The Best N95 And KN95 Face Masks To Wear For COVID Variants

COVID cases are on the rise again, just in time for back-to-school. If you're out of face masks, it might be time to grab a few.

For a while, many people in the U.S. haven’t been worried too much about COVID. The coronavirus looks like it might have other ideas.

Recently, a new subvariant called EG.5 has been circulating right as back-to-school season begins. The strain, also called Eris, is part of the XBB types that stem from the original omicron variant; EG.5, along with the XBB subvariants, has been responsible for an increase in cases around the country. Depending on your situation, it may be important to protect yourself in as many ways as possible, including having tests on hand, avoiding crowds, getting a vaccination booster, considering using or building an air purifier and wearing the best mask you can when you’re in higher-risk situations.

This might include styles like snug-fitting surgical masks or KN95, KF94 and N95 masks, which are no longer prioritized for health workers. Studies have shown that N95 masks filter out small particles in the air most effectively, followed by surgical masks, and both are better than cloth. KN95s are the Chinese version of the American N95 while the KF94 is the Republic of Korea’s equivalent, and both have at times been more available to buy during the pandemic than N95s.

It’s important to know how to spot a counterfeit face mask while you’re shopping. Meanwhile, check out these solid options that are either highly recommended by reviewers or carry specific agency approvals.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected. Prices and availability are subject to change.

An N95 with an antiviral and antibacterial layer
These N95 masks were tested and certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for filtering out at least 95% of airborne particles (you can verify this in the NIOSH database, where they are listed under the name of parent company Innonix). They also have a layer with antiviral technology that reportedly inactivates particles like flu viruses within minutes. Amazon is one of the company's official distributors, and they offer the masks in both medium and large sizes — the latter being a great option for people with beards.
An N95 from a trusted U.S. brand
3M's Aura model is a lightweight, comfortable three-paneled NIOSH-approved N95. It has two secure head straps and a clever chin tab that helps you get it into the right position and keep it there.
Powecom KN95 masks in black or white
These KN95 masks carry a 4.5 rating on Amazon, with thousands of customers weighing in across a variety of sellers (here we picked the seller Bona Fide Masks, an official distributor of many important KN95 and KF95 masks). They have elastic ear loops and an adjustable nose bridge, and, according the manufacturer, fit small and medium adult faces.
The same mask, but with headband-style loops
Sometimes your ears can use a break. If yours are too tender or floppy to keep a mask snug against your face, try this style that wraps around your head for a secure fit. They're available from Amazon via Bona Fide Masks, which is the brand's official importer and distributor, according to the New York Times.
And the same mask, again, but sized for kids
These child-sized masks come with an anti-fake sticker that can be used to verify authenticity. They're 15% smaller than the standard Powecom masks to fit small faces and are sold in white, blue, pink, yellow and black.
A soft KN95 with adjustable ear straps or head straps (and in three sizes, too!)
WellBefore's KN95 comes in three sizes for most types of faces, as well as with adjustable ear straps or adjustable head straps and in many colors or patterns. So many options! This 5-layer mask has a smooth texture for comfort. You can order as many as you like, with a minimum of 10.
5-ply KN95 masks in white, black and assorted colors
These disposable KN95 masks have more than 52,000 five-star reviews on Amazon and come in black, white and color options including blue, green, yellow and red. The bendable nose piece helps fit the mask securely against your face.
The same comfy foldable mask in a pack of mixed colors
This 50-piece bundle of KN95 masks has all the same features as the mask above, but comes with 10 each in pink, blue, grey, red and purple or 10 each in grey, red, purple, black and white. (Could make a great gift for teachers!)
Surgical masks with ASTM level 3 filtration
Prefer the style of procedural masks or like using them as filters under cloth? This pack of 50 three-layer masks from Demetech are ASTM level 3, the highest filtration level for surgical-style masks.
Duck-style N95 masks from Kimberly-Clark
If you feel better buying from a brand you're familiar with, these Kimberly-Clark pouch-style masks are available on Amazon in both regular and small sizes. Although they aren't intended for medical use, they are NIOSH-approved N95 masks with a 95% filtration efficiency.
Bona Fide Masks
Harley's KN95 mask in black
Harley promises this mask is made for "better breathability" while still offering filtration efficiency better than 95%.
A NIOSH-Approved N99 with adjustable head straps
These four-layer cup-style N99s fit regular and large faces best, and come with adjustable head straps for a great fit in white or black. You can order as many as you like, with a minimum of 10.

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