Editor’s note: As we will report below, experts agree that face masks do not replace or relieve the need to wash your hands and social distance, and absolutely do not alone prevent the spread of Covid-19.
It's been months since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to wear face masks while in public to minimize the spread of Covid-19. In response, many popular retailers turned to creating and selling their own branded cloth face coverings to the public, including Disney — think face masks sporting images of Cinderella and the Incredible Hulk — Vistaprint and more. They join the ranks of many brands who’ve been pivoting not only to creating and selling their own versions of the face mask, but also committing some portion of products or profits to coronavirus relief efforts.
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The majority of these larger retailers are likewise both selling face masks and donating some portion of their proceeds (or products) to relief efforts, from nonprofits on the frontlines to region-specific hospitals and essential workers. And as wearing face coverings has become the norm, popular brands are creating masks in a number of designs, as well as planning ahead to add to their lineup. When we first published this article in May, a Gap Inc. spokesperson told us the company plans to keep offering masks “in the long term” — it has since launched new colors and patterns in addition to the existing dozens and dozens of face mask options from Gap brands like Old Navy, Banana Republic, Intermix and Athleta. Aside from everyday styles of face masks, some brands are offering masks centering around notable events such as the election, as well as festive options for Halloween and Christmas.
As all 50 states have begun to reopen to some extent, finding a face mask you and your family will wear — and that is effective — is increasingly significant. If you’re shopping for your own face mask, you might be wondering how to shop for them and which retailers are even offering face masks right now, as well as what they look like and what options they’ve got, from adjustable sizing to face masks for kids. To help guide you to the right face mask for you, we consulted experts on how to go about finding the right face covering for your needs and previously published a comprehensive guide to shopping for face masks.
Popular retailers offering face masks
As we noted above, there are many popular retailers making and selling face masks online. If you're shopping for your own face mask, we've compiled recent releases from major companies to help you find some familiar brands. We filtered the choices below further to only those face masks whose listed features and materials adhere to the CDC's criteria.
The Under Armour SportsMask is made of two layers, including a nylon-spandex inner layer and a 100-percent polyester, antimicrobial outer layer. The mask features UA Iso-Chill technology to disperse heat and keep you cool while working out. It's available in five sizes and six colors, such as Midnight Navy and Red. There's also a Project Rock SportsMask, part of the Project Rock collection (in collaboration with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).
These Bonobos face masks come in sets of three and are made of two layers of woven fabric. They include a slot for a filter, over-the-head elastic straps and a wire at the nose for a secured fit. The masks are available in multiple colors and patterns, including Pink Multi and Red Check Floral.
Disney is selling washable cloth masks individually, as well as in packs of two and four. The masks come in dozens of designs, including Star Wars characters, Pixar inspired designs and Marvel characters. The company is also donating one million face masks to families in vulnerable areas across the country, and has donated an additional $1 million in profits to MedShare, a nonprofit supporting healthcare workers.
Old Navy is selling cloth masks in packs of three, five and 10 for kids and adults. They come in over 25 different colors and patterns, including colorful Dots and Plaid Tidings. The masks are 100-percent cotton, made entirely from excess fabric used in their factories and machine washable. The company said they plan to donate 50,000 masks to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and, additionally, supply face masks to health care workers.
Banana Republic is offering washable masks made from a blend of polyester, nylon and spandex for both kids and adults. They're sold individually, as well as in packs of two, three and five and feature a variety of styles, including the new True Hues collection. The retailer is donating $10 for every face mask purchased to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, a nonprofit supporting kids and families in need.
These simple, monochrome masks come in packs of three and are made out of three layers of cotton, from leftover clothing scraps. The mask allows for an individual filter, like a HEPA filter, to be inserted into the mask. Madewell also offers masks in a variety of styles, including Sunfaded Indigo and Leopard/Hickory. In addition, Madewell and J.Crew have donated 75,000 single-use face masks to Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
Anthropologie is selling machine-washable, cotton face masks in a variety of patterns and colors. They are sold individually, as well as in sets of two, three and five. Additionally, there are masks sold with matching headbands and ones made of silk. Each mask comes with an adjustable metal nose bridge for a more snug and comfortable fit.
These Vera Bradley masks are made up of two layers of 100-percent cotton and are sold individually or in packs of two. They are machine washable, come with adjustable straps and include over 25 designs such as Merry Mischief and Enchanted Garden. Through July 2020, Vera Bradley donated five percent of mask sales to the Coronavirus Response Fund for Nurses.
While DIY masks are certainly popular, Etsy has cultivated a number of sellers making and selling non-medical face masks. The online retail marketplace has since rounded up those shops with quality options and fast shipping. They are also prohibiting sellers from making medical claims, selling mass-produced masks or price-gouging. Since the marketplace includes multiple sellers, keep an eye out for masks that follow the CDC’s guidelines we summarize below.
The athletic brand is selling packs of five reusable masks, made with their signature Textured Compression material. The company donated $125,000 from their first batch of mask sales to Direct Relief, a nonprofit providing personal protective equipment and essential medical items to health workers. Likewise, the retailer committed to donating 100 percent of proceeds of the second batch, introduced on July 5, to ACLU’s COVID-19 efforts that supports underprivileged communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
These face masks include three layers, antimicrobial technology and are offered individually or in packs of two and three. They're available in a variety designs, including VOTE and Halloween-themed options. There's also a mask for Breast Cancer Awareness month, in which 25 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. According to the company, WestPoint has donated over two-million masks to frontline and essential workers.
Vistaprint face masks are no stranger to NBC News Shopping. The brand offers over 50 designs, including Flowers Fall and Plaid Buffalo, and are available for both kids and adults. Plus, there are lots of collections to browse such as collaborations with artists, options that ship fast and customizable ones. You can also find themed masks for events such as the 2020 Election.
The popular denim retailer is selling packs of five pleated cotton masks. The masks are machine-washable and come in different patterns. For each pack of masks sold, Lucky Brand is donating to one of their community partners: The Shower of Hope, Project Ropa, The People Concern, Delivering Good, and Urban Alchemy.
The online marketplace is selling machine-washable face masks in packs of two, four and five. They are made from two layers of cotton and feature a variety of colors and patterns, including Chiapas and Indigo Blues. You'll also find face mask related items such as a mask rack for easy storing and a necklace to hold your mask when it's not in use. Uncommon Goods says it donated more than $22,000 to NYC Health + Hospitals from April 2020 through July 2020. Now, the brand says it's donating 100 percent of profits from the rainbow collection to Americares.
How to shop for the best face masks
There are some important things to keep in mind while shopping for masks, which we detail in our guide to buying face masks. In short, the CDC has outlined five criteria to keep in mind:
- Face masks should fit snugly and comfortably
- They must be secured with ties or ear loops
- They should comprise multiple fabric layers
- You should be able to breathe without restriction while wearing the face mask
- You should be able to wash the face masks without causing damage or losing the face mask’s shape
In addition to the above requirements, the CDC has since issued updated guidance focusing on exhalation valves. According to the CDC website, "masks with exhalation valves or vents should NOT be worn to help prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading Covid-19 to others.” Wearing masks with one-way valves can lead to expelled respiratory droplets and unsuccessfully preventing the person from spreading Coivd-19 to others.
Overall, consumers shopping for masks should pay attention to the effectiveness of a face mask’s filtration and how breathable its materials are, says Chunhuei Chi, MPH, a professor of global health and health management and policy at the University of Oregon. “Unfortunately, these two factors work against each other. The best filtration materials are very difficult to breath [through],” he said. “Therefore, you have to weigh the balance of these two factors to find the best possible mask.”
Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Scott Segal, whom we consulted for our face mask buying guide, advised to look out for fabric quality when shopping. He recently led a peer-reviewed study that tested the effectiveness of different fabrics in filtering out particles. The most effective design, he said, was a dual-layer mask which included both a heavyweight cotton layer and a lighter cotton or silk layer.
“Some of these cloth items being sold are focused only on the decorative or artistic aspect,” Segal previously told NBC News. “You need to think about the effectiveness and the public health aspect of it.”