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Best Face Mask for Me

There are So Many Masks, Which One Should I Wear?

This is the question that so many people ask themselves and probably the best answer to that is a mix of a few types of masks.  The reality is that medical masks or filtration masks are now as much fashion and lifestyle as anything else.  There are five main questions you need ask:

  • What level of filtration protection are you looking for?
  • What fashion style do you want?
  • What comfort Level are you expecting?
  • Do you want a disposable or reusable mask?
  • How much do you want to spend?

To make a decision on a mask you first need to know what the functionality of each mask category is.  Lets review the main filtration mask styles and then you should be able to get a better idea of what you want for when.

N95 or KN95 Masks  

Side view of female with KN95 medical mask on

  • Protection - 5 (5 being the best)
  • Fashion - 2
  • Comfort - 3.5
  • Reusable: NO
  • Cost: 3 - 4

PROTECTION:  The N95 mask (USA) or the KN95 mask (China) are going to be your top filtration mask if what you are looking for is protection.  Both the USA and the China versions are very similar and you do not have to concern yourself with the minor differences in certification.  These masks filter out 95% of PM2.5 (PM2.5 refers to particle size - 25 micrometers) that the filter is capable of catching which includes virtually all pollutants, pollen, smoke and organic viruses.  These masks also come in 4 ply, 5 ply and 6 ply

FASHION:  Lets be honest, the N95 and KN95 medical masks are pretty much a clinical looking respirator.  They look medical in their appearance and how they are perceived by the public.  However, we gave it a 2 and not 1 score on the fashion because they do come in some pretty cool colors.  The black ones actually look quite striking and burgundy adds a touch of class.

COMFORT:  They are generally quite comfortable however over time, some people can get frustrated with the fit given that they are more rigid than cotton or other types of fabric.

REUSABLE:  The N95 and KN95 masks cannot be washed.  Once they go through their natural life cycle, they are finished.  Their life cycle can be longer than many people think.  You can wear them for 8 hours straight and through multiple days, however, when the structure integrity begins to fail in any way, it must be destroyed.      

COST:  N95 / KN95 masks can be a little more pricey given that they are disposable but it is a trade-off for the protection.  The retail price can range anywhere from $5.95 - $12.95.  The difference can be whether the mask is a 4, 5 or 6 ply and various international certifications. 

DISPOSABLE SURGICAL MASKS

Side view of female wearing a 3-ply surgical mask

  • Protection - 3 
  • Fashion - 1
  • Comfort - 4.5
  • Reusable: NO
  • Cost: 5

PROTECTION:  The surgical masks are the ones we see most on a surgeon in the surgery room or nurses running around tending to patients.  They are very good protection and will catch most airborne particles however, they will not catch dray airborne viruses.  This is actually not as big of a deal as you may think as virtually all transfers of viruses person to person happen in sharing bodily fluids such as sneezing and coughing and in these cases the virus is contained in moisture globules and the will be filtered by the standard disposable surgical masks  

FASHION:  There is no fashion merit to these masks unless you love that medical look.  We have seen some come in different colors but that is very rare.  These will be one of your most clinical looking filter masks.

COMFORT:  These masks are actually quite comfortable.  Breathability is good and there is very little ear discomfort.  They can get somewhat loose after wearing them too long but generally the are a great fit.

REUSABLE:  No, these are definitely not reusable.  You can use them as long as you do not come in contact with serious transferable viruses  or body fluids.  Nurses and Doctors through them away after one use, however, you may wear them casually as long as the structural integrity remains strong.

COST:  Very Affordable.  You should be able to purchase a disposable surgical masks for between $1.00 - $1.50 depending on the quality, current demand / supply and the quantity you purchase.  If you buy a bigger quantity, you may purchase these for $0.60 - $.0.80.

COTTON 2-PLY MASKS

Side view of female wearing a 3-ply surgical mask

  • Protection - 3 
  • Fashion - 4
  • Comfort - 5
  • Reusable: YES
  • Cost: 2 - 4

PROTECTION:  Just like the surgical masks the 2-ply cotton mask is going to be one of your best all around options. They are very good protection and will catch most airborne particles however, they will not catch dry airborne viruses.  It is the 2-ply feature that gives this mask a good level of protection.  The outer layer catches the airborne particles and the inner layer rests against your lips.  Washing is important as the contaminants get stuck on the outer layer of the mask so you have to wash it.

FASHION:  These can be fantastic and fun in mixing matching your wardrobe.  You can choose colors, fabric styles and make the face mask a whole new fashion accessories in your wardrobe.

COMFORT:  Most people will tell you that 2-ply cotton masks have fabulous comfort.  Cotton is a very forgiving fabric and tends to have great stretch.

REUSABLE:  Yes, they can be used and washed as long as the structural integrity remains.  Remember, cotton shrinks in warm air when it is wet so we recommend a hand wash and then a hang dry.  Treat your 2-ply cotton mask well and you will get lots of use out of it.

COST:  The cost can vary depending on cotton quality / weight, whether it is made in the USA or imported and if it has fashion accents or styling.  Made in the USA cotton masks will be more expensive ranging from $6.95 - $19.95.  The imported cotton filtration masks can range from $3.95 - $15.95.  The ones with better quality fabric, printed fabric and better stitching will be more expensive.

COTTON 2-PLY MASKS WITH PM2.5 FILTER

Side view of female wearing a 3-ply surgical mask

  • Protection - 3 - 5 
  • Fashion - 4
  • Comfort - 4
  • Reusable: YES
  • Cost: 2 - 3 

PROTECTION:  The protection level is similar to the 2-ply cotton masks except that you can add a PM2.5 filter in a pocket in the mask that slips between your mouth and the cotton layer.  This gives this cotton mask a near 5 on the protection scale as the filtration will now include viral particulates as small as PM2.5 as well as all of the other airborne particles.  The great thing about this mask is that you can choose if you need the PM2.5 protection of if the 2-ply cotton is sufficient.  The PM2.5 filters can last 3 - 7 days depending on amount of daily use.

FASHION:  Just as the basic 2-ply cotton masks, these can be fantastic and fun in mixing matching your wardrobe.  You can choose colors, fabric styles and make the face mask a whole new fashion accessories in your wardrobe.

COMFORT:  Basically the same as the 2-ply cotton filtration mask except that the PM2.5 filter may lower the mask experience by a factor of 1 making it a 4 on our scale.  Cotton is a very forgiving fabric and tends to have great stretch.

REUSABLE:  Yes, they can be used and washed as long as the structural integrity remains.  Remember, cotton shrinks in warm air when it is wet so we recommend a hand wash and then a hang dry.  Treat your 2-ply cotton mask well and you will get lots of use out of it.

COST:  The cost can vary depending on cotton quality / weight, whether it is made in the USA or imported and if it has fashion accents or styling.  Made in the USA cotton masks will be more expensive ranging from $6.95 - $19.95.  The imported cotton filtration masks can range from $3.95 - $15.95.  The ones with better quality fabric, printed fabric and better stitching will be more expensive.

FABRIC 1-PLY MASKS

Side view of female wearing a 3-ply surgical mask

  • Protection - 1 - 2 
  • Fashion - 3 - 4
  • Comfort - 5
  • Reusable: YES and NO
  • Cost: 5 

PROTECTION:  The 1-ply filter mask is a basic on the go kind of mask that you can take with you for quick and easy minimal protection.  The protection is a 1 on our scale however, they are typically made from a slightly heavier cotton of polyester fabric that will still give you basic protection from many airborne contaminants.  

FASHION:  These can be fun and available in a variety of styles however, black tends to be the main color that these are available in.

COMFORT:  Great comfort.  The 1-ply fabric filtration mask tends to be a very comfortable piece.

REUSABLE:  Yes, they can be used and washed as long as the structural integrity remains.  Remember, cotton shrinks in warm air when it is wet so we recommend a hand wash and then a hang dry.  Treat your 1-ply mask well and you will get lots of use out of it.

COST:  The cost if a 1-ply mask is generally excellent and range from $1.95 - $7.95 depending on fabric quality / weight, whether it is made in the USA or imported and if it has fashion accents or styling.  

SCUBA FABRIC MASKS (GRAPHIC PRINT & PM2.5 OPTION)

  • Protection - 3 - 5
  • Fashion - 5
  • Comfort - 4
  • Reusable: YES
  • Cost: 2

PROTECTION:  Scuba fabric oral filtration masks encompass a wide range of styles that include a pocket for PM2.5 filters and various integrated fabrics.  The most common is a silky scuba outer layer with a cotton inner layer against your lips.  Wearing them as a 2-ply will give you protection of between 3 - 4 and a 5 when a PM2.5 filter is inserted. 

FASHION:  These masks can come in basic colors or amazing digital graphic prints in amazing detail.  They are one of the most versatile mask styles when it comes to fashion options and have become a fashion accessories in many of today's fashion wardrobes.

COMFORT:  Great comfort.  These masks typically give you a very good all day comfort fit.  Scuba fabric is a wonderfully soft and slightly slippery fabric making skin contact very pleasant. 

REUSABLE:  Yes, they can be used and washed as long as the structural integrity remains.  Take care of your mask and your mask will take care of you.  We ALWAYS recommend hand washing your masks and hang drying them to ensure their structural and fabric integrity.

COST:  Yes, these can be a little more expensive but they can also be very well priced ranging from $4.95 - $29.95 depending on fabric quality / weight, whether it is made in the USA or imported and what kind of fashion customization the mask has.  Premium digital prints with X-Ray skeletal graphics and a pocket for a PM2.5 filter should range from $ 9.95 - 19.95.  There are so many varying styles so pick the one you want and take good care of it.

SPORT FILTER MASKS

  • Protection - 2 - 5
  • Fashion - 3 - 5
  • Comfort - 4 - 5
  • Reusable: YES
  • Cost: 1

PROTECTION:  The sport oral filter masks are by far one of the best masks available.  The protect varies depending on whether you are using the PM2.5 filter.  With the filter, these masks get a 5 on the consumer protection scale, without is a 2, 3 or 4 depending on your mask and its construction.  These filter masks are designed for athletic activity which means deep heavy breathing and typically outdoors.  That requires an or  filter mask that does the job and the sport masks typically do.

FASHION:  Sport filter masks come is a huge array of design from simple black to wild and cools designs and colors.  Even the basic black sport filtration masks tend to look really cool in a sleek and streamlined style.  These masks are designed for cyclists and runners so they are made for deep heavy breaths and streamlined design

COMFORT:  These masks give amazing comfort as they are designed for activities that demand performance.  Find a mask that fits on your face and head, find a style you like and you are looking stylish and comfortable in your sport filtration mask.   

REUSABLE:  Yes, these are reusable with only the PM2.5 filter needing changing every 3 - 7 days depending on use.  Remember, your medical sport mask needs to perform for you so treat your mask well and it will do the same for you .  We ALWAYS recommend hand washing your masks and hang drying them to ensure their structural and fabric integrity.

COST:  These are probably one of the more expensive masks given their construction and need for performance.  You will pay a little more for these oral filtration masks but you will get great looks, styling and comfort, They range from $14.95 - $69.95 depending on fabric quality / weight, whether it is made in the USA or imported and what kind of fashion customization the mask has.  Pick the one you like, get some replacement filters and you are set for all of your outdoor runs, cycles, hikes or any other outdoor activity.

 

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