Looking for a new face mask but having trouble making a decision? After researching hundreds of products, we chose 14 top options to test side-by-side. We understand that it can be difficult to assess a mask's breathability, fit, and comfort without trying it on, so we're here to help. We put each one through weeks of testing to ensure you have access to enough information to make a purchase you won't regret. Whether you're looking for something lightweight for the gym or professional for work, we have suggestions on something to fit your needs and budget.
Number of Masks: 1 | Main Material: Organic cotton
REASONS TO BUY
Adjustable ear straps
Pocket for filter
REASONS TO AVOID
Purchase price is for only one mask
The Graf Lantz Zenbu Organic Cotton offers a wide but lightweight metal noseband that helps keep it in place. Unlike the smaller wire bands on other masks, this one is highly durable as long as you don't fold it completely in half. If adjusted correctly, the noseband does not contribute to any glasses fog. The fit follows the face's natural contour, curving nicely under the chin and offering a little extra space for the cheekbones. The elastic ear bands come complete with adjustable stoppers for a versatile fit, and the dart placement allows the mask to cup the face without touching the lips. The 100% organic cotton is comfortable and mostly breathable, and the filter pocket is made to fit standard PM 2.5 Filters.
This reusable mask can be washed and dried as long as you tumble dry on low. It is a little pricey for just one mask, but if you're looking for a favorite, this one will be it. Just be sure to wash it often and replace your disposable filters. The multiple layers can also get a little warm, but overall the Graf Lantz Zenbu is super comfortable, versatile, and durable, so if you don't mind spending a few extra bucks, you won't regret it.
What is a PM filter, and what will it protect you against?
The PM stands for particulate matter. This means that a PM 2.5 filter will filter out particles that are 2.5 microns (or micrometers) or larger in diameter. According to the National Library of Medicine, sneezing can produce as many as 40,000 droplets between 0.5–12 microns. So, masks outfitted with a PM 2.5 filter are not without their benefits, but they do not have 100% efficacy.
The Base Camp Cloth 4D fit allows the mask to follow the contour of the face without touching the lips. The top flap fits nicely over the nose, complete with a bendable nose wire, which helps mitigate glasses fog. The bottom flap folds out easily, cupping the chin, effectively avoiding bunching, gaping, and air escaping. The ear loops are stretchy and adjustable, ensuring a versatile fit. This face mask features three layers of 100% cotton and a filter pocket for added protection. Your purchase comes with two masks, so you can wash one while you wear the other.
Unfortunately, the Base Camp must be washed by hand and hung or laid flat to dry. This isn't too cumbersome, but if machine washability is a must for you, you may want to check out some of our other options. This mask is also somewhat large and stiff, making for a breathable mask, but it may feel a little large on some petite faces. Still, the Base Camp is a great option if you're looking for a high-quality, budget-friendly adjustable mask.
The Perry Ellis Reusable Pleated 3-Pack is a set of lightweight, reusable masks. They are 100% cotton, which helps with their breathability, comfort, and versatility. The multiple layers help protect you and those around you, and the built-in pocket offers the option to add a disposable filter. The lightweight cotton also helps keep the face from sweating, which renders them great for exercising, and the fun color options are sure to match any outfit. The half-inch triple pleats and fully adjustable ear straps help the mask fit a wide variety of faces, and the adjustable nose wire helps keep it in place while mitigating glasses fog. These masks are durable and machine washable, but it is best to air dry them on a flat surface. This ensures that the pleats remain pleated and the mask itself does not shrink in the dryer.
Most users will find the Perry Ellis is a good fit. However, during testing, those of us with smaller faces felt as though there was an excess of fabric, which can negatively affect fit and cause discomfort. Though the nose wire helps somewhat with glasses fog, it doesn't completely do away with it. It is worth noting that the small beads that make the ear straps adjustable can fall off in the wash. Therefore, we recommend tying a small knot to make sure you don't lose them. Lastly, the material is very thin despite the two-ply construction. According to the CDC, thin material that can't block bright light is less protective. All things considered, the Perry Ellis is a comfy lightweight mask at a stellar price when a little less robust protection is suitable.
Number of Masks: 1 | Main Material: Cotton and rayon
REASONS TO BUY
Adjustable ear loops
Pocket for filter
REASONS TO AVOID
Expands and contracts while breathing
Too small for larger faces
The WeddingStar Washable is a well-constructed, comfortable fashion mask that can be worn to the gym, work, or even to a wedding, hence the name. The ear straps and nose bridge wire are easily adjustable and do not deteriorate with washing. This mask comes in many fun patterns like cheetah print and more subdued ones like plain charcoal grey. WeddingStar offers their own disposable filters made specifically for this mask as well as 3-packs if you are looking to stock up. This is a great option for those who wear glasses, as the fit encourages air to escape the bottom of the mask rather than the top, leaving your glasses fog-free.
The WeddingStar fits nicely and seals the face as intended, but the fabric expands and contracts with every breath you take. At times, the material touches the lips or nose when inhaling. Fortunately, the fabric is quite breathable, so this did not bother our testers. Still, it is a caveat worth noting for folks who might be irritated by a mask that can't stay fully off these parts of the face. The size also runs on the smaller side, so those requiring a larger fit should consider a larger option. Like some of the more comfortable and breathable masks in our test suite, this model is rather thin and, thus, less protective. All in all, the WeddingStar is a prime pick for individuals who desire aesthetic options without sacrificing comfort.
How to Improve Your Mask's Effectiveness
It is one thing to wear a mask, but it's another to wear it right. Making sure that your mask fits snugly to your face and over your nose are just two requirements that the CDC emphasizes. It is important to wear your mask correctly to ensure that you and those around you are properly protected.
The Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit comes with one washable mask and three disposable filters. Multiple layers are a great way to provide additional protection, and, in this case, they don't inhibit the wearer's ability to breathe. The mask itself is very comfortable — the nose bridge wire and middle seam provide structure, and the mask fits a wide array of faces. Because of the form-fitting upper half of the mask, this is a great choice for those who wear glasses. Once the fit is adjusted properly, the mask stays put, which is ideal for both indoor and outdoor exercise. On top of all that, it's very durable and withstands multiple washes without any sign of wear.
While the Outdoor Research Essential Kit fits great on the cheeks and nose, the bottom half of the mask is quite large. Individuals with smaller facial features will find it too baggy. Though this doesn't cause any issues in terms of comfort, the CDC claims a snug-fitting mask provides more protection. Additionally, the mask is light as a feather and breathable. However, our testers with sensitive skin reported the disposable filters are a bit scratchy, so keep that in mind.
Number of Masks: 10 | Main Material: Polypropylene and Hot Air Cotton
REASONS TO BUY
Five layers of protection
REASONS TO AVOID
Can be uncomfortable for long wear
The surprisingly comfortable Vida KN95 fits snugly around the nose, cheeks, and chin, ensuring a tight seal. The material is not scratchy like some other KN95 masks we have tested, and the fit is quite versatile, sealing nicely to both small and larger faces. Vida also sells kids' masks, offering an inclusive selection. The nose wire provides some adjustability and mostly eliminates glasses fog, even when exercising. This disposable mask is also quite durable and will likely last a whole day at work and a rigorous gym session after. It will actually last you longer than that, but the CDC warns against using unwashable or disposable masks multiple days in a row. The Vida is recyclable and made of five layers.
What is Hot Air Cotton?
This refers to a process in which hot air penetrates the cotton fiber web and bonds the layers together. This process allows this mask to remain relatively breathable through all five of its layers.
Although the Vida KN95 is more breathable than some of its five-layer counterparts, it still gets warm during exercise or heavy breathing. The tight seal offers very effective protection for the individual wearing the mask and the folks around them, but it can be a little uncomfortable for extended wear. That said, if you've been on the hunt for a high-quality KN95 mask that comes in a ton of fun colors, this one is hard to beat. Vida offers a ton of other options too, such as KF94, NIOSH KN95, plant-based biodegradable masks, and even subscriptions.
N95, KN95, FFP2 - What's the Difference?
While cloth masks are generally more fun, fashionable, and comfortable, it's important to keep in mind that they aren't as effective as an N95, KN95, or FFP2 mask. So, depending on what you are doing and where you are going, it's preferable to keep some of these on hand. But what is the difference? Turns out, not much. An N95 mask is manufactured in the U.S. and differs from a surgical mask in that the edges create a tight seal around the face and often offer more layers of protection. They are considered the gold standard in both the medical world and construction fields. KN95 masks are very similar, though because they are manufactured in China, they aren't approved for medical settings in the U.S. — which is why there have been shortages of N95s. Both have been tested to filter out 95% of small particulates. An FFP2 mask is simply the European version of an N95.
Why You Should Trust Us
Nothing is more important than keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe, but you don't have to sacrifice comfort and style to do so. Our review process goes far beyond just testing these items. In the weeks before ordering our chosen top-ranking face masks, we take our time doing plenty of research. We dive deeply into the types of masks and respirators available, as well as their effectiveness according to the CDC.
What Is the Difference Between Masks and Respirators?
Masks help to contain droplets and particles released from your mouth and nose through breathing, sneezing, and coughing. If your mask fits properly, it may also help protect you from outside particles, but it will be most effective at protecting those around you.
Respirators are made to protect you by filtering out particles in the air before they reach your nose and mouth. They also help contain particles and droplets from your mouth, protecting those around you.
KN95 and N95 masks are considered respirators as they offer ample protection to the person wearing the mask as well as the people around them.
We also read up on verified customer experiences ensuring that we know what people look for in a good mask. Once we decide what to buy, we dial in our testing criteria and compare everything side-by-side. We wear each mask to the grocery store, the gym, inside, outside, and more. We wash the washable options and abuse the disposable ones. We also test each mask on different-sized and shaped faces.
Our testing of face masks is divided into four different metrics:
Comfort and Fit (40% of overall score weighting)
Breathability (30% weighting)
Versatility (20% weighting)
Quality (10% weighting)
The person in charge of this review is Hayley Thomas from Denver, Colorado. She is active in her travels and enjoys everything from the busy city to the quiet outdoors. From climbing to coffee shops, Hayley is adamant about staying healthy and keeping herself and others out of harm's way.
Analysis and Test Results
To ensure that our comparisons are accurate, we chose five different metrics to emphasize during our testing phase. Read on to learn about our findings for each metric.
To assess each mask's value, we look at the balance between price and performance. The range is vast, and it is important to note that price is not an absolute determiner of quality. In this case, we factor how many masks are included in the package, whether or not they are washable and reusable, and their general durability.
The Perry Ellis and Base Camp stand out for their high performances matched with budget-friendly prices. The Ellis is a machine-washable three-pack that didn't pop a stitch during our initial testing or the year after, in which we continued to wear it. One might think that a mask this durable would come at a high price, but this pack is actually on the lower end of the price spectrum per mask for a reusable option.
The Base Camp is a more structured option, with fold-out nose and chin flaps, ensuring full facial coverage. This two-pack requires hand washing and hang drying, but following this gentle cleaning routine ensures you'll get many wears.
Another honorable mention is the BeatBasic two-pack. This durable option is a crowd-pleaser at a wallet-friendly price. It can be washed and dried and worn repeatedly, although it lasts longer if you do not put it in the dryer.
The EasyEast 25-pack offers a different kind of value. This option consists of 25 single-use masks. Although they are not meant to be reused, some circumstances call for single-use items like this, and the value comes into play when you break down cost-per-wear.
Comfort and Fit
Wearing a mask doesn't have to be uncomfortable, although there is some correlation between tightly fitted masks and their effectiveness. Aside from the fit, stiff nose bridge wires, tight ear loops, and itchy materials are the top causes of discomfort. To ensure a comfortable experience, we test each mask on multiple people. We also test each option in various situations, from sitting in coffee shops with reading glasses to sweaty gym sessions.
The Graf Lantz Zenbu is roomy and semi-structured, ensuring plenty of space between the mask and your nose and mouth. It is comprised of three pleated organic cotton layers and comes with a unique wide, flat nose wire. The shape allows for a tight seal to the cheeks, while the nose wire and ear straps offer some adjustability.
The Base Camp 4D offers a unique nose and chin flap. This is a slightly more structured take on a face mask than most other options in our test suite.
The WeddingStar and Enro Tech Mask both offer a more traditional face mask shape. The WeddingStar can be a little snug, so it is best for petite faces, while the Enro comes in various sizes from kids to XL. The Enro also has a slightly more prominent spot for the nose and chin. Both are made of soft, thin fabrics and have adjustable ear straps.
The Perry Ellis is well-shaped, and the pleats are ideal for larger faces. The Outdoor Research Essential Kit has a nose bridge wire and middle seam that help provide structure and keep the mask in place, no matter what you're doing.
One more mask worth mentioning here is the Vida Recyclable KN95. While this mask does not hold a candle to soft fabric masks like the Zenbu, it is one of the more comfortable KN95 options we have tested. The tight fit and the multiple layers offer a more effective and protective seal than the average cotton mask.
When wearing a mask, it can be hard not to become overly aware of your breathing. Too much hot air collecting around your nose and mouth can be panic-inducing or just straight-up annoying, so we score masks higher in this metric when they move air effectively and efficiently. Like the comfort and fit metric, too much breathability reduces how effectively the mask offers protection, so it is important to ensure you understand how high risk your situation is.
What Types of Masks Offer the Best Protection?
Layered, finely woven products offer more protection than loosely woven cloth products
Well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection
Well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection for you and those around you.
It is worth noting that no matter what type of mask or respirator you choose to wear, caring for it properly will greatly enhance its ability to protect.
Cotton is known for its breathability, and cotton masks are no exception. The simple BeatBasic offers a versatile shape and adjustable nose bridge wire that allows air to flow down the mask, keeping it from overheating. The cotton Perry Ellis has a pleated design that also helps create extra room for breathability. Unfortunately, the Perry Ellis is a little looser fitting, so it won't be as effective protection-wise as some of the other options in our test suite.
The Graf Lants Zenbu and Base Camp are also cotton masks, but the multiple layers trade a little bit of breathability for a lot more protection. Both masks sit off the face a bit, creating some space between the mouth/nose and mask, so while they tend to get a little warm, you won't pull the mask into your mouth or nostrils with every breath.
The polyester Outdoor Research Essential is also easy to breathe in, despite its thicker construction. A win-win. The Enro, on the other hand, is thin and breathable. It offers enough structure to not get pulled into the mouth when breathing in, but the thin fabric won't be as protective.
Some of us appreciate a good outfit change, but others prefer one option that can work for multiple situations. Having a mask that looks professional for work, won't fog up your glasses, and is comfortable and breathable enough to exercise in is rather hard to find. This is why we consider versatility in the scoring of each mask.
The Graf Lantz Zenbu offers versatility in the form of a filter pocket, a wide, flat nose band, and adjustable ear straps. It fits a wide variety of faces and sports a nice clean look. The Base Camp is a set of two cotton masks that offer a customizable fit, filter pocket, and fun colors.
The pleated Perry Ellis is a comfortable set of three. The fun and neutral color options give it some versatility. The nose wire and ear straps offer some adjustability, and the pleated fabric is great for large and small faces.
The Enro Tech is available in various sizes, ensuring the perfect fit for any face. Enro's website even offers a size chart with proper measurements and a video on how to measure your face for the best fit. The thin wire allows for glasses wearers to enjoy a mostly fog-free experience, and the thin and breathable fabric is great for exercising.
We also find the WeddingStar and BeatBasic masks to be versatile, though in different ways. The WeddingStar comes in many fun prints and patterns to help you match any wardrobe, and the BeatBasic is, as the name alludes to, basic in classic black. The Vida KN95 is also recyclable, making us feel better about using a deposable mask.
Durability and overall quality are prime considerations to factor into the equation when choosing a face mask. A reusable mask should hold up after laundering and disposable options should make it through the whole workday, gym session, or night out on the town. During testing, we took notice of popped stitches and ear strap elasticity resilience, along with the quality of fabric both before and after washing. It is important to understand the proper use and care of your masks to ensure you are using them effectively.
Can You Reuse Disposable Face Masks?
KN95 masks and other disposable masks are meant for one-time use. Some studies have explored strategies for reuse, but in general, this should be avoided.
We were happy with most of our reusable face masks' quality, but a few stood out. The Under Armour UA Sportsmask is sturdy and keeps its shape after multiple washes. The Outdoor Research is not only highly durable, but the included filters are also quite robust.
The Graf Lantz, WeddingStar, BeatBasic, and Base Camp are all made of cotton. They showed no signs of wear after multiple washes; not one popped a stitch. The BlackStrap Civil Face Mask is a very simple design, and the lack of moving parts makes it durable. The Enro and Perry Ellis are thin but durable.
Finally, the DemeTECH NIOSH N95 20-Pack and Vida Recyclable KN95 are some of the more durable disposable masks. They are thick, and the attachment points are strong, ensuring they will last all day.
Whether you're planning a quick trip to the grocery store or you're attending a wedding, it's important in these times to have the right face mask for the job. They don't have to be uncomfortable, unfashionable, or make breathing difficult. Without trying masks on, it can be challenging to tell what's what, which is why we had our experts test out some of the top options on the market. After ample research, weeks of wear, and multiple washes, we landed on the top contenders in this review and hope that all our hard work helps you choose the perfect mask.