A Guide To The Internet’s Best KN95 Masks

Update: In August, the CDC released updated guidance for minimizing the impact of COVID-19, including the use of masks or respirators (i.e., specialized filtering masks, such as N95s) that provide a higher level of wearer protection, noting that respirators that are worn properly the whole time provide a higher level of protection than cloth or procedural masks. With cases starting to trend upward again and the rise of the "tripledemic" — referring to the circulation of COVID-19, the flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — some health officials are bringing back mask guidelines to slow transmission rates and offer a higher level of protection against the effects of COVID-19.
This story was originally published on January 10, 2022.

As we swiftly approach our fourth year of living in a worldwide pandemic, it's easy to feel bummed that things we safely rediscovered — indoor dining! real vacations! a fleeting sense of normalcy! — are being impacted by a seasonal surge of COVID-19, the flu, and RSV. One more thing that has been added back into the fold: Plenty of talk about face masks, mostly to do with why they're still important for prevention nowadays.

You already know that COVID-19 is 100%. That b*tch is highly transmissible, so allow us to briefly school you on the CDC's mask guidance: Wear a mask with the best fit, protection, and comfort for you — meaning the mask fits closely on your face, snugly covering your mouth, nose, and chin without gaps. 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 ones you are buying are the real deal.

Why are KN95 masks more effective against COVID-19?

As we hinted at before, the KN95 is one of 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 the 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?

No! According to the CDC, more is not more in this scenario, and it's not recommended to layer more than one KN95 mask at a time.

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

Price: $39 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.

Vida High Protection Recyclable KN95 Masks 10-Pack

Price: $25 for 10

Being three 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.

WellBefore KN95 Individually Wrapped

Price: $1.49 each with an order minimum of 10 pieces

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 they won't get dusty or worn out before use.

Powecom Pink KN95 Respirator Face Mask

Price: $16 for 10

Want to add a splash of color to your mask? Enter: these fuchsia KN95s, which offer a high level of protection without sacrificing style.

Brave New Look Adult KN95 Mask

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, gray, and white.

N95 Medical Supplies KN95 Face Mask

Price: $12.99 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.

Wanwane KN95 Face Mask 50PCS

Price: $34.99 for 50

Stock up on masks with this 50-pack of KN95 masks. They offer five layers of protection.

Hotodeal KN95 Face Masks 20 Pack

Price: $12.99 for 20

These highly breathable, five-ply face masks offer protection without sacrificing comfort.

Black KN95 Mask

Price: $16.99 for 30

Toss these top-carted black KN95s into your Amazon cart, and never be without a mask ever again.

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