Let’s admit it: We’re living in scary times, what with COVID-19 cases skyrocketing across the country and the short-term future of school, work, and American life in general once again thrown into disarray by the pandemic. It can sometimes feel like there’s nothing to be done, but that’s not true—even if you’re vaccinated and boosted, masking while indoors can still do plenty to protect you and your community. For most of us, that means a mask upgrade is in order.
Of course, many people never stopped heavy-duty masking, and they should be commended for that. I’ll admit it, though: During the period of relative COVID-19 normalcy between delta and omicron, I stopped wearing my heavy-duty KN95s as regularly, opting instead for disposable, bulk-purchased masks that aren’t quite up to weathering the current COVID-19 surge.
For the uninitiated, both N95 and KN95 masks filter 95% of aerosol particulates, but the N95 has been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, whereas the KN95 has not (although it has been approved in China). When both mask varieties are applied correctly—with the seal fitted tightly to your face—they can be very effective; below, find a guide to the best N95 face masks and KN95 face masks on the market.