Like so many others, when the Centers for Disease Control began recommending everyone wear face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, I turned to makeshift face coverings fashioned with scarves and hair ties before upgrading to hand-sewn masks from my roommate’s mom. But when reusable face masks became more widely available, thanks to existing brands quickly pivoting their resources to help meet the new demand for cloth face coverings, my position as a shopping writer allowed me the privilege to research and test out a wide variety of them.
Countless brands sent me samples, and I bought a few to try out for myself. Over the course of the last eight months, I’ve accumulated an admittedly excessive collection of face masks to use on my infrequent outings, but there are a select few that I always grab first. Much like my favorite underwear, these masks are typically the first ones I use after doing a load of laundry. I look forward to having them back in my rotation because of their comfort, style, and effectiveness.
Ahead, take a look at the six best reusable face masks I’ve tested this year. They all meet the CDC recommendations for effective face coverings, and each stands out for a different reason.
Working out in a face mask is a challenge, but of all of the masks I’ve tried, this one is the most comfortable to wear while exercising. It has three layers: a woven nano outer shell, an antibacterial cloud filter, and a cotton inner layer. The latest version of the mask includes adjustable ear straps and a structured nose clip for a custom fit. Because the nose clip maintains space between your nose and the fabric, it’s much easier to breath in while working out than some other options. I even wear mine while running and biking outdoors.
Los Angeles-based accessories brand Graf Lantz added organic cotton face masks to its inventory this year. It has three different styles available, but I tried the Zenbu, a reusable mask with adjustable ear straps and a unique structured design that keeps the fabric from laying flat against your face. In other words, if you’re hoping to find a mask that won’t mess up your lip gloss, this is about as good as it gets. It’s made of two layers of tightly woven cotton with room to add your own filter for extra protection, and it has a metal noseband for easy breathing and a sealed fit.
When Althleta announced it was launching breathable face masks earlier this year, I knew I had to give them a try. I pre-ordered a pack before they were even available, and I’m glad I did. The adjustable straps, wire nosepiece, and flexible boning in the center of the mask allow for a seamless fit. The masks also come with a head strap to really keep the mask in place, but it’s entirely optional. Additionally, the masks are made of two layers of polyester and spandex material for an athletic feel. An inner mesh layer creates an airy feel against the skin, promoting easy breathing, and a hidden pocket allows you to insert a filter if desired.
Despite almost exclusively leaving my apartment for grocery store runs and outdoor workouts, every once in a while, I still want to look stylish. When that urge strikes, I grab one of my BaubleBar masks. The popular jewelry brand offers soft cotton masks with adjustable ear loops in a variety of cute designs, from embroidered flowers to gingham prints. They’re not exactly useful for working out, but they’re great for running errands or having a socially distant meetup with friends.
Knix specializes in leak-proof underwear, so it was only a matter of time before the brand launched a reusable face mask made with the same hygienic fabric it uses for its other products. The newly released masks are made of three layers of technical material designed to block liquid, dust, and aerosol particles, and they effectively filter out 99.9 percent of bacteria. They also passed the American Society for Testing and Materials level three testing for mask efficiency, which is one of the reasons why I trusted this mask on my first subway ride in months.
This mask was designed in collaboration with an Academy Award-nominated costume designer. Not only does it have technologically advanced features, like a nanofiber filter, antimicrobial treated fabrics, and a tight-fitting chin cup, but it also offers a scalloped nose bridge that allows more of your facial expressions to be visible. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the mask, and it’s why I wear it when I know I’ll be interacting with people, so they can tell when I’m laughing or smiling. It also has adjustable ear loops and a moldable nose bridge for a comfortably sealed fit.