The fabric mask market has come a long way since April, even, when the CDC first recommended that we wear masks in public to fight the spread of coronavirus. Back then, most apparel brands had only just started making masks, which were quickly selling out — or, and rightfully so, were focused on getting them out to essential workers.
As many states continue to see spikes in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, wearing those masks is especially important. Luckily, there are now an abundance of options for every aesthetic, need and budget. Want something lightweight for outdoor summer activities? You got it. Want one made of pure Mulberry silk that feels amazing against your skin? No problem. Want the sequin-covered mask that J.Lo wore to a Black Lives Matter protest? It's yours. Likewise, if you just want a simple, inexpensive, no-frills pack of five or 10 cotton masks, you can easily get that, too.
That said, there are some safety factors worth taking into consideration as you choose your next mask. The reason for wearing a mask, according to the CDC, is to "help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice." This is particularly important in situations where social distancing is difficult to maintain. And because Covid-19 can be spread by people without symptoms, that applies to everyone — even those who aren't sick.
There's also been some research done about what features make for a good mask. An important factor is fabric: Experts told NPR to look for a tight weave that doesn't let too much light through when you hold the mask up to one — 100% cotton is evidently a good option because the fibers create "roadblocks" to incoming particles. Masks made from synthetics apparently didn't test as well.
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Multiple layers are also good. Many masks might have two layers of fabric with a pocket for a filter in between, making it more difficult for any droplets to break through. Shape is an important consideration, too — basically, any gaps between the edges of the mask and your skin are less than ideal.
With all that in mind, to make navigating the now-vast mask market less daunting, we did some research to sift out the best masks for every aesthetic preference or functional need. Some are personal favorites of the Fashionista team or our friends; others have enthusiastic reviews online; others just look really, really pretty. Read on for our picks in five categories.
Click through for reliable, solid-color masks without any bells or whistles in a range of price points, many of which come in multi-packs. The Vida and Hedley & Bennett styles earned particularly high marks.
If you sleep on a silk pillowcase, you may also want a silk face mask. Some say the fabric is less irritating on the skin and even prevents maskne.
Pretty Fashion Masks
If your looking for style, with at least a little bit of function, there's no shortage of options — from head-turning colors by Baggu to stunning patterns by Prabal Gurung and Batsheva.
These masks have a little something extra, whether it's a unique, innovative fabric or the ability to be sanitized via microwave.
Masks can be particularly annoying while exercising. These options are designed or recommended for such activities.
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