The best face mask for you might not be the same as the best face mask for someone else. Brands and retailers have finally caught up with demand and are there are now plenty of options to choose from – so much so that figuring out the best face mask for you is a bit of a minefield.
Face masks: Quick links
We've explored all the different options (in the US and UK) to put together this definitive list of the best face masks for a range of different use cases. Maybe you're after something top quality that will last, or you need a face mask that will stop your glasses from steaming up? Perhaps you're hunting for a super breathable face mask that's suitable to wear while exercising, or a stylish option that'll go with your wardrobe? Or maybe you just need a cheap and cheerful face mask that'll be delivered quickly. We've also included where to buy medical face masks, and the kids' options.
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The wearing of face masks as a preventative measure against the spread of coronavirus is becoming increasingly widespread, especially as other lockdown measures are being relaxed. In fact, face masks are now a legal requirement in a number of places and situations. Although wearing a mask will not stop you from getting COVID-19, it could help prevent others from catching it from you if you're carrying the virus but unaware of it.
Read on for our guide to the best face masks for a range of situations, or scroll to the bottom for some extra info about the wearing of face masks, why they're important, and what to look for when making your purchase.
The 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
Free delivery! The best face mask all round right now comes from Vistaprint. These are good quality, with an adjustable in-built nosepiece and replaceable nanofiber filter. They're robustly constructed, fitted around the chin, and available in a range of styles, for both adults and kids.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 cheap face mask | 3 for £12.95 from Adidas
There are perhaps cheaper options out there, if you want to risk it, but we think these Adidas masks are the best choice if you're on a tight budget. They're made from 40% recycled materials, are easy to wash and dry each day, and work out at around £4.30 per mask. Plus £2 from every pack is being donated to charity. Another cheap, basic option can be found at ASOS.View Deal
The best patterned face masks | £15 for 3 at Boots
For more of a style statement, pop these in your basket at Boots. There are three funky patterns, all from British designers. For a very low cost-per-item, you're getting double-layer organic cotton sateen with a slot for a filter (not included), an adjustable nose-strip, and an 'anti-fog fit' for specs-wearers. Almost as cheap as our 'best bargain' option, and 100% of profits from the sale of these masks goes to charity, too.View Deal
The best face mask if you wear 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 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 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
Medical-grade face masks | £22.99 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...
- Falke – Sporty, breathable design
- Casetify – Simple design with changeable filters
- 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
Where to buy a face mask in the United States
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 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 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
Where to buy face masks in Australia
200pcs Disposable Face Mouth Mask 3 Layer with Elastic Ear Loop | AU$129.99 at Kogan
These are your standard, disposable face masks with three layers of fabric and a filtration efficiency of 94% – the only difference is there’s a lot of them, 200 in fact! So if you’re after a boat-load of face masks, you should consider looking at this deal from Kogan.View Deal
10 Pack Virafree KN95 6 Ply Self Priming Particulate Respirator Face Mask N95|P2 - White | AU$79.90 at Kogan
The Virafree KN95 respirators are more effective than your regular face masks – having six purpose-built layers with a minimum Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) rating of 95%.View Deal
50pcs Disposable Face Mask With Two Free 50ml Sanitiser Packs | AU$84.95 at Jaydeebedding
Who doesn’t love a two-for-one deal? Jaydee Bedding are offering a 50 pack of disposable face masks with two free 50mL bottles of Scotts hand sanitiser – what a bargain! View Deal
3-ply Surgical Face Mask Vira-free (Single Use) 10 Pack | AU$16.45 from Superiorhealthcare
We must admit, these are pretty darn cute! These home-made face masks in adorable cherry fabric are machine washable so you can wear it as many times as you like. You can grab yours on eBay and it will be shipped to your door within a couple of days.View Deal
FluFree 50x Pack Disposable 3-Ply Face Masks – Light Blue | AU$89 at Harvey Norman
With an easy pack for convenience that is suitable for travel or commuting, this one-size-fits-all face mask has a 99% Bacterial Filtration Efficiency rating (BFE) that covers your nose, mouth and chin for full protection against those airborne nasties. View Deal
Blue Disposable Surgical Face Masks 3 Ply With Earloop Latex Free | AU$7.95 at Dick Smith
If you’re after just one (or a couple) face masks without purchasing the whole kit-and-kaboodle, this deal is for you. These latex free, 3-ply layer surgical masks will offer you the protection you’re looking for without breaking the bank.View Deal
DOCHEM Premium Elite Disposable Surgical Face Mask 3-ply with Earloop Plus - 25 Masks | AU$75 at ThePharmacy
Dochem is a professional manufacturer of high quality dental and medical disposable supplies so you know these face masks come from a reputable source. With a proven BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) of 99.3% and CE certification, you’ll feel like a medical professional while also protecting yourself against airborne germs.View Deal
50 X Protective Disposable Face Mask Medical Masks 3 Layer | AU$61 at Becextec
Like the deal above, these face masks offered by Becextec are great if you want to purchase a bulk supply. Perfect storing in your home, car, purse or your child's back-pack ready for when they go back to school.View Deal
150 X Protective Disposable Face Mask Medical Masks 3 Layers | AU$147 at Becextec
Do you have a big family and need a lot of face masks to hand around? Well this 150 pack of disposable medical face masks will surely come in handy. Made with three-layers, non-woven fiber and soft, breathable fabric, these throwaway face marks will provide an extra layer of protection against transferable germs.View Deal
Should I be wearing a face mask?
The CDC added the wearing of face masks to its recommendations in early April 2020, and in mid-May the UK government revised its official advice along the same lines.
The wearing of face masks and other mouth coverings continues to be a hot discussion topic, with official advice changing as we begin to understand more about COVID-19. At the start of April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the leading national public health institute in the US – altered its advice, and is now recommending people wear a non-medical face mask when out and about. Whether it's mandatory or not depends on which state you're in.
The UK added the wearing of face masks to its official advice in mid-May, following a statement made earlier in the month by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (read the full statement here). Guidelines advise citizens to wear mask in enclosed spaces and situations where it's difficult to social distance effectively, such as in the supermarket and on public transport.
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.
Respirator masks are in short supply at the moment.
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.
The CDC recommends "wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission".
However, your first priorities should still be to stay in your home as much as possible, observe physical distancing rules, and use hand sanitiser or wash your hands properly and regularly. Read the CDC advice on wearing a face mask here.