If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that things can change in an instant—and that includes the direction we receive about how to best protect ourselves and others as Covid-19 cases spike throughout the country.
Though initial guidance surrounding masking was to opt for cloth face coverings, experts are now saying the level of protection these products provide is questionable. According to recently revised guidelines by the CDC, it’s important to remember that “masking is a critical public health tool for preventing the spread of Covid-19,” and “any mask is better than no mask,” but there is a hierarchy. The agency says loosely woven cloth masks provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.
That said, the CDC and experts agree that N95s should be reserved for healthcare settings. The N95 and KN95 respirator masks are largely the same, explains Niket Sonpal, MD, an internist in New York City. “Both masks are rated to capture 95 percent of tiny particles (0.3 micron particles),” he says. “The difference between them is considered to be the pressure drop while inhaling, but this is primarily to protect healthcare workers. KN95 does not need to be fit tested for leaks, so it can’t be used in hospitals.”
With this in mind, a KN95 mask is your best bet for the most protection against Covid-19 during day-to-day activities. But don’t pluck just any package off the shelf. Unfortunately, there are many counterfeits out there, and the only way to know you’re getting a quality mask is to check to make sure the brand is registered with the FDA or is on the FDA emergency authorization list, says Sonpal.
And remember: You might have to experiment with a few brands to get the right fit for your face, especially for smaller faces and children. To check for fit, Sonpal says to wash your hands, then unfold the mask and flatten the metal nose clip. Then place the mask over your face, with the bottom below your chin and the nosepiece up. Place the straps of the mask over each of your ears. Finally, adjust the metal nose clip to the shape of your nose and adjust fit as necessary to reduce airflow around the mask.
Be sure to change out your mask at least every few wears. The CDC says healthcare workers can wear an N95 mask up to five times, says Sonpal. But experts say how often the average person can safely wear one will vary depending on how it’s used. You should replace your KN95 when it becomes visibly dirty, is tearing, has stretched out, has damaged ties or straps, or the metal clip isn’t working right or hurts you.
Ready to swap your old standby cloth mask for something more protective? Ahead, the best KN95s masks to shop right now.
1 Blush Tones Variety KN95 Face Masks, 10 Pack
There’s a reason celebrities love these KN95s. It’s not easy to find a stylish yet effective face covering, but this FDA-approved multi-pack is just that. And if blush isn’t your style, you can choose from a variety of other sets, including spring hues, deep hues, and patterns like plaid or rainbow for kids.
2 KN95 Face Masks, 20 Pack
Now 12% off
This 5-ply protective KN95 is highly structured, so it creates a tight seal around the mouth and nose, but sits largely off the face for added comfort. And, because the set comes with five fun colors, you’ll have something to suit any outfit and occasion.
3 KN95 Face Masks, 25-Pack
Now 36% off
If you’re always forgetting to re-up your stock, you’ll appreciate this pretty-in-pink 25-pack of FDA-approved KN95s. Each mask has five layers, including one that’s non-woven to filter large particles and two that are melt-blown to filter the smallest.
4 Copenhagen KN95 Masks, 5-Pack
If you’re looking for a sleek and unobtrusive mask, this is it. The water-resistant KN95 has an impressive six-layer construction complete with activated charcoal to reduce odors. You’ll love the fit of this mask, too—it has a flat, modern profile (read: no duck face!).
5 KN95 Protective Mask, Pastel Series, 5-Pack
Anyone with sensitive skin will appreciate how soft and lightweight this KN95 mask is. It’s still highly effective, thanks to six layers of protection, including two melt-blown cotton filters, a hot air cotton filter, and a non-woven cellulose inner lining.
6 Individually Wrapped KN95 Mask
Always on the go? It’s convenient to have a foldable mask option, like this KN95, which fits easily in your purse or even your pocket. Despite the sleek design, it’ll afford you all the protection you need, with five layers that include two premium quality melt-blown cotton filters.
7 White Powecom KN95 Respirator Face Masks, 10-Pack
Though these face coverings are, admittedly, more sterile-looking than other options, they’re specially constructed to improve breathability without sacrificing efficacy—perfect for anyone who finds traditional masks to be restrictive.
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