Super list of masks you won’t mind wearing

08.20.2020 09:00 AM

24 Face Masks We Actually Like to Wear

We’ll be wearing them for a while, so here are the WIRED team’s favorite coverings for running, walking the dog, or going to work. 

In April, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all citizens wear nonmedical face masks to slow the spread of Covid-19. Wearing a mask can protect you, and prevent you from spreading noxious droplets should you be asymptomatically infected. On the other hand, wearing a mask does not exempt you from the routine of washing your hands regularly, staying at home when possible, and maintaining a 6-foot distance from others in public.

Earlier this year, we wrote about how to make your own mask, but our cut-up T-shirts and hair-tied bandanas are beginning to look a little ragged. If you want to buy a more durable (or better-looking!) mask, make sure it adheres to the recommended CDC guidelines.

A good mask should completely cover your nose and mouth, use at least two fabric layers, and be washable without damage. We’ve also updated our recommendations as more studies are performed on mask efficacy. While a widely popularized Duke study seems to suggest that neck gaiters are worse than other masks, my colleague Megan Molteni points out that the study used a sample size of 1. If your neck gaiter fits you well and covers your nose and mouth, it might work fine! But there are more comfortable and effective options available.

These are some of the masks that WIRED staff members have used and recommend. I’ve also highlighted sustainable options, diverse and small manufacturers, and of course, companies that are donating to worthy causes. Try a few! And stay safe!

Updated for August 2020: We added more mask information and included a few more masks that our staffers, friends, and family like.If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

  • PHOTOGRAPH: GETTY IMAGES What Kind of Straps Are Best?Which Mask Is Right for Me?Should you get a mask with ear loops, adjustable bungees, or head ties? Which one you pick depends on the size and shape of your head, and how long you’re planning on wearing the mask. I have a medium-size head and only go out for quick errands, so I prefer masks with fast, convenient ear loops.Head ties might work better for you if you have an unusually large or small head that falls out of the normal manufacturer specs. They can also feel more secure, and put less strain on your fragile ear cartilage if you’re wearing your mask for long periods of time. If you’re out and about, you can also use the bottom head tie to wear your mask around your neck, rather than finding a place to tuck it safely in your bag or pocket. If you see a mask you like with head ties but would prefer ear loops, you can also jimmy your own with a sliding knot.
  • PHOTOGRAPH: TOM BIHN My Favorite MaskTom Bihn Reusable Cloth Face MaskSeattle-based Tom Bihn makes my favorite work backpack, so it makes sense that it also makes my favorite mask. They come in several colors and two sizes. To find your size, measure from the bridge of your nose to the point of your chin—my husband and I both wear the small/medium. Once I adjusted the moldable nose strip, it fit me well with no gaps.They’re made by hand in Seattle, and for every mask you buy, the company donates one to a local charity, which you can track in a public spreadsheet.Since I first wrote this, they’ve also debuted other versions, such as one with a neck lanyard and one with three layers. It’s worth noting that while it is sturdy and washable, it’s not as breathable as other masks I’ve tried.$13 AT TOM BIHN
  • PHOTOGRAPH: OUTDOOR RESEARCH Runner-UpOutdoor Research Face Mask KitAfter the Tom Bihn masks, this is currently my runner-up. Outdoor Research is a US-based outdoor gear maker with domestic manufacturing and fast shipping. It makes one of my favorite rain jackets, and now it also makes a relatively affordable mask kit. It has adjustable ear-bungees, a nose wire, and a three-pack of filters. It’s polyester, relatively light, and seems to wick away my hot breath while I’m walking my dog. I don’t have to wear a mask while running, because I run on uncrowded trails, but this is the one I’d pick if I had to.It’s worth noting the fabric has also been treated with HeiQ NPJ03. This is a Swiss textile treatment that has been tested in the European Union for antiviral and antibacterial properties. However, these tests have not been replicated in the US as of publication. For our purposes, it’s just a very washable, adjustable, and durable mask.$20 AT OUTDOOR RESEARCH

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  • Image may contain AdapterPHOTOGRAPH: CON.STRUCTBest Cheap MaskCon.Struct Cotton Pleated Mask 6-PackI’ve found the Con.Struct cotton face masks to be shockingly durable and well-made, considering the price. This men’s clothing store sells its masks in six-packs on Amazon, and the price per mask is around $4. The one-sized masks fit my medium face well, and the ear loops also have adjustable bungees. The light pleated cotton is breathable and passes the light test. They also have a pocket for an adjustable filter, as well as a moldable nose wire.$25 AT AMAZON
  • Image may contain Accessories Accessory Wallet Handbag and BagPHOTOGRAPH: OLD NAVYBest Kids MaskOld Navy Variety 5-Pack MasksI have two young kids, 3 and 5 years old, who are big enough to wear masks in public. We’ve tried several varieties, including ones from Etsy and Vistaprint, but so far, the clear winners are the affordable Old Navy masks, which are made from 100 percent cotton. Synthetic masks, like the Vistaprint, get soaked by kid drool within seconds.The masks fit both my kids’ faces perfectly. They like the playful prints, and they also prefer pleated masks, which stretch as they talk. (Constantly! They talk constantly.) However, a mask that fits a 5-year-old probably won’t work for an 8- or 9-year-old. Tom Bihn, Kitsbow, and Rickshaw Bags are just a few of the companies that are making masks in small sizes.$13 AT OLD NAVY
  • Image may contain Text and LabelPHOTOGRAPH: SAFE-MATEBest Mask for Working OutSafe-Mate Disposable 3-Ply Face MasksMy partner is an essential worker who has to wear a mask all day, every day. Even though he has access to a full bin of masks of every imaginable shape, style, and size, he prefers the bulk disposable face masks. Happily for him, the world of science has vindicated his choice. Disposable masks do a great job at blocking respiratory droplets, and they’re also the lightest and most affordable masks I’ve tried.I’ve had a devil of a time getting ahold of any masks made for workouts, and I can’t recommend the few I’ve tried. (Sorry, Buff, your filter mask made me feel like I was being strangled by an octopus.) If you must run or work out, disposable masks are the lightest ones available. They may get soaked by sweat and vapor, but at least you won’t have to wash them afterwards.$35 AT WALMART
  • PHOTOGRAPH: BUFFAnother Mask for Working OutBuff CoolNet UV+Many people who run and work out use a neck gaiter, which can be pulled down around the neck or over your head when you’re away from people. The Duke study I mentioned earlier seems to suggest that stretchy gaiters aren’t effective, but a sample size of one is hardly conclusive.If you like neck gaiters while working out, and yours fits you well, it might work fine! However, I prefer a light disposable mask. As the summer has worn on, the Buffs feel hotter and hotter. They also slide down my face if worn for more than a few minutes at a time.$24 AT REI

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  • PHOTOGRAPH: SANCTUARY Lightweight MasksSanctuary 5-Pack Fashion PPE MasksTo see if a lightweight mask is effective, the most popular rule of thumb is the light test—hold it up to sunlight and see if the weave is tight enough to block the light. These are made from a very light cotton muslin shell, but they do pass the test. They’re pleated to stretch as you talk and have a moldable nose wire to cover gaps. They’re also much more breathable for socially distanced walks, bike rides, and hikes. I’ve been careful about hand-washing and line-drying them, so they’ve lasted me since April.In hot weather, I also like Christy Dawn’s sustainable masks. They’re made domestically from light, deadstock cotton (fabric that has been rejected from other manufacturers), and unfortunately, you can see a little bit of sunlight through the weave. If I had to venture into more crowded spaces than my local grocery store off-hours, I might pick a thicker mask.$28 AT SANCTUARY (5-PACK)
  • PHOTOGRAPH: HEDLEY & BENNETTA Very Comfortable MaskHedley & Bennett The Wake Up and Fight MaskWIRED’s managing digital producer, Kimberly Chua, recommends these masks, and I also like them a lot. Hedley & Bennett is a kitchen workware company that quickly pivoted from making aprons and chef coats to making masks. It designed them in collaboration with Robert Cho, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at a local hospital. They’re sturdy, comfortable, and made from either cotton or a cotton-poly blend, with an adjustable nose wire.They also come with a pocket for a removable filter. For every mask sold, the company donates a mask to frontline health care workers and farmworkers. I also love their recent collaboration with Rifle Paper Co, which is the prettiest mask I have right now.$22 AT HEDLEY & BENNETT
  • PHOTOGRAPH: COTOPAXIA Mask Made of Repurposed CottonCotopaxi Teca Cotton Face MaskMost of Cotopaxi’s colorful gear is also made from deadstock. Likewise, the company’s face masks are made from tightly woven, repurposed cotton, in bright, eye-catching colors, with an adjustable nose wire and ear loops. The Teca face masks are machine washable, and Cotopaxi also donates one mask for every mask made. They don’t have a pocket for a filter.$13 AT COTOPAXI
  • face maskPHOTOGRAPH: NW ALPINE More US-Made MasksTrew Two-Layer Face MaskAnother face mask made by a US-based outdoor apparel manufacturer is this one from Trew Gear, produced in collaboration with NW Alpine in Portland, Oregon. The soft, stretchy mask has two layers—a more durable stretch-woven polyester and an antimicrobial inner lining. Fifty percent of the proceeds go to the Oregon Community Recovery Fund to help Oregon residents who have been hit hard by Covid-19.$21 AT TREW

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  • Image may contain Human Person Doctor Clothing and ApparelPHOTOGRAPH: KITSBOWAnother Adjustable MaskKitsbow Wake Protech Reusable Face MaskKitsbow is a high-end cycling apparel company that, like many other clothing companies, recently pivoted to making personal protective equipment. The ProTech face mask was designed in collaboration with Wake Forest Baptist Health, and it comes in six different sizes. This might be a good choice if you’ve had trouble finding a mask that fits you.This mask has four separate layers, with the two muslin filter layers sewn directly inside the masks. The jacquard outer lining looks very nice, but it’s one of the heavier ones we’ve tried. It has cord locks, so you don’t need to tie the head ties every time you put it on, which makes for a very secure fit. It’s likely safer than some masks on this list, but it also retains more heat.The company also makes one with a removable filter if you like the secure fit and would like the ability to lighten it up if you’re not indoors.$30 AT KITSBOW
  • Image may contain Clothing Apparel Sunglasses Accessories Accessory and DiaperPHOTOGRAPH: AYJAnother Mask for a CauseAYJ Adult Face editor Megan Greenwell likes these masks, which come in a variety of sizes and color patterns. These are double-layered, ear-loop masks with adjustable elastics, and they also have a pocket for a filter. AYJ also donates a portion of the proceeds to organizations like Campaign Zero and the Okra Project, in addition to donating masks to frontline health care workers.$20 AT AYJ
  • PHOTOGRAPH: SHON SIMON CO.Another Affordable MaskShon Simon Co. Black Face MaskShon Simon is an LA-based wholesale clothing manufacturer that makes masks for half the price that I’ve seen on Etsy. The price is even more astonishing given that the simple masks are made from modal—a soft, silky, semi-synthetic fabric made from wood pulp that I usually only see in high-end activewear. In addition to being lightweight, it’s also breathable and moisture-wicking.The masks are washable, reusable, and two-layered, with stretchy ear loops. They also come in kid sizes and a variety of nude skin tones. They’re easy to buy in bulk.The biggest complaints from WIRED staffers who wear this one is that it’s sometimes tough to know the front of the mask from the back at a glance, and for taller faces, it can be a tight fit to cover your nose and chin.$4 AT SHON SIMON CO.
  • PHOTOGRAPH: PADI GEAR Masks to Help Whale SharksPADI Gear Recycled Plastic Cloth Face MaskBuying a mask can be a convenient and easy way to support causes you love. The Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) is currently selling fun, marine-printed masks made from polyester harvested from ocean waste. The masks are machine-washable and quick-drying, and they come with five replaceable activated-carbon filters.The masks are sold at cost, so PADI doesn’t make a profit. At checkout, you’re also given the option to donate a small amount to Project Aware, which is PADI’s nonprofit organization that helps volunteer scuba divers mobilize around local causes like coral reef protection and beach cleaning.$20 AT PADI GEAR

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  • PHOTOGRAPH: TIMBUK2A Mask 3-PackTimbuk2 Face Mask 3-PackWe love Timbuk2’s messenger bags, and the company recently began making masks in its San Francisco factory. WIRED senior editor Michael Calore likes the reusable masks, which come in two different sizes. You can use flexible measuring tape to measure from ear to ear across the bridge of your nose to find the best fit.The masks are made from jersey cotton and have a pocket for holding a filter. Unlike some of our other picks, which loop behind the ears, these tie around the head. It makes them a little harder to pop on and off, but more comfortable for extended wear. This might be a good option if you need to wear your mask all day, every day.$30 AT TIMBUK2
  • PHOTOGRAPH: COURTYARD LAA Vintage MaskCourtyard LA Silk or Brocade Face MaskIf you want to minimize the waste generated by the fashion industry, or simply like the look and feel of vintage textiles, there’s no reason to stop living by your principles just because you need a face mask. WIRED writer Louise Matsakis likes Courtyard LA’s masks. They’re made by hand in Los Angeles from a silk or brocade outer layer, with a cotton or satin rayon inner layer. You will have to wash them carefully by hand to preserve the beautiful fabric.$34 AT COURTYARD LA
  • PHOTOGRAPH: THE MIGHTY COMPANY A Glittery MaskThe Mighty Company Fabric Face MaskWearing a mask can feel depressing. It’s harder to see people smile or to make them smile yourself. That’s why WIRED writer Louryn Strampe loves this glitter face mask from the Mighty Company. The ear loops are soft and comfortable, and the mask itself is breathable enough. Also, for every mask sold, the company donates one to the Midnight Mission Shelter in Los Angeles. As with the Courtyard LA masks above, you’ll have to take some care when washing them.$30 AT THE MIGHTY COMPANY
  • Image may contain Clothing Apparel Headband Hat Accessories Tie Accessory and BandanaPHOTOGRAPH: BAUBLEBAR A Convenient MaskBaubleBar Adjustable Face Mask SetLouryn Strampe also likes BaubleBar’s comfortable, adjustable face masks for a few simple reasons. When you order from BaubleBar, you get two face masks for an affordable price. And when you’re done wearing the mask, you can fold it into a neat little bundle and store it in the included plastic bag! No more wadding up a filthy mask in your pocket or dangling it from the rearview mirror of your car.$12 AT BAUBLEBAR

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  • Image may contain Pencil BoxPHOTOGRAPH: SOCIETY6A Great Graphical MaskSociety6 Artist Face MaskWIRED’s managing digital producer, Kimberly Chua also likes these masks from Society6 and LookHuman. They’re comfortable, fit well, and come in both pleated and flat mask styles. Chua notes that they have a lot of fun designs, which is an important incentive to encourage people to wear them. They also have filter pockets.$14 AT SOCIETY6
  • PHOTOGRAPH: VISTAPRINT More Graphic MasksVistaprint Fabric Face MaskVistaprint’s masks are popular, stretchy, extremely comfortable, and machine-washable. They come in a plethora of chic designs and have adjustable ear loops and a pocket for a filter, which Vistaprint makes themselves (no cutting up vacuum bags here!). They also make incredibly cute kid masks that fit my 5-year-old perfectly. However, they’re not made from breathable cotton. The outer layer is 100 percent polyester. In summer’s damp humidity, my breath can soak through these and leave them dripping in a matter of minutes.$18 AT VISTAPRINT
  • PHOTOGRAPH: RICKSHAW BAGSA Gorgeous, Sturdy MaskRickshaw Bags Face MaskWIRED’s director of audience development, Indu Chandrasekhar, likes the masks made by bag manufacturer Rickshaw Bags. Rickshaw offers a handy shorthand to sizing for anyone who doesn’t have a tape measure. Faces tend to correspond to body size, so if you’re under 5 feet tall, go with a small, and if you’re over 6 feet, pick large. Everyone else is a medium. Each mask is made by hand in San Francisco from three layers of 100 percent cotton, so you don’t need a separate filter.$22 AT RICKSHAW BAGS
  • Image may contain Accessories Accessory Tie Clothing and ApparelPHOTOGRAPH: GOODFIGHT A Salvaged MaskBlue Camo Salvage MaskIf you’re going to wear a mask every day, it should probably be a mask that you really love. Photo editor Phuc Pham loves these salvaged masks made by Goodfight, a POC-founded and owned label. The one-size-fits-all cotton masks can be worn independently or as a cover for an N95 mask to extend its life. For every mask sold, Goodfight donates a mask to a local institution that’s in need.$40 AT GOODFIGHT

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  • PHOTOGRAPH: RAG & BONE A Good Pleated MaskRag & Bone Pleat Mask PackWIRED senior writer Lily Hay Newman likes these masks, which are manufactured in Los Angeles. They’re pleated for a greater range of motion when you talk, and they’re also made from 100 percent cotton (with a cotton-poly lining). Each month, Rag & Bone picks a different charity to donate $5 from the sale of each mask. In July, the donations went to the NAACP, a civil rights organization.$55 AT RAG & BONE (3-PACK)
  • PHOTOGRAPH: ETSYMade-to-Order Masks From EtsyEtsy Custom Face MasksWe’ve been recommending readers go to Etsy for homemade, nonmedical masks. For the quickest shipping times, you can filter your searches by custom location to find mask makers that are close to your zip code. Don’t forget to check that the mask you’re purchasing fits CDC requirements.WIRED senior writer Lauren Goode likes face masks from this Etsy shop. Unfortunately, we can’t recommend the many “drinking masks” that are now available, with straws holes that allow you to sip on a drink while wearing a mask. A hole in the mask defeats the purpose of the mask.$8 AT ETSY
  • PHOTOGRAPH: VIKTORIIA YANUSHEVYCH/GETTY IMAGES Mask Care BasicsKeep It Clean!Masks work by reducing the spread of droplets. That means if you remove your mask by the cloth covering, instead of the ear loops or ties, you’re getting potentially infected droplets on your hands and spreading them around. Remove your mask carefully by the ear loops, wash it after use, and wash your hands after removal.The easiest way to wash your masks might be to buy a week’s worth and toss them into the washing machine with regular detergent. But I’ve also been soaking mine in my bathroom sink with hot water and no-rinse detergent, then line-drying in the sun.Don’t get overenthusiastic with the adjustable straps, either. The mask shouldn’t be so tight that it restricts your breathing, and a mask is also not recommended for children under 2, or anyone else who might have trouble getting it off their face.
  • PHOTOGRAPH: ROTHY’S Face Masks to AvoidMasks I Didn’t LikeNo mask is perfect, and every mask manufacturer is constantly refining their design. Here are some face coverings that didn’t make our list.
    • Rothy’s The Mask 2-Pack ($25): Rothy’s is a WIRED favorite company, and their first mask is comfortable, durable, and fits well. Unfortunately, the 3D knit doesn’t pass the light test—I can see sunlight through the loose weave.
    • Buff Filter Mask ($29): The Buff neck gaiter has been one of the most popular running mask picks, so it makes sense that they’d try a dedicated face mask. Like a Buff, it squeezes your face while you run. No thank you.
    • Outerknown Recycled Mask 3-Pack ($30) These are well made and soft, but frankly enormous. I passed these on to the biggest-headed colleagues I could find.
    • Vistaprint Kid Masks ($13): Vistaprint’s kid masks are adorable, stretchy, and comfortable, and my 5-year-old called dibs. But when she got to wear it at an outdoor farmer’s market, she peeled it off almost instantly—the synthetic material got too saturated with moisture. Luckily, I had an extra Old Navy mask in my bag.

Adrienne So is a senior writer for WIRED and reviews consumer technology. She graduated from the University of Virginia with bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish, and she worked as a freelance writer for Cool Hunting, Paste, Slate, and other publications. She is currently based in Portland, Oregon.

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