As the pandemic evolves, so do the face coverings we wear to protect ourselves and others from the spread of COVID-19. Experts now recommend doubling up cloth face masks or upgrading your go-to mask type to a more efficient option to increase safety, especially since new variants of the coronavirus are spreading.
While N95 masks should still be reserved for medical workers, you can buy KN95 masks if you're ready to step up your mask game. Reminder: N95 masks are as good as it gets when it comes to protecting the wearer and others (that's why medical professionals need them), but authentic KN95 masks come in at a close second, according to experts.
Vida, a brand that has been selling face masks since the early days of COVID-19, now offers KN95 masks—the Chinese equivalent of N95s, which filter out 95 percent of airborne particles. These masks have five-layer filtration systems made of non-woven fibers, in line with the CDC and WHO recommendations, and come in a variety of colors. They're designed to be worn for up to four hours in crowded areas, but they can be reused two to three times if you use them briefly and they remain undamaged.
Not only are these protective masks more readily available now than they were at the beginning of the pandemic, but Vida is making the single-use masks more sustainable, too. The brand created a recycling program for its KN95 masks, so instead of clipping the ear loops and tossing the face masks in the trash after each use, you can send them back to Vida to properly recycle them for you. This cuts down on the number of disposable masks that end up in landfills; a quick look around at any busy street, stretch of beach, or public trash can will confirm this number is quite a lot. According to Vida, as many as 129 billion disposable face masks are thrown away every month.
To buy: From $20; shopvida.com.
Here's how it works: Your Vida order will come in an envelope with a prepaid return label. Simply hang on to the original packaging, and when you're done with the used mask, stuff it in the envelope, place the return shipping label over the original one, and send it back.
I tried out the masks and was pleasantly surprised by how breathable they felt, despite their five layers of protection. Other shoppers agree that the masks are "comfortable" and "fit securely." One called it their "go-to mask" for the farmer's market and grocery store where crowds are common.
The masks have a malleable nose clip that makes breathing easy and keeps the material from sticking to your mouth, but because they're one-size-fits-all, some might find the fit to be a little loose. If that's the case, you can always buy an affordable face mask extender to customize the fit of any mask for greater security and comfort.
I'm keeping the original packing envelope in a safe place and depositing my used masks inside so I can send them back to be recycled once I've used them all. I love knowing that I'm increasing my protection against the spread of COVID-19 without contributing to the massive amount of waste caused by single-use face masks.
Order a pack for yourself to try them out today. Prices start at $20.