As we enter into a second wave of the virus, you may want to consider putting aside your lightweight summer masks in favor of an upgrade. A new materials study conducted by four scientists out of Virginia Tech shows the importance of an additional filter layer sandwiched between two layers of tightly woven cotton. Many of the fabric masks you can buy now feature a pocket for such an additional filter. In addition to mask filters you can buy (which we wrote about here), Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, professor of neurology and neuro-oncology at SUNY Buffalo, says a coffee filter, a section of a non-fiberglass HEPA vacuum bag, a swatch of flannel, a few tissues, or any other material that passes the light test but does not restrict your breathing would make a viable added filter.
In terms of handling, Segal says, “try to handle it by the ties or ear loops, not the fabric front. Wash your hands after taking it off, and then either hang the mask up to dry out, or wash it before the next use.” And if you’re buying your masks online it’s a good idea to wash them before wearing for the first time. (Here are some directions on how to clean your face mask.)
Masks we’ve tested
We love Baggu’s original masks because they look good, feel good, and stay put, and now the brand is offering masks with adjustable ear loops instead of ties in a bunch of cool prints and solid colors, too. The masks are machine washable and made from 100 percent–organic quilter’s cotton, which is very effective at blocking respiratory droplets. They also feature an adjustable nose wire and a pocket for an extra filter insert. For every pack of masks sold, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to organizations on a rotating basis. Currently, Baggu is contributing to the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, and Community Alliance With Family Farmers.
What we think: For those of us who like the original Baggu masks but don’t have the patience to tie and untie the straps over and over again, the launch of these new masks is a true blessing. They stay in place just as well, are just as adjustable, feel just as substantial, and are just as fitted as the tied masks but are much easier to use. They’re also more flattering because of their rounded design and won’t mess up your hair. And they’re more comfortable, since you can’t accidentally tie them too tight. While other masks, both flat and accordion style, tend to sit right against your skin, Baggu’s envelope design and sturdy cotton keep the mask slightly off your face, which helps it feel less hot and sweaty. And these do pass the light test. Plus, die-hard Baggu fans can now match their mask to their favorite tote or reusable shopping bag, as these masks are made in four of the brand’s nicest-looking prints.
These dual layer adjustable face masks feature a wire insert above the nose for a tighter fit.
What we think: Like the Vistaprint masks, these use adjustable ear loops, a bendable wire nose strip, stretchy fabric, and an added lower section that hugs your chin to create a tight but comfortable fit on many different face shapes. They’re well made, pass the light test, and seem like they will last a long time, plus the navy fabric and black piping is a nice change from all the craft shop patterns we have been seeing out in the world. The fabric isn’t heavy but they are only average in terms of breathability.
Availability: Orders ship 2 to 3 business days from purchase.
Sasha Koehn and Erik Allen Ford, co-founders of Buck Mason, make masks using three layers of the heavyweight cotton they usually use to make T-shirts. Initially they were planning to donate the masks to nonmedical essential workers at grocery stores and warehouses in their community. But so far the biggest request has actually come from health-care workers. “The medical community is requesting them for things like sending patients home and going to and from work,” Koehn says. The brand’s original goal was to sell and donate 100,000 masks. They have already sold double that number and have set a new goal of 1 million.
What we think: Buck Mason’s masks are very soft and comfortable on a cool day. They also pass the light test thanks to three layers of fabric. Strategist writer Lauren Ro loves how soft and breathable they are. She also likes that they have ear loops and a tie, which makes them easy to keep on and also hang from your neck if you need to take the mask off for a moment.
What we think: Of the dozens of masks we tested for this story, Vistaprint’s are among our favorites. Adjustable ear loops, a bendable wire nose strip, stretchy fabric, and an added lower section that hugs your chin make this mask fit several different face shapes securely and comfortably. It doesn’t feel constricting or heavy and it looks cute enough and is really well made. The fabric is synthetic but moisture wicking, so it feels a little hotter than a lightweight 100-percent cotton mask but it didn’t make us sweat — even after wearing on a hot day. These masks pass the light test on their own, but Vistaprint also sells replaceable filters in packs of 10, which easily slide into the mask’s inner pocket.
Vistaprint’s masks are made to ensure proper filtration, breathability, and comfort. Their masks feature adjustable ear straps. For every mask you buy, they’ll give 10 percent to support local small businesses impacted by the coronavirus.
Availability: Estimated arrival is between 1 to 2 weeks from purchase.
Hedley & Bennett
Hedley & Bennett is transitioning from making stylish, well-crafted aprons and chef’s gear to making two-ply cotton face masks. With each purchase they will donate a mask to essential workers in need.
What we think: Now in their second round of design, Hedley & Bennett’s masks have a metal nose strip and a longer body so, according to Strategist Writer Nikita Richardson, they won’t ride up as much when you’re talking. The masks come in 8 different colors, all of which pass the light test.
Availability: Ships 1 to 3 business days from purchase.
San Francisco fashion brand Vida is making double-layer cotton face masks with adjustable ear loops. Ten percent of profits will be donated to SF-Marin Food Bank and Food Bank NYC to support COVID-19 relief efforts.
What we think: Even with the filter in we found these masks breathable. The adjustable ear straps mean there’s no fumbling to tie the mask straps behind your head or mess up your hair. Plus there’s a metal nose piece, which ensures a snug fit — and according to Camilla Cho, our senior VP of e-commerce, helps keep her glasses from fogging up.
Availability: Usually ships within 1 to 3 business days.
These washable cotton masks come with an activated charcoal filter and are available in five colors. For each mask sold they are donating a surgical mask to health-care workers on the front lines.
What we think: Aside from some small gaps on either side of the nose, this mask fit well without feeling constricting. It’s very soft inside and passes the light test without an added filter. The mask wasn’t our top pick in the summer heat, but now that the temperature has dropped, it feels downright cozy. In addition to an activated charcoal filter each mask comes with ten sanitizing alcohol wipes for your phone.
Detroit-based clothing label Diop is making face masks inspired by mud cloth from Mali. Masks feature elastic straps that go around the head instead of the ears for a more secure fit. For each mask sold, Diop is donating a portion of mask proceeds to a handful of coronavirus relief initiatives, including Feed the Frontlines, which supports Detroit restaurants and provides meals to emergency and health-care workers. Fabric patterns vary and are limited. Diop is now selling packs of adhesive aluminum nose strips that you can add to your masks at $5 for a 10 pack.
What we think: Instead of going around your ears, the two elastic straps on this mask go around your head and the back of your neck. This means it’s less likely to move or slide down. We found that it fit tightly, without being constricting, and passed the light test, but it wasn’t the easiest to breathe in.
Diop recently launched a version of their masks with adjustable ear loops instead of elastics that go around your head. The new masks are made using the same fabric as the originals, but they now include a filter pocket. You can also purchase filters for your mask separately on their site.
The Air Mask is one of the few fabric masks we have seen that has undergone independent testing by a leading third-party laboratory to ensure proper filtration. It’s made from two layers of antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, and UV-protective UPF medical-grade fabric and features a bendable nose strip, full face coverage, and an inner filter pocket. For an extra $8 Oura will throw in a NIOSH-approved N95 filter.
What we think: Though it’s not the cutest, Oura’s Air Mask does live up to its name: The fabric is indeed airy, and even with the extra N95 filter inserted, breathing is easy. It also doesn’t get hot and pull moisture away from your mouth. Getting the right size is key. You want the contoured shape to hug you under the chin and the ear loops to be tight enough to keep the mask snug against your cheeks. We also appreciate the brand’s attention to detail, as evidenced in their helpful mask sizing guide.
Food52 has partnered with Steele Canvas Basket Corp., a company that normally makes handsome canvas products, to sell the brand’s nonmedical face masks. Buy one and the company will donate a second to medical facilities across the U.S.
What we think: The inside layer of this mask is made of soft flannel, which feels nice and cozy in colder weather but might be too hot for warmer climates. It fits broader face shapes better than narrow ones and passes the light test with flying colors. It’s nice looking, too.
Food52 is also partnering with their Chicago-based textile factory partner to make fabric patterned face masks using 100 percent cotton deadstock fabric. They feature adjustable ear loops that tighten with a simple tug of the elastic and an inner pocket should you want to add a filter. For every mask sold they are donating 10 percent of the retail price to No Kid Hungry.
What we think: Strategist managing editor Maxine Builder says they’ve turned out to be the sturdiest mask she owns and that she gets compliments on hers all the time. “The description says there’s a wire insert around the nose, but mine seems to be missing it. It doesn’t matter though because it fits snugly,” says Builder adding that because of the snug fit and adjustable ear loops her mask is never at risk of slipping down or falling off and if she does have to tighten it while out, she doesn’t have to bring her fingers close to her face. This mask easily passes the light test, and though Builder found it a bit hot for summer, it’s the perfect weight for fall and winter.
Made by hand in Brooklyn, these double-layer masks are made using cotton bandanas and tightly woven muslin. Choose from pink, beige, blue, or black and with or without a pocket to add a filter. All proceeds go to help the designer make more masks to donate to essential workers in New York and New Jersey.
What we think: We have tried both the pleated and non-pleated versions of the Ki Collection bandana masks. Both have a bendable metal nose strip that creates a tight seal and holds the mask in place. The pleated mask is more malleable (the non-pleated one is actually made with three layers of fabric to accommodate a filter) and soft which makes it mold to your face better and keeps it from shifting when you talk. Both pass the light test and are among the nicest looking of the bunch. For $7 dollars more you can get the same mask with an antimicrobial lining.
For $25 dollars you get a pack of five reusable masks. Plus, Caraa will donate a pack of five to New York State’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
What we think: We found these masks comfortable and well-fitting thanks to stretchy material, soft elastic ear loops, and a bendable metal strip in the nose bridge. The darker colors seem to do a better job passing the light test. They’re made out of the same moisture-wicking, lightweight material as the company’s bags and accessories, so you won’t feel sweaty while wearing one. According to Strategist writer Dominique Pariso and Strategist junior writer Jenna Milliner-Waddell, they are hotter than a regular surgical mask but not as hot as a bandana. Milliner-Waddlell says they are very breathable and that she wore hers on a six-mile walk with no issues. Caraa has recently updated their masks to make them more breathable and comfortable, so now they’re made with two layers of cotton instead of their bag material, and feature adjustable ear loops as well as a filter pocket. If you own the earlier version of their masks, you can also purchase a set of toggles for the ear loops to make them adjustable.
Availability: Please allow 3-5 business days for shipment details to be emailed to you for in stock items.
Designer Christine Alcalay is making masks using an inner cotton lining and outer layer featuring stylish prints from the brand’s seasonal collection. Christine Alcalay continues to donateto healthcare professionals and organizations working toward equity and social justice.
What we think: The two layers of cotton feel lightweight and breathable, which probably accounts for why some light shines through when you hold it up to a window or lamp. That said, the elastic ear loops don’t pull or pinch your ears, and the brand offers masks in three sizes, which is rare. The small worked well for my oval-shaped face but was too small for a broader-faced man with a lower nose bridge. These masks don’t have a bendable nose wire, but they are the only ones we have tested with darts sewn into each cheek area, which helps the mask to help it better hug the contours of your face. And it stays put for extended periods of time even while talking, so you never have to touch it or your face to readjust.
Found My Animal
Known for its beautifully crafted (and statusy) dog leashes and collars, Found My Animal has started offering a slew of masks in solid and tie-dye fabrics. This mask features elastic ear loops and an adjustable nose bridge.
What we think: Found My Animal offers their masks with ties or ear loops. After trying both, we found that the ties create a better fit than the loops. Both masks are super soft on the inside and feature a nose clip that keeps them securely in place. Strategist Newsletter Editor Mia Leimkuhler found that clip to be very helpful for low-bridge profiles like hers. One additional note: these do run hot.
Women’s fashion brand Tanya Taylor is offering sets of three colorful masks composed of two layers of fabric. The outer layer is made of either a cotton-silk or cotton-elastane blend, and the inner layer is 100 percent cotton. Masks feature elastic ear loops and a nose clip for a tighter fit to your face.
What we think: These vibrant pleated masks expand to cover your whole face, from under your chin to the bridge of your nose — or even over the bridge if you prefer. They are soft and breathable, and the metal nose strip keeps them in place even after hours of wear. Although we did notice slight gaps over our cheeks, that could be fixed by tying knots in the ear elastics. These masks don’t completely pass the light test and don’t have a place to put a filter, but they are very comfortable on hot and humid days.
The brand now offers an update to their original masks, featuring three layers of cotton, adjustable ear loops, a nose strip, and a contoured fit.
What we think: Like their first round of masks, this colorful iteration is breathable and soft, and it fits well over your whole face. The masks do still let some light through, but the adjustable ear loops and contoured fit help avoid gaps around the sides and make them better for multiple face shapes.
Each one of Everlane’s reusable non-medical masks is made from a double-layer knit fabric and features stretchy ear loops for comfort. For every five-pack sold, Everlane is donating 10 percent of sales to the ACLU.
What we think: “I’m actually anti-nose strip,” says Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst who explains that she doesn’t like the way the bendable metal strips hold her nose in an inappropriately long hug, and that they prevent her from making natural facial expressions. That’s why she loves Everlane’s mask, which she says feels like covering her face with an ultra-soft t-shirt. The ear loops are made from cloth too, which makes for a comfortable fit even after hours of wear. “I forget I’m wearing it sometimes, which is a testament to its breathability—a big factor in whether I’m willing to wear it often or swap it out for something else,” she says.
Availability: Ships mid September.
These custom tie-dye masks are constructed from Re/Done’s recycled 100-percent-cotton T-shirt fabric. They feature an interior lining and soft ear loops. Each mask is one-of-a-kind, so they will differ in color and pattern. For every mask sold, Re/Done is donating five masks to front line workers with the help of Donate PPE.
What we think: Like the Everlane mask, this one doesn’t have a nose strip. But somehow it manages to stay put without budging — even when you’re talking. It may not fit every face perfectly and isn’t adjustable. It also feels a little hot if the temperature is over 70 degrees. But it very nearly passes the light test and is one of the nicest looking masks of the bunch.
From L.A.-based womenswear brand Amadi, this fabric face mask is made from soft cotton for breathability and has elastic straps that secure around the ears. The masks also feature an open pocket for adding a filter.
What we think: Amadi’s lightweight gingham mask doesn’t fully pass the light test but in terms of fit and comfort it deserves high marks. While it may not be the most protective mask we’ve tried, it is one we like wearing. It stays in place, doesn’t gap, and is easy to talk through. Plus it looks nice and summery.
As seen on Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, these masks come in assorted packs of five and feature a built-in nose wire for a tighter fit. Each mask purchase allows the company to donate a mask to someone in need.
What we think: We found these soft pleated masks fit different face shapes equally well and were unobtrusive to wear. You can see a little light coming through but they still feel protective. That said, the brand has recently updated their design to include a sewn in fabric filter made of 100 percent meltblown polypropylene.
For every mask sold, Brooklyn-based designer Abacaxi is donating 10% of all proceeds towards organizations supporting Black trans futures including the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, G.L.I.T.S., The Okra Project, and Meta Center. You can either preorder one of their stylish double-layer cotton masks or receive one free with the purchase of any clothing item on their site. Each mask has an opening between the layers of fabric so you can add your own filter.
What we think: We like that these are easy to put on, come in a bunch of cool fabrics, and don’t get hot like some other thicker masks. They let a little light through but don’t feel super thin. Plus, according to Strategist Newsletter Editor, Mia Leimkuhler, they’re good for wearing with a bike helmet. Abacaxi now also makes a version of their masks with beaded fringe.
Availability: Orders ship within 1 to 4 business days.
We have been patiently awaiting the U.S. release of Uniqlo’s breathable face masks since they sold out in a matter of hours when they launched in Tokyo back in May. Made from the company’s signature Airism material, which is lightweight, antimicrobial, and self-deodorizing, these masks have three layers for increased protection. The first inner layer wicks away moisture; the second has a washable, built-in filter; and the third uses a UV-blocking mesh. They come in three colors (white, black, and gray,) and three sizes (small, medium, and large.)
What we think: Though it has three layers, including a built-in filter, the Airism mask is as breathable as we hoped. However, they don’t have a nose strip or adjustable ear loops, which makes them move a bit when you talk. Cho bought a size medium and says it’s a little loose. “I wore it on a run and the thing was sliding off my face,” she says. Still, she likes it enough to go out and buy some toggles to make the ear loops adjustable.
Because of their pleated design, En Saison’s cotton face masks adjust to multiple face shapes and sizes. They feature ties and are machine washable and dryer safe.
What we think: Strategist senior writer Karen Adelson decided to try these out because masks with elastic ear loops tend to be a little too big on her. The string ties make getting a tight fit easier on a wider range of face sizes, and she likes that the mask is pleated so you can extend it to cover your whole face. She finds them thick enough to be protective (they pass the light test), but not so thick as to be hot or uncomfortable. And the stripes are actually kind of chic.
Papillon Tails on Etsy
Etsy is full of affordable handmade cotton mask options, many of which offer vibrant patterns or customizable decoration. This one is made using tightly woven fabric and a pleated design to help conform to many different face shapes.
What we think: Without the adjustable metal nose wire these don’t fit quite as well as similar pleated masks with a wire. But they are well made, breathable, and nearly block out all light.
Availability: Most orders ship three to five business days after purchase. (Also, sellers are working hard to keep up with demand, so if a particular mask is sold out now, you might be able to check back later and find them in stock.)
Lele Sadoughi’s double-layer masks are made from soft cotton and are hand-embellished. The inner layer is breathable cotton voile, the ear loops are adjustable, and the opening of a filter pocket allows for added protection. Your purchase helps the brand in its initiative to donate thousands of headbands with button hooks to health-care workers to help make wearing their medical masks more comfortable.
What we think: Style wise, these masks are some of our favorites. But they are on the small side. Otherwise the fit is snug and they have adjustable ear loops. And they are very soft. You’ll need to slip a filter into the inner pocket for use in high-risk situations since they don’t pass the light test without one. Still, for people with small faces these are a good breathable option.
Baublebar’s assorted cotton masks feature things like embroidered flowers, eyelets, gingham, and metallic stars. Each one is made with two layers of breathable fabric and adjustable ear loops.
What we think: Two Strategist writers tested Baublebar’s masks: me andDenton-Hurst. While they were a bit roomy on me, Denton-Hurst says she thinks they’re one of the better fitting masks she’s tried so far. We both love the cute patterns, that they have a really soft inner cotton layer, and that they feel breathable but are still protective and pass the light test.
This set of four masks from cult L.A. fashion brand Clare V. is made of remnant and dead-stock fabric, produced locally in L.A., and embroidered with the brand’s signature patch. Your purchase helps the company donate masks to frontline and essential workers.
What we think: Strategist junior writer Chloe Anello ordered these after looking for something trendier to wear than her basic face masks. She confirms that all four masks in the package passed the light test and fit securely once they were tied correctly. “It takes some finagling to tie them at first, because they tie around your ears instead of your head, but once you get it, it’s totally fine,” she says, noting that the strings are long enough to tie around your head but that tying around the ears works better for her because of her curly hair. Anello is also a glasses-wearer and says these masks don’t solve the fogging problem — but none have so far.
Availability: Ships within 5 business days of purchase.
Sustainable clothing brand Christy Dawn is using their striped, floral, and solid dead-stock cotton to make two-ply face masks.
What we think: Like their dresses, Christy Dawn’s masks come in a bunch of cool patterns. They are soft and easier to breathe through than most making them a good choice for hot summer days. Because they are very lightweight, they also don’t pass the light test. But they’re much better than not wearing a mask. We’d save these masks for times when you are going out in public but not planning on getting too close to other people (like on a hike, or walking your dog.)
Alice & Olivia
Alice & Olivia is also donating one mask for every mask sold. Their masks have the added benefit of cool illustrated prints like this and go for a mere $10 bucks.
What we think: The fabric of this mask passes the light test, is cool the touch, and feels silky soft. But becausethe ear loops are threaded through the side seams but not sewn down, we found that the mask gaps on each side instead of lying flat against the cheek. It also tends to slide down when you talk.
Availability: Estimated arrival is around a week from purchase.
California-based surf brand Birdwell Beach Britches is making two-ply fabric masks from their signature Surf Stretch material. For each mask you purchase, one will be donated to CORE, a nonprofit founded by Sean Penn that is working with the L.A. Mayor’s Office and the L.A. Fire Department to provide free drive-through testing for high-risk individuals.
What we think: Because it’s made out of swim trunk material, this mask feels lightweight and cool. It passes the light test and looks nice on (we tested the Hawaiian print). The brand upgraded its masks recently with a filter pocket and adjustable straps that can be worn around your head or around your ears, depending on your preference. The only drawbacks are that it gaps slightly at the sides, the ties are rather short, and the fabric tends to suck in around your nose when you breathe.
Rendall Co. founder Deirdra Jones has been outfitting the hospitality industry with aprons and other stylish and functional workwear since 2012. Each of her company’s masks is made with two layers of pleated cotton, and you can choose between ties or over-the-ear elastics. For each mask sold Rendall & Co. will donate one mask to essential workers and nonprofit organizations serving people experiencing homelessness.
What we think: Rendall Co.’s masks are made of heavyweight cotton, which makes them feel very substantial and protective. It also means they pass the light test. They also come with a pocket for an added filter. Although they look nice on, we did find them to be less comfortable than many other options, because of the way the rigid material puts pressure on your nose.
Availability: Ships 1 to 3 business days from purchase.
Popular menswear brand Bonobos is selling two-layer masks made from the same fabric used for its Riviera shorts. The inner layer is 100 percent cotton, and the outer is cotton with a touch of stretch. The masks come with over-the-head elastic straps and a moldable metal nose strip for a snug but comfy fit. Bonobos is donating masks to Callen-Lorde — an organization that provides sensitive, quality health care and related services to New York’s LGBTQ+ communities.
What we think: Because they’re tailored to follow the contours of your face, the fit of these lightweight masks feels snug without being tight. However, they don’t pass the light test without a filter, which you’ll have to buy separately. If you have trouble with ear loops and ties you might like the overhead elastics of Bonobos’s masks, though the straps are not ideal for people who want to wear their long or curly hair down.
Though not made of tightly woven cotton, these masks are made in California and support local workers. Plus by buying 10 at a time you’re only paying $2.50 a piece.
What we think: Swim Spot’s masks are soft, stretchy, and very breathable. They are also the most porous of all the masks we’ve tried so far, making them better for running or other activities where you won’t be close to too many people.
Los Angeles–based yoga-clothing brand Onzie is making face masks using upcycled fabrics from their yoga collections. Masks are stretchy, comfortable, quick-drying, and breathable. Proceeds from your purchase will be donated to health-care workers across America through a donation to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
What we think: Though they pass the light test and fit pretty snugly, these masks tend to slide down off your nose when you open your mouth all the way.
Madewell and J.Crew have donated 75,000 single-use face masks to Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Their triple-layer masks (which include a filter layer) are made from leftover fabric, so colors and patterns are