If you diagnose obstructive sleep apnea and wear a CPAP as part of your treatment (continuous positive airway pressure), there is quite a bit of understanding about your device. One of the many questions you might have has to do with what your mask is made of. Are CPAP masks made of latex?
Almost all CPAP masks being sold today are latex-free. Some older versions may contain latex, but most today are made of silicone or a similar gel-like material. Others come in alternative forms that are better for sensitive skin, such as cloth or memory foam.
The rest of this article will explain a few topics related to this question in great detail, including what CPAP masks are and are not made of, why that matters, and other tips on understanding your CPAP machine and mask.
Understanding Your CPAP
Whether you’re just getting started with choosing the right CPAP for you, or you already have one you’re familiar with, it’s good to know the basics about your machine and mask.
As you likely know, a CPAP machine works to send a steady flow of oxygen through your nose and mouth. In many cases, this is done while you sleep.
However, it is also possible to also use a CPAP while awake. Some physicians suggest the use of a CPAP to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or for preterm infants experiencing respiratory ailments. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration recently suggested using CPAP devices to treat people who have COVID-19.
The airflow provided by a CPAP system helps keep your airways open and ensures you breathe naturally.
To accomplish this, your CPAP consists of the following components:
- A motor that powers the machine and airflow
- A tube that connects the mask to the motor
- A connection to the user’s nose by way of one of the following styles:
- Mask that covers the nose and mouth
- Mask that covers the nose only
- Prongs that fit into the nose in place of a full mask
What Are CPAP Masks Made Of?
Since the mask is a critical component in this type of therapy, it’s wise to understand what it’s made of entirely. Is it latex? What about plastic? Is it made of gel?
CPAP masks are commonly made of materials other than latex. Historically, CPAP masks used to be often made using latex, but they are not anymore.
Manufacturers of CPAP masks seek to provide the most comfortable, skin-friendly, allergy safe options to their consumers, so for these reasons and others, they’ve moved away from using latex in the making of their masks.
Most CPAP masks you’ll find on the market today are made of hard plastic covered with a silicone cushion to make a tight seal around the face without causing discomfort. This cushion is the part that makes contact with your face all night as you sleep.
Silicone, or a hypoallergenic silicone-based material, is far and away from the most common component of most CPAP masks today. It’s challenging to find a traditional CPAP mask that doesn’t have silicone in it.
Generally speaking, silicone rarely causes skin irritation, and very few people experience silicone allergies. Additionally, it doesn’t conform to the face or loses its shape from night-to-night. This means that it stays put in a uniform position. As long as the user can find a naturally good fit on their face, they don’t need to readjust and tighten the mask each night.
For these reasons, silicone is a universally popular choice for CPAP masks, making it no mystery why it is more common now than latex.
You can read more about the differences between silicone and latex in this article by Simtec Silicone Parts.
If a CPAP mask on the market today is not made of silicone, it’s likely made of some gel material. Some manufacturers will make the same mask in two different versions; one with a silicone cushion and a gel cushion.
Which one is the better option comes down to the user’s choice and comfort? The mask should provide an excellent fit and maximum comfort to get the most out of the therapy.
Gel CPAP masks are usually a bit heavier and more firm than their silicone counterpart, but they come with the unique ability to mold to the shape of the person’s face. This property provides a custom fit and feel. Gel masks must be adjusted with a tight fit every night to ensure no leaks occur.
Other options exist for those with a silicone allergy or prefer an alternative instead of silicone or gel. Aside from the top two CPAP mask materials, other common alternative materials for CPAP mask cushions are:
- Soft rubber
- Memory foam
Why Latex Is Rarely Used in CPAP Masks
Part of the reason you are reading this article is likely that you’re wary of latex, a rubber tree product. It is no secret that latex can be harsh on the skin, and latex allergies are relatively common.
An allergy to latex means the body reacts to specific proteins found in natural rubber latex. For those with a latex allergy, their body mistakes latex to be a harmful substance.
According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals with latex allergies experience itchy skin and hives. On rare occasions, latex may cause anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life-threatening condition where the throat swells and the person has extreme difficulty breathing.
Interestingly, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma Immunology says latex is one of the top reasons for anaphylactic reactions, in addition to certain foods, insect stings, or medications.
Why Does the Material of CPAP Masks Matter?
Anytime you’re using something close to your sensitive facial skin, what it’s made of matters. A CPAP mask can irritate someone’s skin or cause other annoyances for several reasons, one of which may be what it’s made of.
A CPAP mask can cause an allergic reaction in some people. One ingredient in the mask material may not agree with your body and skin, and if this happens, it’s likely to happen the same night you wear it. If so, it’s important to stop wearing the mask and immediately contact a medical professional. You can then explore alternative masks and styles.
Less severe than an allergy – but still nothing to ignore – is that you may experience a sensitivity to something in the CPAP mask. While you may not have a full-blown allergic reaction, you could experience irritated skin or sores where the mask touches your face.
Again, if you experience this, it’s wise to talk to your doctor and look into other options for masks and styles that may be better suited for you.
Caring for Your CPAP Machine
It’s important to know what your CPAP mask consists of not only for your health and wellness but also so you can understand how to care for, maintain, and clean it.
If you do one thing to care for and maintain your CPAP system at home, you should regularly clean your CPAP mask. Luckily, this is a more straightforward process than you might think, and it’s something you can do easily at home. Read the complete steps here for cleaning your CPAP at home.
CPAP masks on the market today are typically not made of latex. While it was more common in years past to see a CPAP mask made of latex, today’s masks are more likely made of silicone or gel materials. If you prefer an alternative material for your mask, you can explore other options, such as those made for sensitive skin or made from cloth or even memory foam.
- CPAP Helpdesk: CPAP Mask Problems
- The Most Common CPAP Mask Problems and Discomfort (& How To Solve Them)
- Mayo Clinic: CPAP machines: Tips for avoiding 10 common problems
- The American Association of Sleep Technologists: What is CPAP Technology
- Home Sleep: Reducing CPAP Mask Skin Irritation
- CPAP Wholesale: CPAP Masks
- CPAP Wholesale: Gel vs. Silicone CPAP Masks
- Sleep Apnea Essentials: Do CPAP Masks Have Latex?