A surgical face mask aka procedure mask is intended to catch the bacteria shed in liquid droplets and aerosols from the wearer's mouth and nose. Surgical masks are also popularly worn by the general public in East Asian countries to reduce the chance of spreading airborne diseases, particularly during winter time.
In Taiwan, it is common to wear a face mask whilst ill or even during a slight cold to avoid infecting others in public settings, as a show of courtesy and consideration for others and social responsibility to prevent spreading their own infections. Contrary to widespread belief, these masks aren’t worn to protect the wearer - they are worn to protect others.
A recent trend in some East Asian cultures is the use of face masks for fashion or for utility. Since face masks have become ubiquitous, women have begun wearing them to avoid having to put on make-up before hitting the streets. If they just need to run a couple errands or down to the 7-Eleven or Family Mart convenience store, it’s easier to slip on a face mask and blend in than it is to spend an hour or more applying make-up.
In Taiwan, as well as in many East Asian countries, it has become very common to see girls and women wearing all kind of face masks on public transportation, at work, in stores, and walking around the city. These face masks come nowadays in different colours, shapes, and have unique designs (e.g. stripes, cartoons, cute pandas, and even the ever ubiquitous Hello Kitty). You know Taiwanese girls love their kawaiiness!
Even though the face-mask craze originated in Japan and Taiwan, nowadays masks are widely used also in South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand.
Portrait photographs of people with partially covered faces in Matt Hahnewald's