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Adrienne So Gear 12.09.2020 08:00 AM25 Face Masks We Actually Like to WearHere are the WIRED staff’s favorite face coverings for running, walking the dog, going to work, or looking stylish.FacebookTwitterEmailSave StorySave this story for later.FacebookTwitterEmailSave StorySave this story for later.In April, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all citizens wear nonmedical face masks to slow the spread of Covid-19. Earlier this year, we wrote about how to make your own mask. But months into the pandemic, a number of new studies have shown that simple T-shirts or bandanas might not be the most effective face coverings to reduce spread.
These are some of the masks that I and other WIRED staff members have used and recommend. I’ve also highlighted sustainable options, ones from diverse and small manufacturers, as well as companies donating to worthy causes. Try a few and stay safe! And remember to keep washing your hands regularly, staying at home when possible, and maintaining at least a 6-foot distance from others in public (preferably outdoors).How We Evaluate Masks
Make sure any mask you wear adheres to the recommended CDC guidelines. A good mask should completely cover your nose and mouth, use at least two fabric layers, and be washable without damage. When evaluating masks, we actually wear them in our everyday lives. I also used the light test and the candle test. For the most efficacy, a mask’s weave should be tight enough to not allow light to show through, and thick enough to prevent you from blowing out a candle while you’re wearing it.
We’ve included some tips on mask care and choosing the best kind of mask straps at the end of this list. Be sure to check out our Best Face Masks for Kids guide and How to Prevent and Treat Mascne.
Updated December 2020: We removed and demoted older picks and added a few more masks we like. We also included more information on mask accessories.Our Picks
If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED Photograph: Tom BihnOur Favorite Mask Tom Bihn V4 Cotton Flannel Reusable Face MaskAfter months of testing, the Tom Bihn masks have held up to almost daily use and constant washing and line-drying. The company has come out with several versions, but my favorite is still this soft 2-layer cotton flannel one with a neck strap so I can pull it off my face when I’m far away from people.
It passes both the light and the candle test—I can blow at a candle until I get lightheaded without blowing out the flame. There’s also some evidence that cotton with visible fibers may be one of the most effective materials at slowing the spread.
Since it’s flannel, it’s a little warmer than some of the other masks we’ve tried. But I’m happy to report it doubles as a cozy face warmer now that the temperature has dropped. The masks are also handmade in Seattle, and for every mask you buy, Tom Bihn donates one to a local charity. You can track those donations in a public spreadsheet.$16 at Tom Bihn Photograph: LululemonOur Second-Favorite Mask Lululemon Double Strap Mask
This mask is made from Lululemon’s signature soft Ultralu fabric, so it’s stretchy and silky against your face. The double head straps are soft and elasticky as well. This is one of my favorite masks, because it’s comfortable to wear around my neck and easy to pull on and off when I’m outside. Since it doesn’t have ear loops, I also don’t knock my headphones out of my ears if I wear it while running. It flutters in and out of stock, so check the website for updates.$10 at Lululemon Photograph: Sunday AfternoonsBest Mask for Workouts Sunday Afternoons UV Shield Cool Face MaskIf I’m not wearing the Lululemon mask while running outside, I’m probably wearing this one from Sunday Afternoons on a mask lanyard (I like soft, durable ones made from paracord). It’s made from a UV-protective fabric and comfortably fits my medium-sized face. It also passes both the light and candle tests.
An almost identical mask I also like is Boco Gear’s Performance X Mask ($13). With this mask, I’m a size small. I wore it almost every other day through August and September, but I did eventually rip off one of the ear loops. I sewed it back on, but it’s worth mentioning, as you’re probably reading this because you can’t sew.$12 at Amazon $12 at Dick’s Sporting Goods $12 at Macy’s Photograph: Outdoor Research Another Good Workout Mask Outdoor Research Adrenaline Sports Face Mask KitIf I’m running or hiking, I like light, breathable, synthetic masks. However, they do flap in and out as I breathe hard. For some people, that sensation of fabric flapping against your face can be a distraction. Outdoor Research’s Adrenaline Sports Mask has a structured shape that holds the mask off your face. It’s made from a lightweight mesh material and comes with adjustable ear loops, and a clip that turns the ear loops into a head strap.
Two caveats—although it has two layers, the mesh material doesn’t pass the light test, so you’ll need to use the included disposable filters with the mask. Also, because it holds the mask off your face, the whole thing does look pretty big and conspicuous on your face.$29 at Outdoor Research $29 at Nordstrom Photograph: Outdoor Research A Treated Mask Outdoor Research Face Mask KitI’ve tested a number of masks with purported antimicrobial and antiviral properties. However, an antimicrobial or antiviral mask can’t help you if it’s uncomfortable or unpleasant to wear. For that reason, if you really feel you must have an antiviral mask, my current favorite one is the Outdoor Research Essential mask. It’s been treated with HeiQ NPJ03, which is a Swiss textile treatment that has been tested in the European Union for antiviral and antibacterial properties. However, these tests have not been replicated in the US as of publication.
I also tried the är mask, which is too loose and lets out too much air around my small nose, and Cupron’s copper-infused face masks, which are one-size-fits-all but were enormous on my medium-sized face. Bilio also has a silver-infused mask, which we list below. You’ll still need to wash and care for these masks as thoroughly as you do your regular cloth face masks, though.$20 at Amazon $20 at Nordstrom $20 at Moosejaw $20 at Backcountry Photograph: Con.StructBest Cheap Mask Con.Struct Cotton Pleated Mask 6-Pack
The Con.Struct cotton face masks are shockingly durable and well made, considering the price. This men’s clothing store sells its masks in six-packs on Amazon, and the price per mask is around $4. These one-sized masks fit my medium face well, and the ear loops also have adjustable bungees. The light pleated cotton is breathable and passes the light test. They also have a pocket for an adjustable filter, as well as a moldable nose wire.$25 at Amazon $25 at Nordstrom Photograph: Safe-MateThese Disposable Masks Also Work Disposable 3-Ply Face Masks (50 Pack)My partner is an essential worker who has to wear a mask all day, every day. Even though he has access to a full bin of masks of every imaginable shape, style, and size, he prefers the bulk disposable face masks. Happily for him, the world of science has vindicated his choice. Disposable masks do a great job at blocking respiratory droplets, and they’re also the lightest and most affordable masks I’ve tried. They may get soaked by sweat and vapor, but at least you won’t have to wash them afterward.
This 50-Pack of Disposable Masks for $9 ($21 off) at Amazon is also good.$15 $10 at Amazon $35 at Walmart Photograph: Old NavyBest Kids Mask Old Navy Variety 5-Pack MasksI have two young kids, 3 and 5 years old, who are big enough to wear masks in public. We’ve tried several varieties, including ones from Etsy and Vistaprint, but so far, the clear winners are the affordable Old Navy masks, which are made from 100 percent cotton. Synthetic masks, like the Vistaprint, get soaked by kid drool within seconds.
The masks fit both my kids’ faces perfectly. They like the playful prints, and they also prefer pleated masks, which stretch as they talk. (Constantly! They talk constantly.) However, a mask that fits a 5-year-old probably won’t work for an 8- or 9-year-old. Tom Bihn, Kitsbow, and Rickshaw Bags are just a few of the companies that are making masks in small sizes.$13 at Old Navy Photograph: Elisa CarucciBest Mask for Rain Marta Scarampi Greta Waterproof Mask
I live in rainy Portland, Oregon, and I spend a lot of time outside. There are few sensations that are more unpleasant than pulling a cold, wet mask over your face while on a hike. Marta Scarampi is an Italian fashion designer, and her waterproof face masks are made from Econyl, a recycled nylon fabric made from harvested ocean plastic and other waste. They have also been treated with a water repellent coating. They will repel water, but they’re also pretty heavy. I recommend these for heavy rain—for light drizzle, you may as well stick to a lighter mask made from synthetic wicking material.$29 at Marta Scarampi Photograph: CarilohaA Great 4-Layer Mask Cariloha Bamboo Face MaskWhen wildfire smoke blanketed Portland, Oregon, I did not have any N95 masks. Of the masks I had on hand, Cariloha’s thick, four-layer bamboo masks did the best job of filtering out the smoky smell and soot, without taking valuable PPE from first responders. It has a smooth, moisture-wicking bamboo exterior and three interior layers, which include a PM 2.5 filter. It also has a noseband and O-rings on the ear loops to adjust the fit.
Cariloha is a bedding company, so the mask does feel a little bit like wearing a tiny duvet on your face. But otherwise, it’s very comfortable. I also later acquired a comfortable silicone CastleGrade reusable respirator, which has been FDA-registered and tested at Nelson Labs. This is a good reusable mask if you already donated your bin of emergency single-use N95 masks earlier this year.$12 at Cariloha Photograph: CotopaxiA Great Mask Made of Repurposed Cotton Cotopaxi Teca Cotton Face Mask
Most of Cotopaxi’s colorful gear is made from deadstock. Likewise, the company’s face masks are made from tightly woven, repurposed cotton, in bright, eye-catching colors, with an adjustable nose wire and ear loops. The Teca face masks are machine washable, and Cotopaxi also donates one mask for every mask made. They don’t have a pocket for a filter.$13 at Zappos $13 at Moosejaw $13 at Cotopaxi Photograph: Rag & Bone A Great Pleated Mask Rag & Bone Pleat Mask Pack
WIRED Senior Writer Lily Hay Newman likes these masks, which are manufactured in Los Angeles. They’re pleated for a greater range of motion when you talk, and they’re also made from 100 percent cotton (with a cotton-poly lining). Each month, Rag & Bone picks a different charity to donate $5 from the sale of each mask.$55 at Rag & Bone (3-Pack) Photograph: Hedley & BennettA Very Comfortable Mask Hedley & Bennett The Wake Up and Fight MaskWIRED’s managing digital producer, Kimberly Chua, recommends these masks, and I also like them a lot. Hedley & Bennett is a kitchen workware company that quickly pivoted from making aprons and chef coats to making masks. It designed them in collaboration with Robert Cho, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at a local hospital. They’re sturdy, comfortable, and made from either cotton or a cotton-poly blend, with an adjustable nose wire. The downside is the strap isn’t adjustable and may loosen over time.
They come with a pocket for a removable filter. For every mask sold, the company donates a mask to frontline health care workers and farmworkers. I also love its collaboration with Rifle Paper Co, which is the prettiest mask I have right now.$22 at Hedley & Bennett Photograph: KitsbowA Very Adjustable Mask Kitsbow Wake Protech Reusable Face MaskKitsbow is a high-end cycling apparel company that, like many other clothing companies, pivoted to making personal protective equipment. The ProTech face mask was designed in collaboration with Wake Forest Baptist Health, and it comes in six different sizes. This might be a good choice if you’ve had trouble finding a mask that fits you.
This mask has four separate layers, with the two muslin filter layers sewn directly inside the masks. The jacquard outer lining looks very nice, but it’s one of the heavier ones we’ve tried. It has cord locks, so you don’t need to tie the head ties every time you put it on, which makes for a very secure fit. It’s likely safer than some masks on this list, but it also retains more heat.
The company also makes one with a removable filter if you like the secure fit and would like the ability to lighten it up if you’re not indoors.$30 at Kitsbow Photograph: The Mighty Company A Glittery Mask The Mighty Company Fabric Face Mask
Wearing a mask can feel depressing. It’s harder to see people smile or to make them smile yourself. That’s why WIRED writer Louryn Strampe loves this glitter face mask from the Mighty Company. The ear loops are soft and comfortable, and the mask itself is breathable enough. Also, for every mask sold, the company donates one to the Midnight Mission Shelter in Los Angeles. You’ll have to take some care when washing them.$25 at The Mighty Company $25 $10 at Amazon Photograph: BilioA Mask That Won’t Fog Up Glasses Bilio MaskIn my bin of masks, this one is incredibly distinctive. It’s knit-to-shape from recycled yarn. That means it’s zero-waste—no cutting and sewing pieces of fabric with scraps that will have to be discarded—and it also stands off my face. This shape, combined with the fact that it points sharply over the bridge of my nose, means it doesn’t make my glasses fog. It also passes both the light and the candle test. It’s a little harder to breathe on walks or longer hikes, though.
Bilio uses proprietary SilverKiss antibacterial tech, though we should note that coronavirus is a virus, not bacteria. If you’re having a lot of trouble with mascne, silver, copper oxide, or zinc oxide treatments like this might help (maybe), but you’d probably get more benefit from washing your mask more often and doing spot treatments.$38 at Bilio Photograph: PADI Gear A Mask Made of Ocean Plastic PADI Gear Recycled Plastic Cloth Face Mask
Buying a mask can be a convenient and easy way to support causes you love. The Professional Association of Dive Instructors is currently selling fun, marine-printed masks made from polyester harvested from ocean waste. The masks are machine washable and quick-drying, and they come with five replaceable activated-carbon filters. The masks are sold at cost, so PADI doesn’t make a profit. At checkout, you’re also given the option to donate a small amount to Project Aware, which is PADI’s nonprofit organization that helps volunteer scuba divers mobilize around local causes like coral reef protection and beach cleaning.$20 at PADI Gear Photograph: Goodfight A Salvaged Mask Blue Camo Salvage Mask
If you’re going to wear a mask every day, it should probably be a mask you really love. WIRED Photo Editor Phuc Pham loves these salvaged masks made by Goodfight, a POC-founded and owned label. The one-size-fits-all cotton masks can be worn independently or as a cover for an N95 mask to extend its life. For every mask sold, Goodfight donates a mask to a local institution in need.$40 at Goodfight Photograph: BaubleBar A Mask That’s Easy to Store BaubleBar Adjustable Face Mask Set
WIRED writer Louryn Strampe likes BaubleBar’s comfortable, adjustable face masks for a few simple reasons. When you order from the company, you get two face masks for an affordable price. And when you’re done wearing it, you can fold it into a neat little bundle and store it in the included plastic bag! No more wadding up a filthy mask in your pocket or dangling it from the rearview mirror of your car.$12 at Baublebar Photograph: Rickshaw BagsA Gorgeous, Sturdy Mask Rickshaw Bags Face Mask
WIRED’s Director of Audience Development, Indu Chandrasekhar, likes the masks made by bag manufacturer Rickshaw Bags. Rickshaw offers a handy shorthand to sizing for anyone who doesn’t have a tape measure. Faces tend to correspond to body size, so if you’re under 5 feet tall, go with a small, and if you’re over 6 feet, pick large. Everyone else is a medium. Each mask is made by hand in San Francisco from three layers of 100 percent cotton, so you don’t need a separate filter.$22 at Rickshaw Bags Photograph: Society6A Great Graphical Mask Society6 Artist Face Mask
WIRED’s Kimberly Chua also likes these masks from Society6 and LookHuman. They’re comfortable, fit well, and come in both pleated and flat mask styles. Chua notes they have a lot of fun designs, which is an important incentive to encourage people to wear them. They also have filter pockets.$17 $12 at Society6 Photograph: Vistaprint More Graphic Masks Vistaprint Fabric Face Mask
Vistaprint’s masks are popular, stretchy, extremely comfortable, and machine washable. They come in a plethora of chic designs and have adjustable earloops and a pocket for a filter, which Vistaprint makes itself (no cutting up vacuum bags here!). It also makes incredibly cute kid masks that fit my 5-year-old perfectly. However, they’re not made from breathable cotton. The outer layer is 100 percent polyester. In summer’s damp humidity, my breath soaked through these and left them dripping in a matter of minutes.$18 at Vistaprint Photograph: Shon Simon Co.Another Affordable Mask Shon Simon Co. Black Face MaskShon Simon is an LA-based wholesale clothing manufacturer that makes masks for half the price I’ve seen on Etsy. The price is even more astonishing given that the simple masks are made from modal—a soft, silky, semi-synthetic fabric made from wood pulp I usually only see in high-end activewear. In addition to being lightweight, it’s also breathable and moisture-wicking.
The masks are washable, reusable, and two-layered, with stretchy ear loops. They also come in kid sizes and a variety of nude skin tones. They’re easy to buy in bulk. The biggest complaint from WIRED staffers who wear this one is that it’s sometimes tough to know the front of the mask from the back at a glance, and for taller faces, it can be a tight fit to cover your nose and chin.$4 at Shon Simon Co. Photograph: Timbuk2A Mask 3-Pack Timbuk2 Face Mask 3-PackWe love Timbuk2’s messenger bags, and the company now makes masks in its San Francisco factory. WIRED Senior Editor Michael Calore likes the reusable masks, which come in two different sizes. Use a flexible measuring tape to measure from ear to ear across the bridge of your nose to find the best fit.
The masks are made from jersey cotton and have a pocket for holding a filter. Unlike some of our other picks, which loop behind the ears, these tie around the head. It makes them a little harder to pop on and off, but more comfortable for extended wear. This might be a good option if you need to wear your mask all day, every day.$30 at Timbuk2 Photograph: EtsyMade-to-Order Masks From Etsy Etsy Custom Face MasksWe’ve been recommending readers go to Etsy for homemade, nonmedical masks. For the quickest shipping times, you can filter your searches by custom location to find mask makers close to your zip code. Don’t forget to check that the mask you’re purchasing fits CDC requirements.
WIRED Senior Writer Lauren Goode likes face masks from this Etsy shop. Unfortunately, we can’t recommend the many “drinking masks” that are available with straws holes that allow you to sip on a drink while wearing a mask. A hole in the mask defeats the purpose of the mask.$7 at Etsy Photograph: AYJMore Masks We’ve Tested (and Like!) Honorable Mention
Our staffers have tried and recommend these masks:
AYJ Adult Face Mask ($25) WIRED.com Editor Megan Greenwell likes these masks, which come in a variety of colors and sizes. A portion of the proceeds are donated to organizations like Campaign Zero and the Okra Project.
Uniqlo Airism Face Mask 3-Pack ($15) Gear reviewer Louryn Strampe finds this mask thin, cool, and comfortable enough for hiking on a 98-degree day. It’s also light enough for people to hear you speak easily.
Baggu Mask 3-Pack ($32) When a WIRED staffer’s mother was sick with Covid-19, this was the mask she wore to sleep in. The seal is tight enough to keep in the virus and reduce the fogging of glasses. We like the ear loop version better than the tie version, which snags long hair.
Airband Mask ($13) This mask has an internal membrane to help filter out particles as small as 0.01 microns. The company has also partnered with Bill Nye the Science Guy on a number of different initiatives over the year. Right now, proceeds from its space mask go to the Planetary Society, a nonprofit advocating for space exploration of which Nye is the CEO. Photograph: Rothy’s Face Masks to Avoid Masks I Didn’t Like
No mask is perfect, and every mask manufacturer is constantly refining their design. Here are some face coverings that didn’t make our list.
Rothy’s The Mask 2-Pack ($25): Rothy’s is a WIRED favorite company, and their first mask is comfortable, durable, and fits well. Unfortunately, the 3D knit doesn’t pass the light test—I can see sunlight through the loose weave.
Buff Filter Mask ($29): The Buff neck gaiter has been one of the most popular running mask picks, so it makes sense the company would try a dedicated face mask. Like a Buff, it squeezes your face while you run. No thank you.
Outerknown Recycled Mask 3-Pack ($30) These are well made and soft, but frankly enormous. I passed these on to the biggest-headed colleagues I could find.
Sanctuary Fashion PPE Mask 5-Pack ($28) I liked these masks early in the pandemic, but after 6 months of careful handwashing and line-drying, the fabric has started to disintegrate. There are other, sturdier masks available now.
Courtyard LA Vintage Fabric Mask ($34) We recommended these masks earlier, but the higher price and long lead time are two significant strikes against the company. There are plenty of other luxurious, handmade, or recycled options available on Etsy or through other retailers. Photograph: Viktoriia Yanushevych/Getty Images Mask Care Basics Keep It Clean!Masks work by reducing the spread of droplets. That means if you remove your mask by the cloth covering, instead of the ear loops or ties, you’re getting potentially infected droplets on your hands and spreading them around. Remove your mask carefully by the ear loops, wash it after use, and wash your hands after removal.
The easiest way to wash your masks might be to buy a week’s worth and toss them into the washing machine with regular detergent. But I’ve also been soaking mine in my bathroom sink with hot water and no-rinse detergent, then line-drying in the sun.
Don’t get overenthusiastic with the adjustable straps, either. The mask shouldn’t be so tight that it restricts your breathing, and a mask is also not recommended for children under 2, or anyone else who might have trouble getting it off their face. Photograph: Getty Images What Kind of Straps Are Best? Which Mask Is Right for Me?Should you get a mask with ear loops, adjustable bungees, or head ties? Which one you pick depends on the size and shape of your head, and how long you’re planning on wearing the mask. As mask mandates have grown stricter across the country, I now prefer masks with head ties. It’s easier to remember a mask if you sling it on as you go out the door, like sunglasses or your car keys.
Head ties might work better for you if you have an unusually large or small head that falls out of the normal manufacturer specs. They can also feel more secure, and put less strain on your fragile ear cartilage if you’re wearing your mask for long periods of time. If you see a mask you like with head ties but would prefer ear loops, you can jimmy your own with a sliding knot. You can also get a mask lanyard to wear your ear-loop mask around your neck.
Though a widely cited Duke study seems to suggest that neck gaiters (turtleneck-type masks) are less effective than other masks, my colleague Megan Molteni points out that the study used a sample size of 1. If your neck gaiter fits you well and covers your nose and mouth, it might work fine! But there are more comfortable and effective options available. Mask brackets are also becoming popular. They hold your mask off your face to make breathing more comfortable, but make sure you fit it beforehand to make sure your mask retains a tight seal, and wash it regularly as well. Adrienne So is a senior writer for WIRED and reviews consumer technology. She graduated from the University of Virginia with bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish, and she worked as a freelance writer for Cool Hunting, Paste, Slate, and other publications. She is currently based in Portland, Oregon.Senior Writer TwitterTopics Shopping COVID-19 apparel buying guides coronavirus