Face masks are one of the best tools we have for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, but they’re not one-situation-fits-all. Just as I might prefer a hefty 28-ounce hammer to your trusty 16-ounce one, or holster that big banger for a pneumatic palm nailer in a tight spot, personal preference and lifestyle are important when making a choice. Of course, none of these are guaranteed to stop viruses—masks work best along with hand washing and social distancing. And this year, they’re almost certain to get more wear than new socks.
For general use
My go-to face covering is Outdoor Research’s polyester mask. It has two layers of fabric, adjustable ear loops, and a sturdy nose wire to help it fit as snugly as you want. It also comes with three disposable filters made from non-woven polypropylene—the same stuff that’s in some reusable bags—that serve as a third layer of protection. The company says these should withstand five to seven days of “average wear.” It’s one of the best-fitting masks I own, and has served me well on everything from grocery trips to six-mile runs.
Like everything else UnderArmour does, its sports mask is designed for, well, playing sports. It has three layers: a polyester exterior, a built-in polyurethane insert, and a soft interior that’s 77 percent nylon and 23 percent Spandex. The inner lining and ear loops stay cool on your skin no matter how hot it gets, and the whole thing is structured to stay off your face so you don’t suck it into your mouth while breathing hard. It comes in five sizes—just consult the handy online sizing chart to find the right one.
Children can be forgetful and finicky, with likes and dislikes that seem to change on a whim. Crayola’s five-mask set includes a quintet of hues so your kiddo can choose a color that matches their mood for the day. Pick from two sets: bright, solid colors or graphics that feature expressive cartoon crayons. Each one is double-layered, adjustable, machine-washable, and has a name tag so you can make sure your little ones always know which masks are theirs. There’s also a calendar card to ensure no one loses track of usage and launderings.
For being cute
We wear masks to protect ourselves and our communities, but that doesn’t mean they have to look utilitarian. Online clothing retailer eShakti’s embroidered masks come in 57 different patterns, so at least one should fit with your wardrobe and style. If you’re someone who likes to accessorize, these dual-layer masks might be exactly what you’re looking for. Most are made from cotton and have a pocket for a disposable filter. The company also sells solid, printed, and scarf masks, and you can mix and match if you’re buying more than one.
For wearing glasses
Foggy lenses are a well-known problem for anyone who wears a mask on the reg. There isn’t a foolproof solution, but a tight fit along your cheeks and nose will help a lot. PopSockets’ polyester face covering has a 0.5-inch-wide nose piece that’s simply bigger than those in other masks. Like some of the other options on this list, it comes with an optional disposable filter, which the company says should be replaced every two or three days. Bonus: At least 10 percent of the proceeds from any mask or filter you buy goes to the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders.
Tie Bar has a wide variety of masks that feature solid colors or some of the company’s most-loved menswear patterns. They mostly come in packs of five and are made out of 100-percent cotton shirting fabric. The elastic ear loops have a plastic length adjuster so you can fiddle with them independently to find the proper fit. Some of my glasses-wearing friends report that the flexible nose wire does an excellent job at preventing fog. And if you’re someone who wants to buy them in bulk, the company’s wholesale program offers custom masks.
For seeing facial expressions
Another issue with wearing masks is that people can’t see your facial expressions. That’s particularly problematic for those who are hard of hearing, because lip-reading and visual cues are essential to non-verbal communication. Rafi Nova’s Smile masks, created with input from a speech language pathologist, feature a 2-by-4.75-inch clear plastic panel that lets everyone see (most of) your beautiful face. The rest of the triple-layered mask is cotton, and it comes in adult’s and children’s sizes.
For your skin
Having something resting against your face can cause breakouts. To prevent that, choose a mask made from a comfortable material that’s still dense enough to block out viral particles. Roseward’s washable masks are crafted from mulberry silk, which works well with sensitive skin and is naturally resistant to a number of common allergens. They come in 10 colors and have a filter pocket for inserts that bump them up to three layers of protection.
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