Experts Say N95 Masks Offer the Best Protection Against Omicron — Here Are the Best Ones You Can Get Online
As the Covid-19 omicron variant continues to spread across the United States, a facial covering reevaluation is in order. While you've likely built up quite the collection of stylish cloth masks over the past two years, it may be time to trade them in for something a little more reliable, according to some experts.
That's where N95 and KN95 masks come into play. The surgical-grade masks, or respirator-style masks, feature multiple layers and a disposable material for easy, clean use every time. Many of them even boast a certification from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), something cloth masks lack.
But before you make a purchase, make sure the mask you're interested in is real. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that means checking N95s for branding on the front of the mask, making sure your mask is made by a trustworthy company, and ensuring it's NIOSH-certified, among other things. KN95s typically don't have these specific markings on the front, but you can still get your hands on FDA-approved and bacterial filtration efficiency-tested masks from companies like Maskc and Evolvetogether.
While many real N95 and KN95 masks have sold out across the country, we've found a few that are still in stock. Below, shop the best ones available online.
Fangtian NIOSH-Certified N95 Mask
Fangtian's N95 mask is comfy, effective, and durable. Featuring an adjustable nose clip for a secure seal and at least 95 percent filtration efficiency against non-oil based particles, the mask is a pretty safe bet in crowds. Not to mention, sturdy, latex-free material and eyewear-compatibility offer ease with each wear. "This mask is comfortable," one Amazon reviewer wrote. "The padding around the nose is great, the seal is perfect, and I most definitely recommend this purchase. [The] straps seem very strong and stretchable."
Shop now: $26 for 10; amazon.com
Kimberly-Clark NIOSH-Approved Professional N95 Mask
If you find tight masks bothersome, try this mask from Kimberly-Clark. It's constructed with a respirator-style pouch, which means it has an extra large breathing chamber for added comfort and easy air flow. It's also made with a bendable nose piece for a customizable fit, and special straps that are meant to be secured behind the head, rather than around the ears. "This 'duckbill' or 'pouch' N95 mask is a simple, brilliant design that folds flat," one customer wrote. "It conforms smoothly to the face, and the fabric feels soft. The bridge-of-nose wire is actually two parallel wires and molds well to the nose slope, preventing fog on eyeglasses."
Shop now: $58 for 50; amazon.com
Maskc KN95 Face Mask
Looking to stock up in style? Order this pack of 10 blush-colored KN95 face coverings from celebrity-loved brand Maskc. The three-dimensional respirator masks feature an adjustable nose bridge, a breathable build, and five-ply construction that keeps airborne droplets out. They're also made with comfort in mind, which shoppers find impressive. "I'm traveling and needed a better mask," one reviewer wrote. "I'm very pleased with the quality of these. They are very soft on the inside and comfortable to wear. I like the fact that the metal nosepiece doesn't show on the outside. I'm also wearing them at the gym lifting weights."
Shop now: $36 for 10; shopmaskc.com
Makrite NIOSH-Certified 9500-N95 Pre-Formed Cone Mask
This mask's star feature is its unique construction using low breathing resistance, which makes talking easy. It's also built with soft, synthetic polyester urethane foam on the outer side and a polypropylene meltblown fiber filter inside which protects against contaminants for up to eight hours. An adjustable aluminum nose piece prevents leakage and eyewear fogging for simple, worry-free wear. One reviewer raved that nothing gets through the mask when worn properly, writing, "I wore this mask on an airplane; when I lifted it briefly to take a sip of water, I was nearly overcome with the scent of perfume my neighbor had doused herself with. While wearing the mask, I couldn't smell it at all."
Shop now: $19 for 20; amazon.com
Evolvetogether Rio de Janeiro KN95 Mask
No matter what you're looking for in a mask, there's a good chance the Rio de Janeiro has it. The high-quality mask, which is a favorite among celebrities, is designed with 6-ply technology, double filtration, odor-reducing activated charcoal, and a streamlined profile for style. And beyond keeping viruses at bay, the mask is ideal for blocking increased air pollution and soothing intense allergies, too. A pack of these comes with five masks and a plant-based biodegradable pouch for mask storage when not in use. While it's technically not in stock right now, it is set to restock this month.
Shop now: $15 for 5; evolvetogether.com
DemeTech NIOSH-Approved N95 Respirator Face Mask
This respirator-style mask boasts five layers of protection which filters out more than 98 percent of airborne particles. Because it's also extremely comfy and breathable, shoppers can wear it for extended periods of time. Nearly 600 customers have given the masks a perfect rating on Amazon too, with one writing, "I wore this mask for 11 hours on a flight from Switzerland to the U.S. It fits very well, tight around the edges and chin. And you can see it move in a little when you inhale, indicating that air is going through the mask and not around it… I didn't have any straps break after wearing them during a three week trip to Europe."
Shop now: $65 for 20; amazon.com
Benehal N95 Mask Respirator
This durable mask could not be comfier or or more dependable, according to customers. It's gentle on the face and certified for at least 95 percent particulate filtration efficiency. The mask features a spacious breathing chamber, an adjustable foam nose piece, and four filtered layers. It even has double elastic head straps, which prove more comfortable and airtight than masks with ear straps. "One of the best N95 masks out of the many other brands that I have tried!" one reviewer wrote. "They are very well designed and quite comfortable. There are two elastic straps that secure the mask over the back of one's head. This, in my opinion, is far superior to the ear loop style straps that pull on your ears, eventually causing discomfort… Thank you for an absolutely superb product!"
Shop now: $70 for 20; amazon.com