Although mask-wearing can be unenjoyable and irritating, for the time being masks are here to stay. Knowing how to choose the right mask can make your experience more fun and effective. From best to worst, here is a guide, ranked out of five stars for comfort, effectiveness, and style, so you don’t have to waste your time and money on a mask that isn’t worth it.
N95: “The gold standard of masks”
This mask is the safest out there, ranked the best mask in a comprehensive review done by Duke University researchers. It is simple and fairly comfortable, but a bit bulky.
Surgical masks: Classic and timeless
If changed often, surgical masks are the second most effective to the N95, but are less bulky and more comfortable. These masks are especially good for doubling up, especially if you want to have a more stylish but less effective mask on the outside with the surgical mask underneath. These masks can easily be found in any color to go with any outfit as well!
Basic Cotton: Comfy and effective
Cotton masks are very effective at filtering breath and are extremely comfortable as well. The only concern with cotton masks is fit. Since there is no metal nose piece to adjust, you must make sure that your cotton mask fits snugly to make sure it is working properly. Cotton masks are very versatile and come in endless colors and patterns, making them easy to find and customize to your own style. Cotton masks are not recommended to use when doing sports though, because the fabric collects humidity and can become uncomfortable.
Valved N95: Meant to protect you, but not necessarily others
Face masks with valves are designed to protect the wearer from breathing in harmful particles (say, while doing a home improvement project), not from expelling them. Particles from your breath can escape through the valve, making these masks much less safe than the normal N95.
Cotton pleated mask: Can be too thin
Cotton pleated masks
are a popular handmade
option that come in a wide variety of patterns and colors. These masks are stylish and comfy, but if they have only one layer, they can be too thin. Make sure your cotton pleated mask has at least two layers!
Neck fleece/ gaiter: To be used for warmth only!
Although neck gaiters are easy to throw on
and comfortable, especially for sports, they are highly ineffective. A study showed that neck gaiters actually generated even more droplets than speaking with no mask on at all. The researchers suspect that it’s because the material diffuses larger droplets, creating more smaller ones.
Bandana: Cute accessory, but not cute Covid protection
The material of bandanas do not fit the face well enough to safely protect against Covid, and it can be difficult to tie the bandana well enough to cover the face and mouth effectively.
Knitted mask: It has holes!
Unless lined with another fabric, knitted masks, for obvious reasons, will not filter the breath well, and are itchy against the face. Although cute, definitely not a good option!