Our editors independently selected these items because we think you will enjoy them and might like them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.
It's been almost a year since the Centers for Disease Control first advised people to start wearing face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Since then, we've become pretty accustomed to grabbing our go-to cloth or disposable masks before we head out the door.
But as new research and guidance is released, we're finding that not all masks are created equal. A recent study from the CDC revealed that improving the fit of your mask, by either knotting the ear loops of a medical procedure mask or wearing a cloth mask over a disposable one can significantly reduce your risk of exposure to the virus. The latter practice, which has been dubbed double masking, can be a helpful extra step in protecting yourself and others.
Why double mask?
How effective your mask is depends on the fit and the quality of the material, said Dr. Krystal Pollitt, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health. "Adding more layers to the mask will improve filtration (and) this can be achieved by wearing two masks."
Think of it as a net for the virus, added Dr. David Dowdy, an epidemiologist and associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Each 'net' still has holes in it, but if you line two up on top of each other, there are fewer ways to get through both 'nets' altogether."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, previously told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY, that wearing a surgical mask under a cloth mask is one way to get a better fit and minimize air leakage.
How to double mask
You can either wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask or wear two cloth masks together, said Dr. Pollitt. Though Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California San Francisco, told Shop TODAY that she exclusively recommends pairing a cloth and surgical mask when doubling up.
According to the CDC, you should never double up on medical masks, and KN95s should not be combined with any other type of mask.
When double masking, it's important to think about the fit, said Pollitt. Because layering masks adds more resistance when breathing, if there are any gaps, more air will leak out. One way to test your mask is by putting on a pair of glasses. If they fog up, your mask has a gap in the nose area, Pollitt said, and it doesn't fit properly.
When to double mask
It's only recommended that you double-mask in certain situations, said Gandhi. In areas where there is more ventilation, your mask can be less fitted, she said. So, for example, if you're taking a walk outdoors, a single cloth or disposable mask will do. If you're medically high-risk or you're in a location where distancing measures and ventilation are lacking, like at the grocery store, you might want to consider double masking.
For children, who tend to be lower-risk, it's not recommended that they wear two masks, Gandhi said. As many parents know, getting a kid to wear just one mask can be a hard enough task to accomplish.
"I am cautious about recommending kids to wear a second mask," Pollitt added. "I would rather focus (on them) wearing one mask properly and select a mask made from materials that offer high filtration."
Bestselling disposable face masks
These disposable masks feature three layers, for optimal base layer protection. They also have a nose clip, which will help keep air from escaping at the top.
These bestselling, simple black masks will pair well with any patterned cloth mask. Like the above masks, each one features three layers and a nose clip, so you'll feel well protected.
You can choose between a variety of design and color options for this celeb-loved disposable face mask brand. Sport the coordinates of New York on a white mask or wear their classic Milan four-ply black mask. According to the brand, each mask is registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is certified medical-grade by the testing laboratory, SGS.
Maskc, another celebrity-loved brand offers a range of disposable face masks. These ones feature two soft, skin-friendly inner layers that are breathable and moisture-proof for ultimate comfort. Each pack comes with 10 masks.
Bestselling cloth face masks
Everlane's popular reusable masks are not only super fashionable, they also give back to a worthy cause. For every purchase made, the brand will donate 10 percent of proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union. Each pack comes with five color options, from neutrals to a range of colorful tie-dyed pastels, so you'll always have one to match your outfit.
Gap is known for its affordable closet staples, including its bestselling reusable masks. The three-pack features a variety of colors and patterns of three-layer cotton coverings. The best part? They're on sale right now, so you can grab a pack for as little as $2.99.
Grab a Vera Bradley mask in one of the brand's signature vibrant patterns. Each one has adjustable ear straps, so you can customize the fit, depending on the size of the disposable mask you're wearing underneath.
If a single face mask already irritates your ears, you might want to opt for one that ties behind your head when doubling up. Grab this five-pack of basic black masks from Reformation or choose one of the brand's strappy masks in a fun color or pattern.
Made with three layers of fabric and adjustable ear straps, this mask will quickly become one of your go-tos. It has more than 10,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, with reviewers saying that it's both comfortable and breathable.
For more stories like this, check out:
- How to choose the best face mask filter, according to experts
- Need a disposable mask? Here's how to choose one, according to experts
- 21 best face masks: Gap, Athleta, Old Navy and more
- Keep warm with these 9 cozy face masks