazon. Sometimes you’ll find items on sale on the Coolibar website that are not on sale on Amazon.
Shipping on the Coolibar website is free for purchases over $100. Otherwise you have to pay for shipping, and delivery takes longer than Amazon Prime.
- Third-party sites
Once in a while I’ll come across masks and accessories from Coolibar and other similar companies on third-party or resale sites like eBay.
It’s worth checking out those sites once in a while to see what comes up. You can also save your searches and be notified when someone lists something new.
If you do an online search for sun protective masks, you’ll find many masks that are labeled as anti-UV. That doesn’t mean much because all clothing will reduce UV rays from reaching you to some extent because they cover the skin.
These anti-UV items don’t offer the same protection that you’ll find in items from companies like Coolibar and Solbari. Their materials have been made and tested to have a UPF 50+ rating.
The anti-UV items don’t offer the same protection that you’ll find in items from companies like Coolibar and Solbari, whose materials have been made and tested to have a UPF 50+ rating.
- Ligart mask
I purchased the Ligart mask in a pack of three off Amazon. The description says it’s UPF 50+, but I suspect that it’s not.
The packaging simply says Ligart, and the mask material is thin. I also saw these Ligart masks at a dollar store in town. They were being sold for $1.
This led me to believe that they are basically fashion masks. They probably provide some protection because wearing anything is better than nothing, but not UPF 50+ protection.
This type of mask might be okay if you’re not concerned about sun protection for melasma.
- Unbranded mask
When I first started searching for sun protective masks online, I came across the Facemask Megastore shop online and purchased a mask similar to the Coolibar Zenith one.
The item shipped directly from China and took at least two weeks to arrive.
I really liked the mask. Although the sewing was not as precise (uneven lines), the mask fit perfectly.
It covered the area just under my eyes and to the side of my eyes for an even better fit than the Coolibar Zenith mask.
The problem was that the black dye of the material came off onto my face. I was afraid it would get on my hands and clothes.
I didn’t need more dark marks on my face!
I ended up tossing it after 1-2 wears. That’s when I realized I needed to get the best mask and not a cheap unbranded one, so I started purchasing Coolibar masks.
3. OHRAIN masks
While searching Amazon for masks, I came across a store OHRAIN that sells masks reported to be UPF 50+. The masks look like they give good face coverage, so I’d want to wear them if they have good sun protection.
The company says on a listing that the material used for the mask was tested in a lab and shown to be UPF 50+. I’ve reached out to the company to ask for reports that prove this.
I will post update this post if I hear from the company and try out the masks.
How many sun-protective face masks should you have?
After I started wearing sun protective masks, I quickly realized I would need to buy more because I needed to switch out my mask frequently.
How many masks you need will depend on:
- If you wear skincare, suncare, makeup, and any other face products
- The climate you live in
- How much you sweat
- How often and how long you wear the same mask
- Skin sensitivity (proneness to breakouts)
I live in a moderate climate that’s usually between 55-80 degrees for most of the year. It’s occasionally hotter and sometimes cooler, but it’s mostly comfortable for wearing a mask.
I wear a mask for an average of about an hour a day. I wear them when outside the house doing activities such as driving, walking, and gardening.
I change my mask several times a week, which means having 5+ masks in rotation.
Wearing a mask can be helpful when you have melasma as masks help protect skin from UV rays, which may prevent worsening of the condition. I highly recommend the Coolibar masks above if you’re looking for lightweight, breathable, and sun-protective masks. And don’t forget to supplement a mask with a wide-brim hat and sunscreen for additional sun protection.