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In a world full of uncertainties (especially in this current health climate), one thing we know to be true is that cloth face coverings are here to stay—for the foreseeable future at least. Strongly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and mandated in some states, these masks are an effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially when worn universally.
Nothing against disposable face masks, but the market is flooded with reusable options that are stylish, comfortable, sustainable, and—most importantly—effective at reducing the spread of germs, so why not make the switch? To help you sort through the bevy of options, we asked our editors to share their absolute favorites.
Keep scrolling for the best cloth face masks worth investing in, according to our editors.
Slip Pure Silk Adult Pleated Face Covering
If your current mask is causing chin-area breakouts (also known as maskne), try switching to this 100% silk option from beloved brand Slip—available in Leopard, Black, and two Pink hues.
"When I spoke to my derm about a recent onslaught of breakouts around my chin and upper lip, she mentioned it could very well be from the friction of face masks rubbing against my skin," says Byrdie Associate Editor Holly Rhue. "I promptly switched to this silk mask and I couldn't be happier with the results. The silk material reduces friction between your skin and the mask (just like a silk pillowcase does for your hair and skin) and always feels soft and cool to the touch—a welcomed sensation during NYC summers."
Caraa 5 Universal Face Masks
At just $5 apiece, this face mask set is one you don't want to be without. You get five breathable, dual-layer masks with lightweight, adjustable ear hoops that won't cause discomfort like some of the thicker elastics. Most of the sets come in an assortment of colors, so you can pick and choose a mask based on your day's outfit.
Vida Protective Mask
Available in eight single shades, you won't find any funky prints or patterns on these masks. Simple yet chic, they're made with two layers of 100% cotton, adjustable straps, and an invisible metal nose piece for a snug fit. What we love most though is that they're equipped with a multi-layer PM2.5 filter that you don't have to buy separately—until you want to replace it, that is.
And for a limited time, you'll get two complimentary Made in California masks when you spend $70 or more with code GIFTMASKS.
When washing this mask, be sure to remove the filter first. The brand recommends replacing the filter every seven days.
Kalypso Harvey Love Your Skin Face Mask
Society6 is home to dozens upon dozens of reusable face masks with unique designs from talented artists including Kalypso Harvey, who uses her art to pay off student loans. This particular mask is crafted with a poly fabric, pleated front, and elastic ear loops. There's even an inner pocket where you can insert your own disposable filter.
INEX GEAR The Better Mask
This is one of the most comfortable cloth face masks I've tried, and that's saying a lot because I've tried more than I can count on two hands. In addition to the adjustable ear loops and soft feel, this mask boasts not one, not two, but three layers for the ultimate protection against germs and airborne contaminants. It fits snug to the face but not to the point of making you feel suffocated, which—after all of the masks I've tried—I can attest is no easy feat.
Baggu Reusable Masks
Byrdie Social Media Editor Star Donaldson says she always gets compliments when wearing these fabric masks from Baggu. Available in sets of three, each mask is made from 100% Organic Quilter’s Cotton, chosen specifically for its tight weave and thick thread.
Keep in mind that these masks do not loop around the ears, but rather tie around the head for a snug yet comfortable fit. They're secured in place with a nose wire, and you can insert a filter into the included pocket if you'd like to.
Leah Kirsch Pearl Tie Dye Mask
Byrdie Senior Editor Hallie Gould could wear these masks from Leah Kirsch all day long. "They are my absolute favorite," she says. "So comfortable." The masks themselves are 100% cotton which helps make them breathable and stretchy. Made in Los Angeles, each mask is hand-sewn and hand-dyed in six different colors. Oh, and you can also get a matching crop-top while you're at it—Hallie did. (Good luck choosing just one.)
Lisa Says Gah Knit Mask
Another Hallie Gould favorite, this one (also made in sunny Los Angeles) features a ribbed knit design and double-layered construction. The loops are soft and comfortable so as not to tug too hard against the ears. Bonus points for the ivory shade that matches everything.
Abacaxi Cotton Face Mask With Filter Pocket
Created by South Asian-American designer Sheena Sood, these masks are a bright and colorful addition to any wardrobe. In addition to the fun prints, they boast two layers of deadstock cotton and an inside pocket for a filter insert. Choose from four different sizes, including options for kids.
"I've really liked these printed masks I got from Abacaxi," says Byrdie Group Editorial Director Elspeth Velten. "The brand is Brooklyn-based and BIPOC-owned!"
Lirika Matoshi Daisy Face Mask
These masks are just the prettiest. Made to match the brand's signature dresses, these feature a 100% cotton inner lining and hand-sewn daisy embroidered flowers made of polyamide tulle. "I love the design of these!" says Byrdie Senior Social Media Manager Kelly Gallagher. "The one thing to note is that they are tie-on, not the over-ear kind."
Prefer sequins? Gallagher also loves the brand's Flower Sequin Face Mask which is just as much of a treat for the eyes.
EvolveTogether We Stand Together 7 Face Masks
Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue is simply obsessed with these face masks. "They're the only FDA-registered, consumer-facing medical-grade mask and also happen to be the most breathable, light, and comfortable masks I've tried," she says. "Plus, they come in 100% biodegradable packaging and donate to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Covenant House New York to protect Black Lives Matter protestors and homeless youth. They've already donated over 15,000 masks! What's not to love?"
Catherine Gee Reusable Silk Face Mask
These 100% silk exterior masks have some of the most stylish designs, from patterned hearts to polka dots and leopard print; it's no wonder that celebs like Molly Sims, Selma Blair, and Irina Shayk have been spotted out and about donning them.
You could throw this mask into your washing machine in a pinch, though hand-washing these beauties will preserve the delicate silk better.
Azazie Matte Satin Reusable Face Mask
Fancier than your average cotton mask, these satin beauties come in—count 'em—71 different colorways. There's blues, pinks, purples, you name it, so you won't be hard-pressed on finding one to match your outfits—that's for certain. They're also super affordable at just $5 apiece, and the adjustable ear loops ensure a secure fit for almost all face shapes and sizes.
What To Look For in a Cloth Face Mask
A Good Fit
Your face mask should completely cover your mouth and nose, so make sure your cloth mask is cut accordingly. When shopping online, look at photos of people wearing the mask in question to determine if the fit is correct.
Because the sizing on cloth masks can vary, adjustable elastic straps are great for ensuring that it fits snugly against your face.
A Filter Insert
The option to add a disposable filter within your cloth face mask helps to increase its efficacy as multiple layers are recommended to filter the air.
Are cloth face masks effective?
According to the CDC, cloth face masks may be slightly less effective than their medical, N95, or KN95 counterparts due to their filtration, but they can provide protection when used correctly. While it’s recommended that healthcare workers use a medical mask, cloth masks can certainly be used in community settings and should be washed regularly to decontaminate them.
How often should I wash my cloth face mask?
The CDC recommends that you wash your cloth mask daily after high exposure or whenever it becomes dirty or damp. No need to throw it in with your load of laundry—simply hand-washing your mask and allowing it to air-dry will do.
How often should the filters be replaced?
Just as you should wash your cloth mask daily, the CDC also recommends changing your filter daily or as often as every 12 hours if you’re in a high-exposure setting.
The majority of these reusable cloth face masks are not medical grade, nor do they claim to prevent or treat any viruses, including COVID-19. They are simply methods for reducing the spread of germs through face touching, coughs, sneezes, etc. For the best line of protection, it's important to practice social distancing and maintain good hygiene and handwashing routines, in addition to wearing personal protective gear like face masks.
Chughtai AA, Seale H, Macintyre C. Effectiveness of Cloth Masks for Protection Against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26(10):1-5. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2610.200948