Welcome to T3's guide to the best face mask right now. At this point, you've probably come to the conclusion that it's time to invest in a good quality, well fitting face mask (or seven) to see you through the pandemic.
We've rounded up a selection of the best face masks for a range of different use cases. Perhaps you're looking for something super-breathable you can exercise in? Or a face mask that won't steam up when you're wearing your glasses? Maybe you need the best mask for lip reading, or one that won't aggravate sensitive skin? Perhaps you want a face mask for kids, ready for back to school (whatever that looks like)? We've got all those options and more below.
Face masks: Quick links
In the early days of the pandemic, the face mask choice was either to risk it with a hastily homemade creation from Etsy or ebay, or take your chances with a bulk order of reusable masks, purchased from site of questionable authenticity, to be delivered from the other side of the globe. Now, thank goodness, reputable retailers have caught up the demand. Today's best face masks are designed to be breathable, robust, and comfortable. Read on for our top picks for a range of different priorities.
In a hurry and don't want to browse? Overall, the best face mask is the Vistaprint face mask. We've tried a couple, and found them stylish, well fitting and comfortable. They're available in the US and the UK, and there are sizes for both adults and children. Please note, at time of writing there were some delays in delivery due to increased demand.
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Where to buy best face masks in the UK
Not in the UK? Jump straight to the best face masks in the US.
The best face mask overall | £17 from Vistaprint
Selling fast – Here at T3, we've ordered a couple of the Vistaprint masks and found them to be great. The patterns are stylish, the cut fits the face well, and the fabric is comfortable – both the soft cotton lining and the adjustable elastic ear loops. Additionally, the sewn-in wire nose bridge enables a secure fit that stops glasses from steaming up. A pack of 10 additional filters for £6 (also delivered free) is not bad value, either. They're available in both adults and kids' sizes, but be aware that demand is so high, there's currently a slight delay on delivery times – order sooner rather than later if you want one.View Deal
The best cheap face mask | 3 for £14 from ASOS
The best cheap face mask available right now comes from ASOS. While there are even-lower priced options around, if you want decent quality, ASOS is your best bet. These double-layered masks are made from 100% cotton, with elasticated straps with adjustable toggles and a nose clip for a snug fit, and they're less than a fiver each. ASOS is donating £1 from each sale to Oxfam's Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund, too. View Deal
The comfiest face mask | £15 for 2 at Falke
These face masks are made from fast-drying, round-knitted material for a soft, comfy feel – the outside is moisture-repellent, while the inside is fleece. There are a range of sizes to choose from, with a detailed fit chart so you can make sure you pick the right one for your face. We're big fans of the cool, sporty style, too – available in yellow, red, green, purple and orange. View Deal
The best personalised face mask | £9.99 at Prezzybox
Prezzybox has a whole range of face mask designs available to personalise for no extra cost. Go for your initials to help distinguish your mask from other household members', get the name of your business, or opt for a motivational slogan. These masks are double-layer (polyester outer and cotton inner), and come with adjustable straps and two filters included.View Deal
The most stylish face mask | £20 from Wolford
Tights brand Wolford has knocked it out of the park in the style stakes with this understated face mask. It's not style over substance, either – as well as a sleek design, this mask boasts comfortable, machine-washable, double-layer fabric, an adjustable nose wire, face-contoured design and soft ear straps. View Deal
The best kids' face mask | £12 from Wild Things at Not On The High Street
We're slightly obsessed by these animal-design face masks from Wild Things, via NOTHS. There are 6 designs: Rainbow Lion, shark, cat, bunny, tiger and dog, with optional matching head bands (with ears!) available. They're made from 100% cotton with cotton poplin lining, and are suitable for children aged 3 and over. For more options, check out our guide to the best kids' face masks.View Deal
The best patterned face masks | £15.99 at Prezzybox
If you're looking for a fun print but don't want to compromise on quality, try Prezzybox. This brand has absolutely loads of different and unusual fabric prints to choose from: browse colourful prints, animal prints, and nature prints. All come with two filters included. View Deal
The best face mask for sport |£26 at Under Armour
The hi-tech UA sports face mask is engineered for better airflow, comfort, and a cool feel. Slightly too popular for its own good, the UA sports face mask is currently sold out – although you can ask to be alerted when they restock. If you need something immediately, we'd recommend this basic, breathable face cover from Reebok.View Deal
The best clear mask for lip-reading | £10.50 from TylermadeCo on Etsy
This face mask has a clear window built in so your mouth remains visible, making it a great choice if you're coming into contact with anyone who relies on lip reading. Or if you haven't yet perfected your smize. It's made from double-layer cotton with a nose wire, is extremely well reviewed, and delivered from within the UK. View Deal
The best face mask for glasses |£20 at Reiss
While an adjustable nose piece will help stop your glasses fogging up, for an even closer fit around the face, try this face mask from Reiss. It has a wire sewn along the top edge, so you can shape it to your exact facial contours. Excellent for stopping air escaping and fogging your specs up (read about how we tried all the different ways to stop your glasses fogging up with a face mask).View Deal
The best face mask for sensitive skin | £76 for 3 at Wolf & Badger
Low stock - These stylish face masks are made from 100% silk. While they're a fair bit more expensive than other styles, they're super lightweight (silk is on average 6 times lighter than cotton), very breathable, and great if you have very sensitive skin. The design is double-layered, and curved for a close fit around your nose and chin. View Deal
The best disposable face masks | £19.99 for 50 at Amazon
For disposable masks, head to Amazon. This bulk-pack is reasonably priced and well reviewed. The 3-ply design comes with a nose clip for a snug fit. Note, they're not medical grade. View Deal
Medical-grade face masks | £23 for 50 at HoMedics
If you're a carer or need something medical-grade, these single-use, disposable face masks are available to order in bulk at HoMedics. Another option is to head to Medisave, which has surgical face masks and KN95 masks available to order.View Deal
None of those take your fancy? Here are some more face mask options to try...
- Look Fantastic – Luxury face masks with a mulberry silk outer layer and breathable cotton lining
- Buff – Kid and adult designs with surgical-grade filters
- Sleepy people – 5 reusable masks for £10 (but selling out fast!)
- Sea Salt – 3-pack, printed masks, made from organic cotton
- Casetify – Simple design with changeable filters
- Migrate Art – Super-cool reversible prints from top designers, with 100% net profit going to #masksformeals initiative
- Boots – Organic cotton sateen in funky prints from British designers
- Baukjen – Basic cotton or premium designs (in fun prints) available
- Boden – Three-pack of different Boden colours and prints
- Hype – Different styles and designs; adult and child options available
Samuel Johnson – Options for men, women and children
- Marta Scarampi – High quality face masks, with different size options for men, women and children
- Keen via Cotswold Outdoor – Pre-order, due 23-25 July
- Adidas – Currently sold out, but an excellent cheap face mask
- Gap – Only children's masks in stock currently (keep an eye out for family pack of masks restocking)
Where to buy the best face masks in the US
The best face mask overall | $18 at Vistaprint
Durable construction, quality fabrics, and free shipping mean Vistaprint is our pick for the best face mask overall right now. These face masks feature reinforced stitching, a 3-dimensional chin structure. An in-built nosepiece can be adjusted for a snug fit (good news for glasses wearers), and there's a replaceable nanofiber filter. There are also kids' options.View Deal
The best face masks for charity donations | $22 for one at Hedley&Bennett
Hedley& Bennett runs a buy-one-donate one scheme on its single face masks, and gives a percentage of proceedings from multipacks to charity too. The face masks themselves are super-smart, fitted designs with a filter pockets, flexible metal nose piece, reinforced stitching and space for a name tag.View Deal
The comfiest face mask | 2 for $20 at Purple Sleep
Purple has harnessed its innovative comfort tech to create a face mask you can wear for hours at a time. There's Hyper-Elastic Polymer gel for super-stretchy ear bands that won't lose their shape, and moisture-wicking Breeze Mesh for a breathable but effective mouth cover.View Deal
The best face masks if you wear glasses | 5 for $30 at Tie Bar
These Tie Bar face masks have a wire sewn into the top hem, to creating a custom, close fit that'll stop air escaping and fogging up your specs. They're also really excellent value for money – just $6 per mask (only slightly more than our 'cheap' option). They come in a selection of tonal, understated prints, including subtle stripes and tiny spots, and are made from 100% two-ply cotton, with an additional layer of shirting fabric. View Deal
The best cheap face mask | 5 for $26 at ASOS
ASOS has quite a few different multi-pack face mask options available, the cheapest working out at $5.20 per mask. There are plain and patterned options for both men and women. An easy, cheap option, with free shipping and returns. Alternatively, you Adidas is selling basic masks at 3 for $16.View Deal
The best clear mask for lip-readers | $16 from Simplylovelydesignco on Etsy
If having your mouth not visible is an issue, these face masks have a clear panel built in. It's a good choice if you need a covering that's accessible to lip-readers. This one is well-reviewed, and made from 100% cotton, with stretchy, adjustable jersey ear straps.
The best face mask for sport | $30 at Under Armour
It's so popular it's all sold out right now, but we're including it because it seems to be hands-down the best face mask for sport right now – and it's available for preorder. The hi-tech UA face mask is engineered for better airflow, comfort, and a cool feel. If you need something immediately, we'd recommend this super-stretchy face mask from Stringers' World instead.View Deal
Medical face masks | 50 for $14.99 at NewEgg
If you're working in a healthcare capacity and need a medical-grade mask, head to NewEgg. There's a limit of one per customer, but there's 50 in a box so it'll last you a while. Ships from the United States, and delivery times are super-speedy. Alternative places to head for medical face masks include DailySteals, NewEgg, Gearbest and Akings.View Deal
The best eco-friendly face mask | $14.50 at Bomme Studio
Bomme Studio is selling dual-layer face masks made from sustainably made, upcycled 100% cotton fabric. These face masks have been designed in line with CDC recommendation and are being manufactured in LA, California. If you order on a weekday, there's free same-day shipping too. Alternatively, bag maker Caraa is selling face masks constructed out of repurposed materials from its production line.View Deal
The best patterned face masks | $15 at DIOP
Detroit-based DIOP has a range of face masks made from 100% wax printed cotton in a range of bold, vibrant prints. The elastic on these sits around the back of the head, to remove ear strain when wearing for long periods. A portion of proceeds also goes to charity.View Deal
The best kids' face masks | $18 at Vistaprint
Our best face mask overall also makes what we think are the best kids' face masks right now. Vistaprint offers some super-fun designs in smaller sizes, including dinosaurs and planets. Like the adult version, they're good quality and durable, with reinforced stitching, plus a 3D chin structure and a nose bridge. For more options, check out where to buy kids face masks (we also love this Disney/Pixar range, but beware, reviewers say it runs very small).View Deal
Want some more options? Try these...
- StringKing – 2-ply washable cloth face masks
- Bomme Studio – 100% cotton face masks, with free same-day shipping from LA
- Naturepedic – Basic, double-layer organic cotton masks, 6 for $49
- RendallCo – Double-layer dense, woven cotton, designed and made in LA
- LA Apparel – Lots of colours and styles to choose from
- Eastern Serenity – Various styles to suit different face shapes
- Reformation – Basic, non-medical, reusable masks, plus the option to donate
- Vida – Fitted fabric face masks, with multi-layer filter and nose strip for a snug fit
- Araks – Luxe, high quality pleated face masks in a variety of floral and other prints
- Subzero – Alternative styles, from Day of the Dead skulls to glow-in-the-dark options
- RendallCo – Designed and made in LA, in smart, subtle patterns
- Silkies – Hydrophobic finish to repel bodily fluids
- Matteo – Double-layered, 100% cotton masks, with a pocket for a filter
- Radian – Good value 5-pack, with kids' sizes also available
Should I be wearing a face mask?
Official guidelines in the US and UK advise citizens to wear mask in enclosed spaces and situations where it's difficult to social distance effectively, and they're also required by law in certain situations and places.
In the UK, wearing a face is became mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England in late July. Those not wearing a face mask could be fined up to £100. They're already required on public transport and in taxis. Face masks are also required in public places in 120 countries, including Italy, Spain, Germany and Greece. In the US, the rules vary from state to state.
What kind of face mask works best?
There are a lot of different types of face masks. Medical-grade face masks, including surgical masks and N95 masks, are in very short supply, so it's mainly non-medical face masks that are being recommended to the general public.
For example, the UK document regarding face masks states: "A face covering is not the same as a facemask such as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers. These supplies must continue to be reserved for those who need it." Here's a closer look at the different types of face mask.
Surgical face masks are probably what you think of when you think of a face mask. These are disposable, single-use masks made from pleated synthetic fabric. The fabric is breathable and these masks don't form an airtight seal against the face. How well they filter pathogens varies according to different studies. They're in very short supply at the moment.
Respirators are the most effective at filtering pathogens. These are fitted to the face and sealed to keep pathogens out, and tested rigorously by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
There are a few different types, with different efficiency rates. For particles 100-300 nanometres in size: N95 respirators can filter 95% of particles; N99 respirators filter 99% of particles; and N100 respirators filter 99.7% of particles. Coronavirus is estimated to be 125 nm in size.
Fabric face masks
Finally, there's homemade fabric masks, which are the least effective of the bunch at filtering pathogens. However, the research we have so far suggests that wearing one is still much better than not wearing one when it comes to reducing the likelihood of you unknowingly passing on the virus to others.
There are a few elements that affect how effective cloth face masks are at filtering pathogens. One is the fabric it's made from – porous fabrics don't keep out tiny droplets very well. The CDC suggests two layers of tightly woven 100% cotton. Adding a filter, such as a coffee filter or paper towel, can help make your fabric face mask more effective.
Fit is also all-important. Gaps around your nose and jaw will make your mask much less effective. If your mask fits snugly around your nose and face, this should help improve the situation.
Can a face mask protect me from coronavirus?
The wearing of face masks is geared more towards keeping others healthy than protecting yourself. If someone with COVID-19 wears a face mask, this could prevent them from accidentally infecting other people – which is all the more important as the highest amount of viral transmission happens early on in the course of the disease, so infected people may be contagious before they start showing symptoms.
A study from Hong Kong found that wearing surgical masks could reduce the spread of COVID-19 by as much as 75%. A team of scientists in Hong Kong conducted a study using hamsters (more details here).
Some official bodies have been reluctant to recommend the wearing of face masks, fearing that it could have the knock-on effect of making people less disciplined about social distancing rules. There's also a massive shortage of medical-grade face masks, and encouraging everyone to wear one could reduce availability for those medical professionals and healthcare workers who need it most.
How to make your own face mask
Can't get hold of a face mask, or want to leave the remaining stocks for medical professionals? It's relatively easy to make your own basic face mask, and you don't even need specialist equipment.
Here's a short video showing you how to make a homemade face mask using a T-shirt, scarf or bandana.