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Depending on where you’re living in the world, you may be heading into the glasses-fogging, warm and stuffy masking season of winter, or the sweat-dripping masking spring season. Either way, there’s no need to subject yourself to mask torture to feel like you’re staying protected. Yes, breathable face masks do exist, and they’ll keep you safe through any season.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends wearing face masks for protection against Covid-19. Furthermore, the CDC says that your reusable face mask should be made from “two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric,” and cloth masks should block the light when held up to a light source. Disposable masks might feel more comfortable to you, but you should still create a tight seal with a nose wire or knot the ear loops to eliminate any gaps.
Of course, the mask market is flooded these days with heavy-duty winter masks meant to keep you warm (but can leave you feeling like you’re breathing through a blanket), and lightweight face masks for sports that feel almost suspiciously breathable. Unvaccinated folks and children above the age of 2 will still have to keep masking up indoors and in public spaces for the time being, so comfortability is key here.
With that being said, everyone deserves to breathe easy in their face masks, so continue below for our guide on to the most lightweight (yet effective) face coverings to keep the airflow, and not the germs, coming.
What Are the Most Breathable Face Masks?
From activewear-inspired picks to soft, reusable face covers you won’t want to tear off after hours of wear, here’s what to look for when shopping for the best breathable face masks, along with some recommendations to consider.
Mask Material: A wide variety of fabrics will afford you maximum breathability, but the CDC recommends tightly-woven materials like cotton, or others with high thread count like merino wool and microfiber. Not only are these highly-breathable, they’re also highly effective. Athletic fabrics like spandex are also great for sweaty situations like workouts or hotter climates, but you’ll probably have to layer up.
Layers: As we mentioned above, the CDC says your face masks should still have at least two layers of fabric to get adequate protection to defend yourself and protect others from Covid-19, and especially the Delta variant. While you can always double-mask up, we’ve gone ahead and only included two-layered or more masks in this guide to make things easy.
Fit: This may seem counterintuitive to breathability, but the best face mask is any mask that covers your mouth, seals around your nose and the side of your cheeks, and fits comfortably enough that you won’t be making constant readjustments. Even for lightweight masks, make sure the fit is secure first and foremost.
Light Test: To tell if your mask is both breathable and effective, hold it up to the light — if you can see light streaming in between the fibers, the weave of the fabric is too loose, and you’ll need to layer up.
1. BlueBear ProSport Nanotec Mask
Not only was this mask made to be hypoallergenic and easy on the skin, it’s one of the most breathable masks we’ve tried that didn’t leave us feeling suffocated after layovers at the airport and day-long shopping trips wearing it.
You’ll breathe a little easier too, knowing that their replaceable Nanotec Filters comes with not two, but three layers of protection that lasts up to 12 hours at a time. They start at $9.99 and come in a 10-pack, so you can stock up for longer trips or for an entire season.
What we like about this mask is that you’ll get protection from the adjustable ear loops, with a sleek, contoured design that doesn’t require a clunky mask brace. The ProSport mask comes in Adult and Kid sizes, and the mask is made from soft, washable cotton.
2. är Face Mask
One of our editors’ favorite picks, this lightweight and silky-smooth är mask is great if you want a breathable mask, but don’t want to deal with all the inevitable sweat and spit build-up (gross, but we have to say it).
The three-layer nanofilter is just what we like to see in reusable face masks, and even through particularly humid climates, you won’t have to replace it until after 40 hours of active use or two weeks. Bonus: the replaceable filters also come with their own nose wire, so you’ll get a more secure fit. The additional filters are available here, and come in multipacks that start at just $11.90.
For breathability through the sweat, the mask is made from a water repellent fabric and then treated with “ViralOff”, a self-cleaning technology. But you better act fast — at this time, you can use the promo code SUMMER at checkout for a 50 percent discount.
3. NxTSTOP Travleisure Face Mask
Unlike most reusable face masks that either go for a standard cotton blend, or synthetic-feeling polyester, NxTSTOP’s mask is made from a dual layer of cooling bamboo and spandex, for an exceptional breathability and an ultra-soft feel against the face.
This was also made to be the ultimate traveler (and commuter)’s face mask — small, foldable and wrinkle-free. It’s functional enough to keep you breathing comfortably on the bus or the train, or for more professional meetings. The tight-knit construction and that double fabric layer also helps create an enhanced barrier against small particles.
The bamboo fibers also have the added bonus of being odor-resistant, and will stay soft even after multiple washes in the washing machine. Adjustable ear loops and an added nose are just the cherry on top.
4. Under Armour Sportsmask
We’ve said it time and time again — the Sportsmask was designed to withstand hot temps and heavy-duty workouts, and it absolutely delivers when it comes to breathability. Though you don’t have to be an athlete to wear it, it’s designed to be “worn all day” by anyone, thanks to an open-cell foam that lets air through, but makes it hard for moisture and sweat to pass.
Anyone who’s going back to a gym in-person will want a tightly-fitted mask, and you won’t have to worry about your performance suffering due to slippage here. it’s built so the masks sits up off the face and lips for added breathing room. Besides being one of the most breathable masks out there, the fabric is soft and smooth, even through long runs and heavy HIIT workouts.
The “Iso-Chill” fabric will also give you that “aah” factor you’re looking for, to chill you out and keep you on your game.
5. EnerPlex 3-Ply Reusable Face Mask
A snug fit, combined with breathable fabric makes the EnerPlex our recommendation for your next everyday mask. Hundreds of thousands of ratings on Amazon prove that this is a real winner when it comes to using quality, lightweight fabrics and a unique size system.
Just like you’d want to know your sizing for a pair of shoes, or jeans, wouldn’t you want to know your sizing to get the best mask fit possible? EnerPlex developed a sizing chart for Youth, Medium/Large, and Extra Large masks, which includes the measurement from the bridge of your nose, to the bottom of chin. This means that you don’t have to think about about adding mask extenders, or an additional nose wire.
Three super-soft layers include a a “NanoFine” cotton layer, which makes the mask both water resistant and breathable. This is a mask you’ll want if your job involves a lot of talking, or if you know you’re going to sweat up a storm.
6. Henry Mask
The unique origami-style shape of the Henry Mask keeps it off your nose and face, while still being snug and sealed-in at the sides. Made from three layers of reusable, washable, polypropylene (run under some soap and water and hang or lay flat to dry), the mask holds up to long hours on the plane or outdoor events. With two ear straps and a neck strap, there are multiple ways to wear the mask. The triangular fold at the top of the mask slots easily over your nose without needing to adjust an annoying or uncomfortable nose wire.