As we swiftly approach our third year of pandemic life, it's easy to feel bummed that things we safely rediscovered — indoor dining! real vacations! a fleeting sense of normalcy!— have been thwarted by the Omicron BA.2 variant. One more thing that has been added back into the fold: Plenty of talk about face masks, mostly to do with why they're more important than ever nowadays.
You already know that Omicron is 100% That B*tch when it comes to being highly transmissible, so allow us to briefly school you on the CDC's mask guidelines: A minimum of two layers, construction that snugly covers the nose and mouth, and a nose wire to ensure a proper fit and that air doesn't get in. You also have likely seen health experts recommending ditching cloth masks for ones that offer a higher level of filtration, such as disposable N95 or KN95s. Luckily, KN95s are largely available (and not as meh as you may think), and are an excellent, relatively affordable way to ensure that the only thing positive in your life is your outlook on the future of the pandemic. Ahead, a comprehensive look at why the KN95 is so great, where to buy them, and how to make sure the one's you are buying are the real deal.
Why are KN95 masks more effective against the Omicron variant?
As we hinted at before, the KN95 is among the best masks out there to keep you protected from COVID-19. (The 95 is for 95% of particles that these masks can filter.) This is largely to do with the multi-layer construction; N95s and KN95s have five layers between you and the outside world. In comparison, a standard surgical mask has three. Another reason is the style of the mask itself; turns out, the duck bill-shape isn't just a funky style statement — the conical design tends to create a better seal around the nose and mouth when compared to a basic cloth or surgical mask, which tend to be flat, rectangular shapes that bend laterally across the face. (I personally find KN95 quite comfortable for this reason, since pointed tip also feels more breathable than other masks.)
How can I make sure my KN95 is not counterfeit?
Per the CDC, be sure to look for KN95 masks that meet requirements similar to those set by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for respirators. (FYI: Not all KN95 masks sold in the U.S. meet these requirements.) An easy way to verify if your mask is legit is to look for the NIOSH logo on the mask packaging. That being said, any mask is better than forgoing one at all, so even if you have to suit up with a surgical mask, remember that it's better than nothing,
How should my KN95 mask feel on?
Your KN95 should feel snug and fit over your nose and mouth, and when properly adjusted, there should be no gaps of air flowing near your nose or the sides of the mask. (You can check for any pockets of air by cupping your hands around the sides of the mask.) Once you've fitted the nose wire, you should be able to feel warm air come through the front of the mask and may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath.
Do I need to double-mask with a KN95?
evolvetogether KN95 Masks
Price: $14.95 for 5
Evolvetogether's not-your-average KN95 masks feature a flat front profile and an impressive six layers of protection to filter particles and reduce moisture for a more comfortable wear.
MASKC Vogue Variety KN95 Face Masks - 10 Pack
Price: $36 for 10
Keep it sleek and chic with this set of colorful face masks, perfect for matching with, well, everything. This 10-pack from Maskc is perfect for adding some spring to your step.
KN95 Face Mask 50PCS
Price: $17 for 50
Stock up on masks with this 50-pack of KN95 masks, which you can shop in white, grey, and black. Plus, they're currently on sale for $17 — a seriously steal of a deal.
Vida High Protection Recyclable KN95 Masks 10-Pack
Price: $25 for 10
Being two years into the pandemic, your mask consumption may be starting to keep you up at night. Vida's made-in-San Diego KN95s are on a mission to lessen our footprint by including a prepaid label to return used masks to be properly recycled after serving their purpose.
Face Masks Reusable 20 Pack 5Ply
Price: $16 for 20
Stock up on these highly breathable, 5-ply face masks that offer protection without sacrifycing comfort.
Powecom Pink KN95 Respirator Face Mask
Price: $15 for 10
Want to add a splash of color with your mask? Enter: These fuchsia KN95s which offer a high level of protection without sacrificing style.
WellBefore KN95 Individually Wrapped
Price: $1.49 each
While we don't usually love individually-packaged things for environmental reasons, masks are a rare, if sole, exception. These sealed KN95s are perfect for keeping in your bag or car as a backup, and won't get dusty or worn out before use.
Brave New Look Adult KN95
Price: $39 for 20
Brave New Look's KN95s have been trusted on ski slopes, library stacks, and everywhere in between, according to satisfied reviewers' mask selfies. Plus, you can shop them in your choice of black, grey, and white.
N95 Medical Supplies KN95 Face Mask
Price: $14.99 for 10
These ultra-affordable KN95s come highly-reviewed, so you can shop with confidence knowing that you're getting a no-frills, does-what-it-says product.
Black KN95 Mask
Price: $10 for 10
Shop This Story:
shop 11 products
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.