Face Mask Value Chain


In the ever-evolving landscape of respiratory protection, the historical trajectory of face masks has traversed pivotal milestones, from Hübner’s two-layered gauze mouth protection in the early 20th century to the widespread adoption of N95 respirators today. The global face mask market, valued at USD 25.1 billion in 2022, reflects a monumental demand driven by a heightened awareness of health and safety practices worldwide. However, a paradoxical projection foresees a decline with a compound annual growth rate of -34.5%, prompting a nuanced exploration of market dynamics. Amidst this, the Disposable Face Mask Market anticipates gradual growth, emphasizing the enduring importance of face masks in post-pandemic societal consciousness. The intricate landscape of face masks, ranging from N95 respirators to disposable medical and cloth masks, underscores the necessity of informed choices in personal protection. As we delve into the nuances of mask types, manufacturing processes, and quality standards, it becomes evident that face masks are not merely utilitarian but represent a crucial facet of our collective commitment to public health.

Product category – Protective textile

Duration of product –  Depends on type of mask

Market size  – The global face mask market reflects the pivotal role these protective measures play, reaching a staggering USD 25.1 billion in 2022 and projected to hit USD 3.0 billion by 2027, despite a curious CAGR of -34.5%.


In the realm of respiratory protection, the journey of face masks traces its roots to the turn of the 20th century, where Hübner, inspired by Mikulicz, introduced a two-layered gauze mouth protection to combat droplet spread. Fast forward to the 1920s, and surgical masks found their place in German and American operating rooms, heralding a new era in healthcare practices.

Over the years, face masks have undergone significant transformations, with a surge in research following World War I, exploring masks with varying thickness. Today, NIOSH approves various filtering facepiece respirators, with N95 respirators being the most widely available.

Market size

The global face mask market witnessed a substantial valuation of USD 25.1 billion in 2022, reflecting the unprecedented demand and adoption of protective measures worldwide. However, an intriguing projection suggests a sharp decline with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -34.5%, foreseeing a market size of USD 3.0 billion by 2027. This paradoxical trend prompts a deeper exploration of market dynamics and shifts in consumer behavior. In tandem, the Disposable Face Mask Market, valued at USD 2.3 billion in 2022, anticipates a more gradual growth trajectory, estimating a CAGR of over 2.5% by 2032. The catalyst for this sustained growth lies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly heightened public awareness regarding personal hygiene and health and safety practices. The enduring importance of disposable face masks as preventive tools underscores a societal shift towards prioritizing public health, suggesting that their utility extends beyond pandemic response, becoming integral to everyday health-conscious routines.

A comparison- Pre pandemic  , during pandemic and post pandemic  

The surge in global face mask sales during the Covid-19 pandemic, from 12.5 billion in 2019 to a staggering 378.9 billion in 2020, reflects the unprecedented demand triggered by widespread mask mandates aimed at curbing the virus’s transmission. The scale of this 30-fold increase, averaging nearly 50 masks per person worldwide, underscores the magnitude of the public health response. The sharp rise in prices in 2020, driven by an overwhelming demand-supply gap and frantic production efforts, was followed by a notable drop in 2021 as supply caught up. Despite the decrease in revenue due to lower prices, unit sales continued to rise. However, as countries lifted mask mandates in 2022, both revenue and unit sales are expected to significantly decrease, reflecting a return to pre-pandemic behaviors. Looking ahead, Statista projects a further decline in face mask usage, primarily limited to medical professionals and the clinically vulnerable, unless new dangerous variants or future pandemics necessitate a resurgence. The anticipated figures of 22.7 billion masks in 2023 and 17.9 billion in 2024 signal a gradual normalization as the world adapts to a post-pandemic landscape.

Types of face mask

Choosing the right face mask and using it effectively is pivotal in maximizing protection against respiratory hazards. Ensuring a snug fit without gaps is paramount, as proper fit enhances the mask’s efficacy. Among the commonly available options, N95 respirators are widely recognized for their effectiveness, but it’s crucial to note that various alternatives, such as N99, N100, P95, P99, P100, R95, R99, and R100 masks, offer comparable or even superior protection. Each type has specific filtration capabilities, with some designed for oil-based particles (P series) and others resistant to oil (R series). It’s imperative to adhere to proper usage guidelines for the selected mask and maintain consistent wearing practices to optimize safety. This diversity in mask options underscores the importance of understanding individual needs and the nature of potential exposure to make informed choices for personal protection.


Disposable medical face masks

Disposable medical face masks, distinguished by their ear loops or ties, emerge as a pragmatic choice, offering prolonged protection in higher-risk indoor environments. Particularly prevalent in the widely recognizable ‘blue’ hue, these masks are often referred to as ‘medical,’ ‘surgical,’ or ‘procedural’ masks. While some may lack official certification to medical standards, many still prove effective in providing a crucial layer of defense. Accessible at retail stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies, they serve as readily available safeguards. On the other hand, fabric face masks, while popular, exhibit variable effectiveness depending on style and materials. Optimal choices include reusable fabric masks with a minimum of three layers, fashioned from tightly woven materials like cotton. The ideal fabric masks incorporate two different types of fabric, ensuring both easy breathing and effective filtration while maintaining a secure fit. This diversity in mask options accommodates individual preferences and situational needs in the ongoing effort to prioritize public health.



Disposable high-filtration face masks, such as particulate respirators, stand as formidable defenses against the transmission of respiratory viruses, especially when used correctly. Individuals at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 might find P2/N95 face masks to be a prudent choice. Proper usage is paramount, and adherence to the manufacturer’s instructions for molding the mask to the face ensures a tight seal without any gaps. This type of mask proves particularly effective in high-risk indoor settings with limited ventilation, providing hours of protection. In healthcare settings, a ‘fit test’ is essential to match the mask to the individual’s face, optimizing its performance. Importantly, washing these masks is not recommended, as they rely on a special static charge that traps viruses; however, they can be reused if left untouched for a few days in a cool, dry place. The disposal should be in the general household rubbish bin if the mask loses its tight seal, becomes dirty, or sustains damage. These masks, with different grades based on filtration rate and approval sources, exemplify the stringent standards, such as the N95’s 95 percent particle filtration regulated by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), ensuring their efficacy in safeguarding public health.

Cloth masks

During the COVID-19 pandemic, cloth masks gained widespread popularity as an accessible and reusable alternative for personal protection. The efficacy of cloth face masks is contingent on their design, with the most effective ones featuring a tri-layered structure. This design incorporates a hydrophilic inner layer, typically made of cotton, to absorb moisture, and hydrophobic outer layers, often composed of polyester, which aids in moisture management during breathing, enhancing the overall protective capabilities. The categorization of cloth masks into three types—Cloth mask 1, Cloth mask 2, and Cloth mask 3—provides insight into their varying performance. Cloth mask 1, distinguished by a latex exhalation valve, stands out with superior filtration efficiency. Its conical or tetrahedral shape encompasses three layers, including a hydrophilic inner layer, a middle filter layer, and a hydrophobic outer layer. In contrast, Cloth masks 2 and 3, with rectangular shapes and fewer layers, exhibit varied filtration efficiencies for different particle sizes. Significantly, Cloth mask 1 surpasses its counterparts in both filtering effectiveness and fit, underscoring the importance of design nuances in optimizing cloth mask performance for public health protection.

Homemade Masks Study

A separate study indicates that homemade masks, specifically those made of tea cloth, offer safety during various activities. These masks, crafted from polyester and kitchen towels, demonstrated comparable effectiveness to surgical masks in blocking viral transmission.

Medical or Surgical Masks: WHO Recommendations

During the global health emergency caused by COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends medical or surgical masks for healthcare professionals and patients. These masks, particularly fluid-resistant Type-IIR medical face covers, provide protection against droplets. Surgical masks consist of three layers: an absorbent sheet, a central polypropylene barrier, and an outer hydrophobic surface.

Surgical Mask Varieties

Surgical masks come in three-ply and four-ply varieties. The three-ply design comprises an outer layer repelling water droplets, a middle layer acting as a filter, and an inner layer absorbing moisture. The four-ply surgical mask includes an additional layer with an activated carbon filter or another filtering layer, offering enhanced protection against odors and organic vapors.


Tests involved in production of surgical face mask

The production of surgical masks involves a rigorous series of tests to ensure their effectiveness in providing protection. The Bacteria Filtration Efficiency (BFE) test assesses the mask’s ability to capture Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in an aerosol, confirming its capacity to filter harmful microorganisms. Flammability testing is crucial, with all levels requiring at least level 1 flame resistance to determine how slowly and for how long the material burns. The Breathing Resistance test measures the mask’s ability to maintain shape and effective filtration when subjected to airflow, ensuring optimal performance for wearers. Splash Resistance testing involves simulated blood splashes to verify that liquids cannot contaminate the wearer. Lastly, the Particle Filtration Efficiency test assesses the mask’s capability to filter particles of the designated size by spraying an aerosol of polystyrene microspheres. These meticulous examinations collectively guarantee the reliability and safety of surgical masks in various real-world scenarios.

In addition to these options, a diverse array of face masks is also readily accessible.

Raw material and manufacturing process

Delving deeper into the environmental impacts, understanding the raw materials and production processes is imperative. The basic structure of face masks includes filtration layers, ear loops, and a nose wire. Ear loops, typically made of polyester and spandex, complement nose wires crafted from aluminum, high-density polyethylene, or polyvinyl chloride. The filtration layers, crucial for optimal particle filtration efficiency, are crafted from nonwoven materials.

Raw materials


The nonwoven materials, formed through processes such as spunbonding, melt-blowing, and electrospinning, utilize various polymers like PP, polyethylene, polyesters, and more. This intricate web-like structure defines the quality of face masks and underscores the importance of manufacturing processes in determining their effectiveness.

Fiber bonding serves as a crucial element in crafting non-woven materials, often achieved by introducing an external chemical binder. While mechanical bonding minimally impacts fiber absorbency, it intricately alters fiber entanglement, influencing the capillary absorption of fluids. This entanglement can both limit a structure’s natural ability to swell and provide resistance against external pressure, preventing collapse. In the domain of web assemblage, the arrangement of fibers plays a pivotal role, shaping properties like packing, capillary orientation, pore size, and overall dimensions—factors intricately tied to absorbency. During web formation, localized fiber rearrangement enhances wicking abilities, while subsequent web finishing, whether through chemical or physical methods, further refines absorbency. Chemical finishing, in particular, augments absorbency by modifying fiber surface wetting performance and capillary behavior, while mechanical softening treatments exert influence through alterations in fiber crimp, impacting packing efficiency and overall structure. Focused on surface modification, fiber finishing directly shapes wetting, liquid wicking, and absorbency, considering morphological features such as surface rugosity and core uniformity. The optimization of liquid interaction, fabric flexibility, air permeability, and tensile properties becomes paramount in meeting the performance requirements essential for the fabrication of non-woven materials.

Materials Used for Surgical Face Masks

First Layer – Spunbond Polypropylene:

  • Material: Spunbond polypropylene
  • Density: 18 GSM to 25 GSM
  • Color Options: Blue, green, pink, or white

Second Layer – Filtering Material:

  • Material: Melt-blown fabric
  • Density: 25 GSM (for normal masks)

Third Layer – Non-woven Fabric:

  • Material: White non-woven fabric
  • Density: 18 GSM to 25 GSM

Outer Layer – Hydrophobic Layer:

  • Function: Repels water, blood, and body fluids

Middle Layer – Filter Layer:

  • Function: Designed to filter bacteria; the most critical layer

Inner Layer – Hydroponic Layer:

  • Function: Absorbs water, sweat, and spit

Mask Sizes

  1. Adult Size:
  • Dimensions: 17.5 x 9.5 cm
  1. Child Size:
  • Dimensions: 14.5 x 9.5 cm

9            Infant Size:

  • Dimensions: 12 x 7 cm


Manufacturing Process

  1. Material Entry

Raw materials are seamlessly drawn into the production process, initiating the mask-making sequence. This step ensures a continuous flow of materials for uninterrupted production.

  1. Folding Process

Subsequent to material entry, the folding process unfolds, creating characteristic pleats in the fabric. These pleats are a defining feature of disposable 3-ply face masks.

  1. Ultrasonic Welding for Seams

Mechanical vibrations are employed through ultrasonic welding to form seams at the ends of the mask. This technique softens and melds the material, ensuring a secure bond for the mask’s structure.

  1. Cutting Masks to Size

Precision is maintained as the masks are cut to the correct size following the welding process. Notably, this step occurs while the material remains connected to the spool of raw material, streamlining the production process.

  1. Transportation to the Next Station

Post-cutting, the masks are efficiently transported to the next station within the machine, seamlessly progressing through the automated production line. This ensures a continuous and organized workflow.

Efficient and Uniform Production

The integration of these automated processes ensures an efficient and uniform production flow for disposable face masks. Meeting the essential criteria for both functionality and mass production demands, these machines contribute significantly to the global efforts in addressing the demand for protective face masks.


Advance technique of production

Notably, KARL MAYER has revolutionized mask production, offering an innovative one-step manufacturing technology capable of producing up to 400 masks per hour, eliminating the need for laborious sewing work. These masks, developed in-house, mark a significant leap in efficiency and quantity.



Face masks are an essential product of Medical Textiles sector.


Post the pandemic the use of face mask has become prominent. It helps is filtering out the bacteria, viruses and in general pollution and helps in living a healthier lifestyle. The new technologies in antimicrobial textiles has opened new avenues for Nonwovens and Technical Textiles.


Face masks of medical grade or Surgical Masks are generally the Use and Throw masks that can be used only once. This creates a lot of pollution and disposing the masks is a problem.


With many new technologies in Medical Textiles and Nonwovens coming up, the market is open for Face Masks as a healthcare products. With rising concerns regarding health and people being more conscious the demand for face masks has increased. The high level of pollution decreasing air quality in metro cities and other big cities and towns, adds to the customer base of for this product.


Use of Cloth masks is the biggest threat to Surgical Mask as it can be washed, sterlised and reused. The high costs of recommended Face masks like the N95 prevents people from buying it.


Quality control

ISO 22609:2004 sets standards for materials used in medical face masks, ensuring performance but not addressing design or construction factors. Looking ahead, the future of face masks seems promising. Next-gen masks are poised to be virus-killing, eco-friendly, and reusable. The KN95, a staple in current times, may even embrace water resistance.

Respiratory standards vary globally, reflecting regional specifications for face mask effectiveness. In Australia and New Zealand, the P2 standard is recognized, denoting masks that meet the specified respiratory protection criteria. In the United States, the N95 standard is prevalent, indicating masks that conform to stringent filtration and fit requirements. China follows the KN95 standard, emphasizing similar protective qualities in its respiratory masks. Meanwhile, Europe adheres to the FFP2 standard, ensuring that face masks meet specific filtration efficiency and fit standards. These distinct standards underscore the international commitment to safeguarding respiratory health, with each region establishing rigorous criteria tailored to its unique considerations and requirements.


The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) plays a pivotal role in establishing rigorous standards for the design of effective face masks, with ASTM F3502 standing as a benchmark, duly endorsed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This standard meticulously delineates six essential characteristics that manufacturers must adhere to in face mask production. Firstly, the mask must comprehensively cover the user’s mouth and nose. Additionally, it is imperative that the mask fits snugly along the sides of the nose and face, leaving no room for gaps. The mask should exhibit sustained adherence to the mouth and nose during prolonged use, ensuring uninterrupted protection. Furthermore, the use of non-toxic materials, devoid of skin irritants, is mandated. Design considerations encompass options for single or multiple uses, catering to diverse user needs. Lastly, the standard underscores the necessity for masks to accommodate various sizes, ensuring a tailored fit for individuals with distinct facial characteristics. This meticulous framework establishes a scientific foundation for the production of face masks, prioritizing both efficacy and user comfort.



BARC, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, has achieved a significant milestone by developing a high-quality respiratory face mask utilizing indigenously developed glass filter media, known as HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. This innovative face mask comes at a nominal price, making it an accessible and valuable resource for both medical professionals and patients. The use of HEPA filter technology ensures superior filtration capabilities, providing an effective barrier against airborne particles.


Noteworthy manufacturers such as Ridhi Sidhi Enterprise, Cartel Healthcare Pvt Limited, and GPC Medical Ltd are actively involved in the production of these masks. Ridhi Sidhi Enterprise and Cartel Healthcare focus on delivering cutting-edge solutions, while GPC Medical Ltd specializes in reusable masks, underlining the diverse offerings in the market. This development is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the scientific community and private enterprises to address the pressing need for reliable and affordable respiratory protection in healthcare settings. Honeywell International inc , Smilepad Hygiene India Pvt. Ltd ,3M , Breathe Easy Labs are some manufacturers of face mask .



How to choose right face mask

  1. Fitting: Achieving a proper fit is paramount for the effectiveness of a face mask. It should comfortably cover the mouth, nose, and chin, leaving no gaps near the eyes or sides. A snug fit plays a crucial role in preventing the leakage of respiratory droplets, both inwards and outwards, enhancing overall protection.
  2. Breathability: In addition to a secure fit, the comfort of breathing while wearing a mask is essential. Opting for a mask that allows you to breathe comfortably ensures adherence to usage guidelines. While some masks may necessitate slightly more effort during breaths, they should not impede breathing or make it unduly challenging for the wearer.
  3. Filtration: Face masks vary in their filtration capabilities, and the choice depends on the specific needs and settings. N95 masks stand out for offering the highest level of filtration, making them suitable for high-risk environments like hospitals. Combining medical and cloth masks can be an effective strategy, particularly for individuals seeking enhanced particle filtration in everyday settings.
  4. Material: The material of a face mask contributes significantly to its efficacy. For cloth masks, using finely woven fabrics that block light when held against a light source is recommended. On the other hand, medical masks often incorporate synthetic materials with multiple layers of protection. It’s important to check the label to ensure that the mask adheres to NIOSH standards, providing a reliable level of filtration and protection.


Facemask – a boon in COVID

Face masks have proven to be a crucial boon in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Acting as a physical barrier, masks help prevent respiratory droplets, containing the virus, from reaching others and vice versa. Their widespread use contributes significantly to the collective effort to curb transmission, particularly in crowded or enclosed spaces. Beyond protecting individuals from infection, masks also promote a sense of shared responsibility, fostering a community-minded approach to public health. As a simple yet effective tool, face masks have played a pivotal role in reducing the impact of the pandemic, underscoring their importance in safeguarding both personal and communal well-being.

Pollution caused by face mask

A study uncovered a significant presence of plastic waste in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, primarily in the form of discarded masks, posing a threat of contributing to micro-plastic pollution. This research emphasizes the imperative for a sustainable paradigm in mask production, advocating the incorporation of natural plant fibers into woven face mask technology as a viable solution to mitigate the plastic waste generated by masks. Additionally, the paper delves into the prospect of upcycling mask waste, exploring the production of construction materials as an innovative and eco-friendly approach.


While the widespread adoption of masks has proven effective in mitigating the spread of respiratory illnesses, it is essential to acknowledge the potential downsides associated with their use. Anecdotal evidence and certain studies have pointed to various challenges, including discomfort experienced by individuals wearing masks for extended periods. Moreover, some individuals may perceive a sense of difficulty in breathing, particularly those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Communication problems, especially for individuals who rely on lip reading for effective interaction, pose another significant concern. Striking a balance between the protective benefits of mask-wearing and addressing these drawbacks is crucial. It calls for ongoing research and innovation to develop more comfortable and breathable mask designs, as well as increased awareness to accommodate individuals facing communication challenges.


In conclusion, the evolution of face masks from Hübner’s two-layered gauze in the early 20th century to the technologically advanced options available today reflects a dynamic journey driven by the need for respiratory protection. The global face mask market’s exponential growth, reaching USD 25.1 billion in 2022, signifies their pivotal role in public health. While the paradoxical projection of a -34.5% CAGR raises questions, the enduring importance of face masks, especially disposable ones, suggests a societal shift towards prioritizing health. The diverse array of masks, from N95 respirators to cloth masks, underscores the significance of tailored choices for individual needs. Manufacturing processes, raw materials, and quality control measures contribute to the efficacy and safety of these protective textiles. However, challenges such as environmental impact and discomfort call for continuous innovation. In the context of COVID-19, face masks have emerged as a boon, playing a crucial role in limiting virus transmission. Yet, the environmental footprint and individual challenges highlight the necessity for sustainable solutions and user-friendly designs in shaping the future of respiratory protection.


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