Our Guide to Face Masks for Every Situation

Published on: Apr 1, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
face masks to wear for every situationPhoto: Athleta | Design: theSkimm

With Delta variant and Omicron case rates rising in the US, masks have fully reentered the chat. According to CDC guidance, masks must be worn while traveling on a plane, bus, train, or any other form of public transportation. If you're fully vaccinated and in a crowded indoor setting or are doing something that requires close contact with others (vaccinated or not), you should be masked. The CDC also states that those who are not fully vaccinated and aged 2 or older should always wear a mask in indoor public places. Generally, one does not need to wear a mask if outdoors.

To help you prep for the months ahead, we rounded up masks for every occasion. Like when you’re exercising, when you need a mask you can get dirty, and if your skin is extra-sensitive (hi, maskne).

Psst...to find your specific community transmission levels and masking guidance, select your location here. Oh, and official recommendations may change quickly so make sure to stay up to speed with the CDC's current guidelines.

This post was originally published in April 2021 and has since been updated.

white kn95 face mask with two head straps
A KN95 respirator mask that’s FDA-authorized and ideal for travel or highly populated areas…

To break it down, KN95 masks and N95 masks are very similar. The difference is where they are manufactured and certified (KN95s are made in China). Right now, the CDC doesn’t recommend that the general public wear N95 respirator face masks to protect themselves from respiratory diseases like coronavirus. Those are important supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

The Powecom KN95 is a great alternative with head straps, can be worn alone, and filters out around 95% or more of airborne particles. The mask is multi-layer, has a nose wire, and also comes in a black option. The most important thing is to make sure the fit is snug to your face. The mask can be worn multiple times, but you should toss it once there’s visible dirt or you feel some breathing resistance. ($11.50/pack of 10, Bona Fide Masks)

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disposable black face masks with three layers of protection
A three-ply, single-use face mask that you can get dirty…

Maybe you’re getting your hair done and don’t want to worry about staining one of your favorite cloth masks. These disposable ones are not meant to be reused, so toss once you’re done wearing. The ear loops aren’t adjustable, but the barrier created by the three-ply can protect the wearer from contaminants. They come individually wrapped so you can throw an extra one in your bag. If you’re looking to double-mask, this can be used as your base layer. ($17.98+/50 pack, Amazon)

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cloth face mask with a filter pocket, adjustable ear loops, and a nose wire
A reusable mask with layered filtration...

These have adjustable ear loops and a metal nose-piece. They come in multiple sizes and colors, too. And packs of the replaceable filters are available. Each filter can be worn for up to one week. ($10, Vida)

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black three layer masks designed to be easier to breath in, block UV rays, and be moisture-wicking for workouts
A face mask that’s designed to be easier to breathe in…

Goodbye, face sweat. This set has a three-tier structure: The first layer wicks away moisture, the second has a washable built-in filter, and the third is made from mesh to block UV rays. Reviewers say the masks feel comfortable and light when worn, and are quick-drying. ($14.90/3 pack, Uniqlo)

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soft face masks ideal for working out, come in multiple patterns, colors, and sizes
A soft face mask that’s ideal for exercise…

Made with three layers and adjustable ear loops, these masks feel lighter against your face. Meaning it may feel easier to breathe in, especially during a workout. They’re highly rated, with over 6,000 customers giving them a five-star review. People highlight the nose wire, flexibility of the mask, and comfort while working out. Some customers even say the fabric helps prevent breakouts. ($25/5 pack, Athleta)

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kids face masks with fun animal prints
A variety pack of pleated face masks for kids…

These masks are made of triple layer cotton and can be washed when they inevitably get dirty. They've been designed per CDC recommendations on non-medical-grade masks. They've also got adjustable ear straps, which is a huge bonus when it comes to getting a snug fit for your child's face. ($12.50+/3 pack, Old Navy)

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black silk face mask to help prevent breakouts
A face mask made of 100% mulberry silk to soothe sensitive skin…

It’s hard to not get frustrated with skin irritation and breakouts that can result from wearing a mask for hours. This one has adjustable ear loops and a nose wire, but in place of a fabric that may aggravate your skin, it’s made with Slip’s innovative and gentle silk. Customers rave about how soft the mask is, and how it can help with pesky maskne (mask acne). ($39+, Dermstore)

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disposable three-ply earloop face mask
A disposable three-ply face mask perfect for those with glasses…

One Skimm HQ’r who regularly sports glasses swears by these masks. The bendy, embedded nose clips are incredibly flexible, ensuring a tight fit around the nose bridge. Aka way less fog gets produced. Sign us up. ($10.99+/100 pack, Amazon)

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a spray to help glasses from fogging up when wearing face masks
And a spray for glasses if you can't stand having any fog when you step outside…

This anti-fog spray works on all types of glasses, and doesn’t call for constant application. A few spritzes and you’re good for the day. Sigh of relief sold separately. ($14.99, Amazon)

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silicone bracket to wear under a face mask to give you more room between your mouth and the inner layer of your face mask
A silicone bracket to wear under masks to give you a bit more space…

So you’ll have some room between your lips and the inner lining of your mask. This way, your lipstick won’t smudge, your skin won’t get as irritated, and you won’t feel your breath projected back onto you. Reviewers say the brackets can help reduce glasses from fogging and improve breathability too. ($4.99+/3 pack, Amazon)

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If you buy anything from this email, theSkimm may get something in return. Oh, and if something’s out of stock, oops, it was there (and all prices were accurate too) when we published. Thanks.

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Skimm'd by Alexandra Napoli, Emmy Favilla