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Yes, it's possible to have an easy conversation while wearing a facial covering. After a year and a half of muffled conversations and covered faces, masks with clear windows that let you read a person's lips are more readily available than ever before.
We've learned a lot about how to shop for cloth face masks, but clear face masks remain uncharted territory for many of us. With this in mind, Shop TODAY reached out to medical experts to find out how to shop for one.
Why are clear masks important?
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing and often rely on reading lips to communicate, face masks that cover the mouth can be a challenging and frustrating barrier.
"Wearing a mask is one of the recommended strategies to mitigate the current global pandemic. Unfortunately, covering the bottom part of one’s face and mouth makes communication more difficult, especially for persons who are hearing impaired or older adults," said Dr. Ruth L. Bush, associate dean of medical education and a professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine.
Even those who aren't hard of hearing can find communicating while wearing a cloth face mask difficult, especially since you can't see facial expressions.
"A major part of the connection that we make with others depends on our facial expressions. Facial expressions are universal — a smile is a smile in every culture and language," said Ife Rodney, MD, founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, Maryland. "Clear face masks make it possible for us to communicate more effectively and maintain that human connection, while still practicing the protective measures necessary during this global pandemic."
How to shop for clear face masks
Similar to cotton masks, clear masks form a barrier that can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The plastic used to create the clear window in these masks is a pretty solid material choice, according to the medical experts Shop TODAY interviewed.
"Masks that are transparent may be as effective as cloth masks and might even be more effective since durable synthetic materials (plastics for example) provide strong barriers to respiratory droplet dispersal," said Dr. David M. Aronoff, director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Division of Infectious Diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also stated that clear face masks are a suitable alternative for those who rely on lip reading. However, you should prioritize finding a face covering you can breathe easily in and make sure that excess moisture doesn't build up.
While shopping for a clear face mask, there are a few ways to determine if you've found a quality one.
- Make sure it's tightly sewn: "The safety of plastic masks depends on how tightly the plastic is sewn into the surrounding fabric and how well it creates contact with your face, which will determine if respiratory droplets can pass through," said Dr. Nate Favini, medical lead of primary care practice Forward.
- Cover your bases: "Consumers should look for clear masks or face coverings that cover both the nose and mouth and, like cloth face coverings, fit well under the chin," Aronoff said.
- Look for a nose rest: "Because plastic is a stiffer material than cloth, it does not easily bend to fit your face's contour, so having a built-in nose rest will help the clear mask stay properly positioned on your face," Rodney said.
Below, we rounded up several clear face masks that fit the criteria mentioned by the medical experts we've interviewed.
Best clear face masks
According to the brand, this mask features anti-fog technology that keeps the screen clear, so you won't have to worry about condensation hiding your face. It features adjustable straps, as well as a chin and nose support, for extra coverage.
Many clear face masks come with fabric sewn around the side, but this 100% transparent one lets you show off your whole face while staying safe. The vinyl material is also pretty easy to wash by hand, and the mask has quickly become an Etsy bestseller. "It feels great to have a mask that fits well and can blend on my face instead of blocking my expressions!" one happy customer wrote.
Grab a clear face mask for every weekday with this five-piece set. The lightweight unisex mask can also be adjusted at the nose for a more customized fit.
Two layers of fabric and one layer of PVC shield make this clear face mask ideal for anyone who needs to clearly communicate without compromising on safety. "Great construction, beautiful sewing! I'm currently an ASL interpreting student, so this is very important for me," one reviewer wrote.
Part of finding the right mask for you is experimenting with different varieties. Luckily, this unisex two-pack is pretty affordable, so you can give clear face masks a try without breaking your budget.
Whether you're a fan of gingham or love a bold bandanna print, this set of two transparent face masks comes in a range of patterns to suit your every mood. The clear window shows off your entire mouth, so communicating is made easy.
Having a hard time convincing your kids to wear a mask? Available in a wide range of colorful, playful designs, these clear face masks from Etsy are perfect for heading back to school.
You can really never go wrong with florals, and this transparent mask comes in a variety of sweet options — though there's also plenty of solid colors if you're a minimalist. Customers call this transparent mask "super soft" and "beautifully constructed".
Need to infuse a bit of variety into your face mask routine? This Etsy bestseller comes in several nature-inspired designs and snugly covers both your nose and mouth. One enthusiastic shopper who rated this a perfect five stars also said, "In my life I often am involved with special needs individuals and this mask helped because they could truly SEE my facial expressions!"
For more stories like this, check out:
- This teacher went viral for discovering this face mask accessory — here’s what experts think
- 35 face masks that are perfect for the new school year
- How to choose the best face mask filter, according to experts
This article was originally published Aug. 27, 2020.