Why buy a face mask?
Face masks are masks or similar protective coverings to cover the lower half of the face, namely the nose and mouth. The idea behind face masks is to prevent the spread of airborne pathogens like bacteria and viruses. If you’re sick, wearing a face mask dramatically reduces the risk of you passing on your germs that might make other people sick, especially if you’re sneezing or coughing. Even if you aren’t sick, you can still benefit from wearing a face mask, as they also help to shield you from inhaling airborne germs. Even when there isn’t a global pandemic, many people like to wear face masks when they’re in public during cold and flu season. Wearing one can be a useful precaution when riding on public transit or shopping at the grocery store.
What should you look for in a face mask?
- Material: Most face masks will be made of some cloth, though the kind of cloth varies slightly. Some are made of well-known fabrics like cotton or silk, while others are made from polypropylene (a synthetic nonwoven polymer fabric). Surgical and N95 masks are made out of the latter, while if you buy a mask advertised as a “cloth mask,” it’ll be more like the former. Polypropylene fabric masks are often considered more effective, so medical professionals use them more often. If you opt for a “regular” cloth face mask, look for a tight-weave 100% cotton or polyester if possible. These materials are durable, hard-wearing, and easy to clean. Silk is a good choice if you have sensitive skin, and it also repels moisture.
- Quantity: Face masks are rarely sold individually. Sets of five, 10, 20, and more are even more common than pairs, so it helps to know how many masks you’ll need to buy ahead of time. Are you buying just for yourself or your entire family? How many spares do you want to have? Will you be wearing a mask every day, or will you reserve them only for when you or someone in your household is sick?
- Disposable vs. Reusable: Disposable masks are more common for medical professionals since they can toss an old mask they have worn around one patient and then replace it with a new, clean one for the next patient. However, you may prefer a reusable mask if you’re not in the medical field. They’re more eco-friendly since you won’t be throwing them away every day, and they’ll save you money since they’re more durable and won’t have to be replaced nearly as often.
What are the different types of face masks?
You’ll see three types of face masks available for purchase: surgical masks, N95 or KN95 masks, and “regular” cloth masks. Surgical masks are the ones you’ve likely seen doctors wearing. They’re light blue and rectangular with pleats or folds and white ear straps. N95 masks are similar but white and rounded rather than rectangular. Cloth masks tend to be closer in shape to N95s, but they come in different color patterns. They are made from fabrics like cotton or polyester rather than the polypropylene that surgical masks and N95s/KN95s are made from. Surgical masks are disposable and very effective at blocking large airborne particles and droplets. N95s and KN95s create a tight seal around your nose and mouth and are the most effective filtration.
CCFADD Cloth Face Masks
This nine-piece set of cotton face masks comes with filters and in a multitude of different colors and patterns.
Pros: If you want a set of reusable masks or bright, colorful models to better match your clothes, these thick, layered cotton masks are the perfect mix. They’re machine washable and can be dried by machine or hanging, and they’re available in a wide range of different colors and patterns. There are 16 sets in total, each with unique colors and designs to better suit your personal preferences. Regardless of which set you pick, each mask features adjustable strings to fit your face and ears better and a nose wire that helps hold the mask in place and prevent them from fogging up your glasses or sunglass if you wear them. There’s also a pocket to fit filters, and a filter for each mask in the set comes included with your purchase. Between the 18 masks, 18 filters, the masks’ reusability, and the reasonable price, you’ll get good value for your money with these face masks.
Cons: The thick, mostly nonwoven, and layered cotton of these masks help to ensure that they’re effective at blocking particles and germs but also means you might not find them as breathable as other models.
Bottom Line: Cloth masks are widely considered the best option for those who want something more colorful and stylish than solid-colored disposable masks, and these cotton masks are a perfect example of why this is the case.
akgk Disposable Face Masks
If you're looking for disposable masks rather than reusable cloth ones, this high-quantity pack is among your best options.
Pros: These disposable masks are an excellent, affordable option for those who prefer them to washable models. Disposable masks are often less cost-effective than reusable ones, but with this pack, you get a high volume of masks for one very low price. This set comes with 100 masks—enough to supply you for several months at a time, assuming you only use one a day; long if you don’t use them every day. Packs of 50 and 200 are available for purchase as well. On top of this benefit, these masks also feature adjustable nose bridges and are surprisingly lightweight for better comfort on your end. They’re also pleated for more excellent breathability and airflow control.
Cons: Though elastic, the ear straps on these masks aren’t adjustable and may come with an odd chemical smell at first. These are not recyclable, so they’re not the most eco-friendly option.
Bottom Line: If you prefer disposable masks over reusable ones, this lightweight and the surprisingly breathable set will be an ideal choice. Between the high quantity and low price, they’ll keep you well supplied for a long time without putting too much strain on your budget.
Known 100% Mulberry Silk Face Masks
If you have sensitive skin or find cotton cloth masks too abrasive to wear for long, soft but effective silk masks like these are an excellent alternative.
Pros: These face masks are made of mulberry silk rather than cotton or polyester like most cloth masks. This makes them not only softer and more comfortable against your skin but gentler as well. The adjustable straps further increase their level of comfort. Despite the softer, more delicate material they’re made from, these masks are still washable and reusable; you can wash them by hand or on the delicate setting in the washing machine and hang them to dry. They also come with an optional nose wire and a pocket for a filter; two filters per mask are included with your purchase. You can buy them in several solid colors to match different outfits.
Cons: These silk face masks are sold as individuals or in sets of two to four, so you will be paying comparable amounts for fewer masks. They run a bit small, so they may not fit all adults properly.
Bottom Line: Many people prefer silk masks to cotton or polyester ones for their softer, gentler feel while providing convenient reusability. If you have sensitive skin or your other face masks are giving your problems like acne, these silk masks are an excellent alternative that should end those issues.
Wanwane KN95 Face Masks
These KN95 masks will provide extra filtration and security that most other types can't match.
Pros: If you want the best possible protection and more-advanced filtration, this pack of KN95s is your best bet. The extra filtration and five layers of protection these masks provide are especially ideal for anyone who is immunocompromised or has a weaker immune system. Even with the extra shield, these masks offer extra breathing room; your mouth and face won’t be pressed right up against the nonwoven fabric. The fit is secure to ensure no air or germs sneak out the sides, but the fit won’t be so tight as uncomfortable. The masks are also waterproof and available in packs of 50 or 20. You can also buy them in a couple of different colors, unlike most N95s or KN95s.
Cons: Though you get a decent quantity of masks with your purchase, they are a bit more expensive due to the more advanced protection they provide. You will have to purchase new sets as these particular KN95s aren’t washable and reusable like some.
Bottom Line: N95 and KN95 face masks are known for their medical-grade protection and ability to provide stronger filtration and better protection than many other types of masks. Though the price tag is a bit higher, the added safety and shielding they provide are well worth it.
MISSAA Disposable Face Masks with Elastic Earloops
Disposable masks aren't known for their style, but these colorful, patterned KN95 masks are the perfect blend of both.
Pros: Normally, you’ll have to use a cloth face mask if you want one that’s multicolored or patterned. However, these masks are classic disposable KN95s that come in two possible sets of different vibrant colors and patterns; choose between bright floral and butterfly options or eye-catching tie-dyes. There’s also a plain solid black option if you prefer. Even with these colorful hues, these masks have all the classic trademarks of KN95s. They provide extra levels of filtration, five layers of protection, a secure yet comfortable fit, and extra breathing room, so the mask doesn’t rub right up against your nose and mouth. They also feature an adjustable nose clip to help prevent fogging for those who wear eyeglasses or sunglasses.
Cons: These masks may have a bit of a chemical odor when you first open them, so you may want to air them out before wearing them. Some found the ear straps too short or tight to be comfortable, while others noted that the mask was too big to fit properly.
Bottom Line: These face masks combine the color and style of cloth masks with the added protection of a disposable KN95 mask. You won’t have to choose between a plain, unattractive mask and added protection.
Wearing a face mask is beneficial not only to you but to those around you as well. A properly fitting mask made out of the best possible materials is a great way to help protect yourself from getting sick at any time of year and help protect those around you if you do get sick.