The Best KN95 and N95 Face Mask to Buy Right Now

As of present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people wear a mask “when there is a lot of COVID in your community.” But getting out precise data for case counts in your area is tough, says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. “Many people are testing themselves at home,” he points out, which implies that the official COVID-19 case count in your area is likely a “dramatic undercount.”

Omicron subvariant BA.5 has been producing a wave of COVID-19 infections and re-infections, and it’s believed to be “the most contagious COVID-19 variant we’ve encountered yet,” says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Luckily, you have options. While Dr. Russo points out that BA.5 seems to be able to circumvent some protection afforded by the COVID-19 vaccination, he observes that the vaccine is mainly still keeping people out of the hospital when they do get infected. Also, the CDC declared back in January 2022 that everyone can use N95 masks, which were previously confined to healthcare personnel due of supply chain difficulties.

How we chose the best N95 and KN95 masks?

We consulted Dr. Shaffner, Dr. Russo, and made sure these masks were certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (NIOSH).

What are N95 and KN95 masks, and what’s the difference?

N95 masks, which are considered the gold standard of face masks, are particulate respirators that filter out at least 95% of aerosols, according to the CDC. (Worth noting: There’s a subtype of N95 masks dubbed “surgical” N95 respirators. These give added protection against risks that may be present during medical operations like blood splatter, and should still be reserved for healthcare professionals, the CDC says.)

KN95 masks are the Chinese version of N95 masks, Dr. Russo notes. These are certified by the Chinese government and also filter out up to 95% of aerosols.

The key difference between these two masks is that N95s have to meet stricter requirements, including the ability to filter out bacteria and viruses, and be certified by NIOSH. Still, “N95 and KN95 respirators are pretty comparable,” says Dr. Schaffner.

1.3M Aura Particulate Respirator N95, 10-Pack

  • High level of protection
  • Reputable company
  • Comfortable fit

3M is one of the most respected names in N95 respirators, and it’s Aura masks are still in stock at Home Depot. This mask offers a lightweight, three-panel design with a metal nose bridge to assist you acquire a secure fit, no matter your facial shape. It also has headband-style elastics to relieve the pressure off your ears. The masks fold up for simple storage in your luggage or pocket.

2.3M 8210 Plus N95 Particulate Respirator, 20-Pack

Another superb N95 alternative from 3M, this respirator protects against solid and liquid pollutants that don’t contain oil. It has a soft internal foam surrounding the adjustable nose bridge for a comfortable fit and lightweight construction that makes it simple to wear.

What reviewers say: “3M knows what they are doing. The 8210 plus is very simple to breathe through and the straps are tight yet comfy. They are excellent for reusing. They are just very nice, especially if you have to wear something for a few hours or just going to the store.”

3.KN95 Respirator Face Masks (10 Pack)

Powecom’s KN95 mask also comes in a sleek black colour. This 10-pack comprises masks with plush ear loops that are comfortable enough to wear for hours. The mask comprises many layers of non-woven soft and breathable fibres and filters out at least 95% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns.

What reviewers say: “I tried a cheaper brand and they smelled like chemicals. I went back to Powecom and they are wonderful. No smell, fits perfectly, and offers good protection. As an R.N., I encourage anyone stock up on these—the pandemic is not done. A decent KN95 mask is your first line of defence after having your vaccine and boosters. It’s not worth taking a chance and suffering needlessly when you can protect yourself easily.”

4.HDX N95 Respirator Masks, 10-Pack

HDX’s N95 respirators provide a medium-to-large coverage, allowing for a decent fit for a wide range of facial sizes. A cupped shape keeps the mask off your face for easy breathing. Headband-style straps and a metal nose bridge enable for a tight fit.

What reviewers say: “Like that it was not over my ears like soooo many others. Give my ears a break people!!!”

5.Kimberly-Clark N95 Pouch Respirator, 50-Pack

Some N95 masks feature a “pouch” form, like this Kimberly-Clark model. It has a spacious chamber for easy breathing, combined with a metal nasal bridge and headband-style straps for a snug fit. Another plus of the pouch-style N95: It folds up effortlessly when it’s not in use.

What reviewers say: “I found these masks incredibly easy to put on, and I liked that they don’t dangle from your ears. They have a lovely soft touch, and fit firmly without biting into your face. I found breathing in them to be really comfortable, and I wore one for the entire day.”

6.WellBefore N95 Respirator\sIndividually wrapped\sAdjustable straps\sAffordable

Well Before’s N95 masks offer up adjustable headband straps to enable you obtain that just-right fit and eliminate gaps. It also provides a broad and tented shape, allowing you additional breathing space. A pleasant perk: They are individually wrapped, so you can toss one immediately into your luggage without worrying about lint.

What reviewers say: “I ordered the N95 masks and they are pretty wonderful. They are secure, fit nicely, adjustable, and pleasant. I’ve been able to keep one on for eight hours straight.”

7.Powecom 11 Pack KN95 Face Mask

Powecom’s KN95 masks have been fan-favorites on Amazon for months. These masks include four layers of protection, combined with a two-strap headband design for a snug fit. A metal nasal bridge allows you to effortlessly shape the mask to your face.

What reviewers say: “This mask feels very safe and high quality, not flimsy like many other masks out there, and it fits snugly to my face. I especially like that it does not fog up my glasses in colder temperatures. The particular rigid, pointed shape of the mask gives my mouth some extra breathing room which is nice.”

How to choose and buy an N95 and KN95 mask?

In a perfect world, you’d be able to snatch up a KN95 mask and know that it performs the way it says it does. But the CDC warns that up to 60% of KN95 masks on the market are counterfeit and do not work as well as they claim. “There are definitely counterfeits out there,” Dr. Schaffner says.

That’s where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes in. Earlier in the pandemic, the FDA issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for KN95 masks to allow healthcare professionals who couldn’t obtain N95s to use them and trust that they were real.

N95 masks, on the other hand, have to be NIOSH-approved, and the government agency has a list online that you can use to look up a mask you’re considering. Keep in mind, too, that if you buy a N95 mask from a reputable retailer, like Target, CVS, Home Depot, or Lowe’s, you can usually trust that it’s legitimate, Dr. Russo says.

Whether you choose a N95 or KN95 respirator, the CDC recommends that your mask forms a tight seal on your face. You’ll also want to take a pass on masks that have exhalation valves, vents, or other openings, as well as those that you feel like you can’t breathe well when you’re wearing them.

Also Read ABout How Stress Impacts Your Immune System