UPDATE—January 5, 2022: Get ready to replenish your stockpile of disposable face masks. With both the omicron and delta variants of the coronavirus spreading fast, health officials are encouraging people to wear masks (especially N95 ones) in public indoor settings to curb the spike of new and breakthrough cases. Meaning, if you plan on being in a closed or crowded space (think airports, taxis, or grocery stores), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masking up to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Cloth face masks are a great reusable option for protecting yourself and others during the pandemic, but having a pack of disposables on deck is definitely clutch on days when you can’t find a fresh one or haven’t done the laundry. Whether you’re looking for a simple white mask or a medical-grade version in a chic print, shop 14 top-rated disposable face masks below.
ORIGINAL STORY—August 14, 2020: In ranking the most effective face coverings, researchers at Duke University recently found that disposable face masks, or three-ply surgical face masks, were the second most reliable option after fitted N95 or KN95 face masks. Washable, woven fabric face masks that cover your nose, chin, and mouth rank a close third at blocking airborne particles from floating through the air and reaching others, with neck gaiters and folded bandanas—while offering a comfortable fit—being seemingly worse than not wearing a face covering at all.
With the CDC’s recommendation to use a face mask when you’re unable to social distance, and many states considering reopening schools, we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw an upswing in demand for single-use face masks. Often sold in bulk packs of 25 and 50, they can be easily distributed to large groups of people.
After months of wearing face masks, we know that breathable cotton and silk options are more cost-effective over time—but with daily use, ear loops rip, nose wires warp, and fabric stains, sometimes all you want is something easy and effective. And keeping a reserve of protective face masks in your car, bag, or pocket can be a smart move when in a pinch. With so many top-rated options out there, there’s no excuse not to mask up. Shop seven of the best disposable face masks, below.