Picking the Right Face Mask

Choose Wisely to Protect You and Others
a masked man putting a face shield on his son

Although research is ongoing, the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are still frequent and thorough hand-washing, maintaining distance between yourself and anyone from outside your household, and wearing a face covering when you are out in public.

When Should You Wear a Mask?

“Because it’s possible to have coronavirus without showing symptoms, it is best to wear a face covering even if you think you are healthy,” says Lisa Maragakis, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins Medicine. “If you have COVID-19 and are not showing symptoms, a face mask reduces your chance of spreading the infection to others” when you talk, cough, or sneeze.

Choosing a Face Covering

What to Look For in a Good Mask

According to the CDC, when selecting a mask, look for one that:

  • has at least two layers of washable, breathable fabric
  • fits snugly against your face with no gaps
  • completely covers your mouth and nose

What to Avoid in a Face Covering

  • Face Shields and Gaiters

    The use of a face shield in place of a mask has not yet been proven effective for covid; the same is true for gaiters, which look like big, pull-up turtlenecks.

  • Knit Fabrics

    “You want fabric that doesn’t allow droplets to pass through while ensuring you can still breathe properly with your mask in place,” says Maragakis, who recommends holding the fabric up to light: The fewer tiny holes you see, the better the mask properties.

  • Bandanas

    While they may look cool, get your bandana-wearing bros to consider giving them up in favor of real masks. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that a bandana is the least effective at preventing the spread of droplets from sneezing and coughing.


“Bandanna is least effective form of face mask, study finds,” CNN, nbc12.com, Retr. 9/29/2020

“Coronavirus face masks & protection FAQs” reviewed by Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, Hopkins Medicine, Retr. 9/29/2020

“How to select, wear, and clean your mask,” Centers for Disease Control, cdc.gov, Retr. 9/29/2020


Nan Fornal

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