Columbus, OH — As people begin to open their doors and re-enter what is frequently referred to as the “New Normal,” there is a common precaution most are urged to continue—wearing a mask. One of the most talked about forms of PPE and virus containment in the COVID-19 era has had its fair share of controversy and misinformation. But, it has also provided people with a sense of community, opportunity, and a way to express themselves. Which leads to the question: what mask should you buy?

Before opening the can of worms that is the effectiveness of masks for the public, let’s review where some experts currently stand on the matter. The World Health Organization (at the time of writing) recommend “a risk-based approach to be considered by decision makers when deciding in which settings and circumstances non-medical masks could be used in the community.” They also note that it does show potential to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if a person is a pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carrier. On the other hand the Center for Disease Control recommends “that everyone wear cloth face coverings when leaving their homes, regardless of whether they have fever or symptoms of COVID-19.” They point to the importance of reducing publics exposure in places with high traffic, such as grocery stores, and containing transference of respiratory droplets. With agencies and health officials having different guidelines that continue to change as more research is done, it is always best to take your local officials’ recommendation on safety.

If you find yourself somewhere they recommend wearing one, you now have the task of deciding what mask to get. It seems like an easy task but with companies adding masks to their offering left and right, it can be hard to know what to look for. Everyone from denim brands like Good American, to streetwear designers such as Daniel Patrick, to home and gardens brands ala Plover are all doing their part to cover your face. Time to look at some materials you will come across and whether they are more fashion or function.

One major thing to consider is how the mask fits. Loosely fitting masks expose you to the same air and particles it’s meant to filter providing little-to-no interference. This goes for incorrectly wearing a mask as well, it should be covering your mouth and nose for it to be effective. Leaving your nose exposed leaves you exposed. As for how effective it will be at protecting you—or others—is still a matter of discussion, though some recent findings have shown positive results in relation to medical masks ability to prevent spread. But, the materials a lot of the mask’s brands are now making aren’t medical-grade, so what about fabric masks? A recent study published in ACS Publications has concluded that cotton of a high thread count is the most effective, especially when there are multiple layers, and combinations of fabrics also increases a masks ability to filter aerosols. Here are some things that’ll increase the likelihood that cloth coverings do what they’re intended for:

  • Look for masks that are two layers of fabric thick and consider the fabrics used in its construction.
  • Make sure it can fit snugly enough around your face to prevent openings.
  • Breathability is still important, so it shouldn’t reduce too much airflow.
  • Comfort still matters, so look for something you don’t mind wearing for prolonged periods of times, especially around your ears. 
  • It should cover your nose and mouth.
  • If it’s a reusable mask, look for washer-safe materials.

Whether you decide to wear a face mask for your protection, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or as a reminder to yourself to not touch your face while in public, there is still plenty to consider. Luckily you aren’t short on options, and there is a mask for every type of person and purpose.

About the Author:

Colin is an Associate Director of Innovation helping the team show the way in a changing marketplace. A graphic designer by trade, he comes from a brand marketing background. Colin hopes to continue bringing life to brand’s stories through innovative and attractive new ideas.