According to a Harvard University study, Americans might need to practice social distancing measures until 2022. This includes avoiding larger crowds, limiting business operations, and wearing masks. While that’s unfortunate news, it does underscore the need for understanding how to pick the right protective face mask. 

We’ll all be using masks for quite some time, so we might as well understand the ins and outs and know how to pick the right masks that offer the best protection. Here are five things to know before purchasing and wearing a mask for optimal comfort and security:

Breathability Matters

The optimal mask enables you to breathe without strain while also providing you with the necessary protection from COVID-19. Find a reputable mask manufacturer that uses multi-layer construction but also picks the right mix of fabrics for breathability, even when used during exercise. Avoid using single-layer masks that might feel like they aren’t filtering your breath at all, because they aren’t doing enough to trap viral particles. 

How Does it Hold Up to Washing?

Sturdy reusable masks are also much more environmentally sound than disposable masks. Increased pollution from disposable mask waste is a global problem, which can see significant reductions when replaced with quality washable masks. Reusable cloth face masks are an ecological sensitive option that provide protection and the opportunity to make a fashion statement. Pick masks that hold up well to machine washing on warm water settings. Consider using fragrance-free detergent to avoid potentially uncomfortable smells from the masks. Place wet masks into the dryer at high heat or allow them to air dry. Wash masks after every usage and establish a routine for separating your “clean and dirty” mask piles. 

How much protection does it provide?

CDC guidelines recommend using masks with two or more layers to block as many particles as possible. Top-tier mask providers will offer three or more layered construction, with polyester and cotton blends that protect against shrinking and offer above 99% protection. 

Boomer Naturals, the premier technical mask and gaiter provider for CVS, offers a wide variety of masks for adults and children, available in various sizes. The company’s masks feature three different layers and are infused with nano-silver fibers to repel germs and viruses, offering more enhanced protection than simple cloth masks. In fact, Boomer Naturals masks are 99.99% antimicrobial, while most fashion masks only block 5% of airborne particles. Multiple styles and colors are available, from solid blue and black colors that are ideal for the workplace or business meetings, as well as strikingly colorful designs for everyday use or socially distanced gatherings. 

Can I wear glasses with the mask?

Glasses wearers experience many “foggy days” when wearing poorly constructed masks. Pick a mask with an adjustable nose clip to limit the amount of warm expelled breath that hits the lenses. You can also use soap and water to wash your lenses, which greatly reduces the fogging affect. Also get your glasses to push down a little on the mask, which helps with a tighter seal and less fog.

Will the mask fit?

Try on different masks to identify how they fit while you are at rest and in motion. Some masks “poof out” on the sides, so find one with zero air gaps between your skin and the outside air. Adjustable masks allow you to fit the ear loops to your own comfort level, while still providing a snug fit for the needed protection. Masks should fit securely, but they should not chafe your skin. If you are using a mask with non-adjustable ear loops and it’s overly tight, you can use strap extenders for a more comfortable fit. 

Some mask companies offer various sized masks, with different proportions in both height and width. You want to be certain the mask extends past the bottom of your chin, otherwise it will rise frequently and potentially expose you to more outside air. 

Bonus tip: Research suggests COVID-19 often infiltrates the body through the nose. So, when wearing a mask make sure it fully covers the nose and mouth, not just the mouth. And be sure it’s not functioning as the dreaded “chin strap.”