Since the coronavirus was first declared a pandemic back in early March, the market quickly became flooded with a variety of face masks. From a range of colors and styles that let wearers reflect their personalities, communities are filled with people rocking different designs. But personal aesthetics isn’t the only option that consumers have when it comes to protective face masks — they come in two major categories: disposable face masks and reusable face masks. Is one safer than the other? And what’s the best disposable mask out there? To find out, we asked medical experts what to know before buying your next batch of masks. But before we dive into disposable masks and how to find the best ones, one thing is clear: Any face mask is better than no mask, according to all the experts we consulted. Those same experts also all agreed that medical-grade disposable face masks aren’t recommended for the general public unless they’re in a high-risk category — our sources emphasized that medical grade face masks should instead be reserved for frontline healthcare workers.
SKIP AHEAD Medical experts explain everything you need to know about disposable face masks
“Next to social distancing, face masking is without question the most effective mechanism to prevent transmission of virus,” said MarkAlain Déry, DO, MPH, an epidemiologist and medical director for infectious diseases at Access Health Louisiana. “Upwards of 40 percent of individuals that are infected with Covid-19 are asymptomatic and unaware of their status, making them more likely to transmit the virus.”
Yet, there are some who aren’t convinced that wearing masks in public is necessary. “Some people believe that since masks are not 100-percent protective, they have little value,” said Ellen Turner, MD, an infectious diseases physician and adjunct professor at Drexel University College of Medicine. Although disposable face masks aren’t sealed, and therefore droplets can make it out of the side or gaps from the top or bottom when someone coughs or sneezes, those particles aren’t as potent as those from someone without a mask.
“The mask interrupts the velocity or speed of the droplets, so they do not travel as far or as long in the air,” explained Karen Jubanyik, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and co-author of “Beat the Coronavirus.”
How to shop for disposable face masks
Before buying a box of disposable face masks, here’s what medical experts recommend you keep in mind.
- Remember the difference between medical-grade face masks and non-medical masks to ensure you’re grabbing the right one for your specific needs (it will be labelled on the box).
- Non-medical masks come in different layer options. You want one that is at least two ply but three ply is ideal.
- If possible, look out for masks that have an inner lining with moisture wicking and anti-bacterial properties.
- Look for an adjustable nose piece. This clip or wire will help keep particles in when you breathe, cough or sneeze — it can also help keep glasses from fogging.
- If you throw on the disposable face mask and it doesn’t fit right, find a different option. You want one that fits closely to the nose, mouth and chin comfortably. And if it starts to slip, it’s not the right mask for you because, among other things, the movement tempts wearers to touch it and their face, which can potentially spread the virus.
- Don’t sweat price points too much. More expensive disposable face masks don’t guarantee better protection.
Best disposable face masks
Disposable face masks have exploded across the market as the public stocks up but not all of these masks offer equal protection. Based on guidance we got from medical experts, here are some of the best medical face masks(for those who need the extra protection) and non-medical face masks to shop.
1. Evolvetogether Disposable Face Mask
These medical masks are FDA-registered, meeting strict guidelines for filtration, splash resistance and breathability, according to the brand. The three-ply design features an inner layer that filters bacteria along with an interior made from moisture-absorbing material for mouths and lips. Plus, they are hypoallergenic and latex-free.
2. PM Performotor Disposable Face Mask
As a sleek alternative to the traditional light blue surgical mask, these non-medical face masks are sold in a range of colors. Online users praise this three-ply mask for its comfort and fit as well as its elastic earloops, moldable nose piece and inner filter layer.
3. MASKC Disposable Face Mask
For those looking for a stylish option that’s still low-maintenance and disposable, these sleek three-ply face masks deliver. In addition to a BFE greater than 95 percent, MASKC face masks come in a range of prints, have an adjustable nose bridge and a moisture-proof interior layer. Although these masks are more expensive, they give back: MASKC donates one mask for every mask sold to front-line healthcare providers through the C-19 Coalition.
4. WeCare Disposable Face Mask
Whether you’re looking for individually-wrapped disposable face masks or affordable non-medical options in a range of designs, WeCare has a range of choices for both kids and adults. From holiday-inspired prints to bold colors and even a tie-dye option, these eye-catching masks offer three-ply protection with an inner filter layer.
5. CandyCare Disposable Face Masks
As a top-seller on Amazon, these non-medical face masks have become a popular option for daily use. The three-layer design features an outer layer with non-woven fabric and center filtration layer. This latex-free disposable mask also has a moldable metal nose clip as well as flexible elastic ear loops for a comfortable fit.