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Face masks have become an essential item to slowing the spread of coronavirus. The CDC recommends wearing them in public settings and when around people that don’t live in your home, especially in situations where it’s difficult to maintain a proper 6 feet distance.
There are many factors to consider when shopping for a great face mask. First and foremost is the quality of protection it offers.
According to CDC guidelines, shoppers should avoid masks with valves or vents, as these feature a portal in which infected droplets can enter the air and more easily be transferred between individuals. While effective N95 masks are widely reserved for healthcare workers, the CDC recommends cloth face coverings as a suitable alternative.
The federal agency suggests that cloth face masks should have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric. To determine whether the mask will offer adequate protection, you can try a simple light test. When holding the mask up to the light, you shouldn’t be able to see individual particles in the mask. Cloth masks should also completely cover your nose and mouth, without any gaps.
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In addition to these protection factors, you’ll want a mask that’s comfortable. And since you can’t return masks due to potential safety hazards, the only way to determine whether it will fit your face well is, often, by trail and error.
Another quality to consider? If you’re anything like me, having a mask that’s stylish enough to complement your outfits is key.
To save you time and money, I tested some of the most popular masks on the market from brands like Rothy’s, Onzie and more. Spoiler alert: I’m fans of them all.
Onzie Mindful Masks
If you’re looking for a mask to wear while running errands or working out, Onzie has you covered. Its masks are made with up-cycled activewear material and some spandex, making them moisture-wicking and super flexible. They also feature a pocket for a filter. Priced at $24 for a pack of two, these masks are on the slightly more expensive end. But the quality is worth it — at least in my opinion.
You can choose between six different themed packs, featuring colorful leopard print designs to tropical-inspired and tie dye prints. They’re one size fits all.
The only downside? While also made of spandex, the thicker ear loops felt a bit tight on my head — a great feature for staying put during runs but somewhat uncomfortable after extended wear while out and about. For the best results, these also should be hand-washed.
Rothy’s The Mask 1.0
Rothy’s has become known for its ultra-comfortable flats, so it’s no surprise the brand’s masks are equally as wearable. Case in point: They’ve sold out on the brand’s website twice (and only one pack is currently in stock). Of all the cloth masks I tried, these were hands-down the most breathable. They’re made with recycled plastic and special 3D knitting technology, which not only makes the masks form-fitting and easy to breathe in but also helps reduce waste, according to the brand’s page.
The one-size-fits all masks feature stretchy elastic ear loops and microfiber swatches on the interior for extra comfort and stability. They offer a more structured silhouette than other cloth styles and ample face coverage (from the top of the nose to well underneath the chin), so I rarely had to fidget with mine to prevent it from slipping down. They come as pack of two for $25 in four duo options, including wear-with-everything monochromatic navy and olive styles as well as colorful looks featuring subtle pink camo and spiral tie dye.
Keep in mind these are machine washable, but should be air dried.
Everlane 100% Human Face Masks
No face mask collection is complete without a staple black mask, and Everlane offers some great ones. These sleek styles are made with super soft, double knit cotton and stretchy ear loops. Even better, they benefit the ACLU. For every pack of these masks sold, Everlane will donate 10% to the organization. The masks, which are emblazoned with the words “100% Human” in small white script, are part of the brand’s 100% Human collection which debuted in 2017 with tees and hoodie. To date, Everlane has donated over $600,000 to the ACLU through this collection.
For those who don’t want to go the all-black route, the 100% Human masks are also available in gingham and tie dye. You can purchase a pack of three for $18 or pack of five for $29, so they won’t put a dent in your wallet either.
I’ll admit that I’m lazy with my face mask maintenance — often reusing cloth masks multiple times before washing them — so the fact that these can be thrown in both the washing machine and dryer was a godsend for me. For the best results, the brand recommends washing them on a cold setting and tumble drying them.
Hanes Wicking Cotton Masks
Similar to its beloved basics, Hanes also offers no-frills masks for those who want a versatile, monochromatic look. Sold in packs of 10 all-black or all-white masks, these styles are made with three layers of cotton for ample protection — including the brand’s Cool Comfort fabric that wicks away moisture so you don’t get too sweaty.
The ear loops on these were quite a bit longer than those on other styles I tested (even before they were stretched), and for this reason, the masks did fit slightly big on my face. Despite this, I found them to be quite comfortable. Not only is the material super soft and breathable, but the center nosepiece is also adjustable. I plan to make moderations to these in order make them more wearable.
Sanctuary Fashion PPE Masks
After spotting countless celebrities in these masks (everyone from Sofia Richie to Alessandra Ambrosio are fans), I had to try them for myself. Sanctuary’s masks are sold in packs of five for $28, making them a reasonably priced option. The assorted pack for women comes with three camo print and two leopard print styles offered in a chic color palette, from charcoal gray to mellow pastels. (Note that the masks are unisex, but also come in a tailored pack for men, as well as pack of smaller masks made to fit children).
The cotton muslim design, complete with a double inner layer and sewn-in filter, is quite breathable. I also love that these masks feature a nose wire for a close fit and super slim ear loops, which don’t push my ears out in a way that makes me look like one of the Seven Dwarfs. The ear straps are also super stretchy, so I can easily widen them to fit around my oversized hoop earrings.
The masks are machine washable, however I would suggest leaving them out to air dry. (I made the mistake of putting them in the dryer and they shrunk, although they’re still usable).
As an added bonus, for every mask purchased, Sanctuary will provide a mask to an organization in need.
Baublebar Adjustable Face Masks
Also A-list approved, feel-good accessory shop Baublebar launched face masks in July (which promptly sold out and were restocked). The prints on these ultra-chic are my favorite on the list. For summer, I wore the pink gingham and embroidered floral style featuring an elegant mesh overlay. Come fall, the store also offers more versatile options like a zebra print mask and black design featuring shimmery gold stars.
The masks are affordable at $6 each, and uniquely, the brand offers them at cost (you can view a breakdown of this on the brand’s website). They’re also available to buy in bulk, offered in packs of two, three or five.
While the masks are double-layered for protection, I did find them to be somewhat bulky. What’s great about the design, though, is that it features easily adjustable ear straps to help you customize your fit. The straps are also super soft and don’t create pressure on the ears.