Wearing a face mask is a vital measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. While surgical and cloth masks offer some protection, N95s and KN95s masks, called respirators, are the gold standard in 2022. These masks filter out 95 percent of aerosol particles.
Read on to learn more about the different types of masks, how to avoid counterfeits, and which masks are most effective. You can also check out our picks for the best face masks for COVID-19 protection in 2022.
Disposable face masks are made of cotton or nonwoven fabrics, such as polypropylene. Examples include N95, KN95, and surgical masks. N95 and KN95 masks form a tight-fitting seal, while surgical masks are loose-fitting.
Cloth masks are machine-washable and reusable. Tightly woven natural fabrics such as cotton offer the most protection. Cloth masks fit more loosely and often have gaps near the nose, cheeks, and jaw, which reduces their effectiveness. However, wearing a cloth mask is still more effective than wearing no mask.
For maximum effectiveness, it is important to wear masks properly and ensure they fit correctly. Avoid touching them or taking them off frequently.
To ensure effectiveness, it’s important to buy authentic N95 and KN95 masks. Buy directly from the manufacturer’s website or a reputable site.
Markings are printed on respirators to show that they are genuine. N95, N99, N100, P95, P100 masks are the only types that have National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approval. They will have a certification mark and the term “NIOSH-approved”.
Make sure the masks are of high quality. Look out for loose straps or misalignment in terms of fit. Masks should not have decorative add-ons, such as sequins or tassels.
To select the best face masks for COVID-19 protection, we considered the following criteria:
- Quality. Our list offers high quality, durable masks that provide plenty of value for the cost.
- Fit. The masks on our list fit most faces and provide a secure seal with no gaps. They cover your nose, mouth, and chin. Many options have adjustable ear loops or headbands.
- Comfort. We selected masks that are breathable and comfortable enough for all-day wear with no need for adjustments. They’re tight enough to be effective while minimizing skin irritation and pressure points.
- Effectiveness. The N95s and KN95s filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles.
Most face masks cost less than $5 and are available in packs. Many companies offer lower cost-per-mask if you buy in bulk or sign up for a subscription.
We’ve indicated cost using the following key:
- $ = under $25
- $$ = $25–$50
- $$$ = over $50
The evolvetogether KN95 six-layer masks feature double filtration, breathability, and a streamlined profile. The exterior is water-resistant and the interior absorbs moisture. The comfortable design has soft ear loops and an adjustable nose bridge for a secure fit. Each pack comes with a biodegradable storage pouch.
The lightweight, breathable design of the Powecom KN95 Respirator Face Mask offers five layers of protection. It features latex-free ear loops and an adjustable metal nose piece for a comfortable, secure fit. The tight seal is made to help prevent foggy glasses.
Best recyclable mask
The Vida NIOSH and FDA Authorized N95 Mask features four protective layers, two headbands, and an adjustable nose bridge. The bright cyan shade is great if you want to add a splash of color to your look.
As part of Vida’s sustainability program, each order comes with a pre-paid label so you can easily send back your used masks for proper recycling.
Best sturdy mask
The WellBefore N95 Medical Respirator Mask features four layers of soft, breathable skin-friendly material. The adjustable head straps are made to provide a snug fit that’s comfortable enough to wear for long periods. The tight seal is designed to prevent foggy glasses.
Each mask is individually wrapped in paper packaging, so you can keep a few in your travel bag.
Best soft mask
These KN95 masks offer six layers of protection, including a soft inner lining that’s good for sensitive skin. The foldable design has an adjustable nose bridge and thick ear loops for extra comfort. The mask is spacious and breathable.
Each mask is individually sealed for convenient storage.
Best for small faces
The Protective Health Gear N95 respirators feature a premium filter and four layers of leak-proof protection. Designed to provide comfort and a secure fit, they have a foam nose cushion, fitted nose clip, and latex-free head straps. The soft, breathable masks are good for sensitive skin.
To ensure quality control, Protective Health Gear manufactures the masks in the United States.
Best comfortable mask
The Harley N95 Respirator Face Mask features an adjustable padded nose piece and latex-free headbands for a comfortable, secure fit that adapts to different face shapes. The foldable design conveniently tucks away for storage.
Best printed mask
The Maskc Tie Dye KN95 Face Masks feature an adjustable nose bridge, gentle ear loops, and soft five-layer fabric for a comfortable fit. The spacious, breathable design stays put during long wears. Each pack comes with a resealable storage bag.
Best cup mask
Made in the United States, the DemeTECH Cup Style N95 Respirator Mask features a molded nose bridge and head straps for a comfortable fit. The mask suits various face shapes to provide a secure seal while reducing pressure points. It has a strong, rigid outer shell that’s designed to prevent collapsing while making it easy to breathe.
Best for kids
The evolvetogether kids KN95 masks fit most children 3 to 8 years old. The breathable masks feature four layers, including a water-resistant exterior and moisture-absorbing interior. They have a flat profile, no-tug ear loops, and an adjustable nose bridge. Each pack comes with a biodegradable storage pouch.
Which is better for COVID-19, N95, or KN95 masks?
A well-fitting N95 mask approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) offers the most protection from COVID-19. They are also approved for use in a healthcare setting. The second-best option is a KN95 mask, which meets China’s standards of protection. However, they are not regulated by the United States. N95 and KN95 masks capture at least 95 percent of tiny particles.
How many times can you reuse an N95 or KN95 face mask?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people to reuse an N95 or KN95 face mask a maximum of five times or 40 hours. It may be advisable to air out each mask in between uses and wait at least 1 or 2 days before using it again. If a mask no longer fits or is damaged or dirty, throw it away.
What’s the most effective face mask for COVID-19?
According to the CDC, the most effective mask for COVID-19 protection is a NIOSH-approved respirator, such as an N95. For maximum effectiveness, the mask should fit snugly on your face with no gaps.
For maximum protection against COVID-19, wear a well-fitting N95 or KN95 face mask. Choose a trustworthy brand and make your purchase directly from the website or a reputable dealer. If you don’t have access to an N95 or KN95 mask, you can wear a surgical or cloth mask, which provides more protection than going without a mask.