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Best face masks for any occasion, according to experts

Different face masks work for different activities, from birthdays to family gatherings and safely distant dates. We consulted experts on what to know.
couple wearing colorful face masks taking selfie with smartphone
Shop fashionable and stylish face masks — including options from Vida, Vistaprint, Sanctuary and more — that adhere to CDC guidelines.Westend61 / Getty Images

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 they absolutely do not alone prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Face masks are now mandatory in many states, and businesses and schools are increasingly requiring them to be worn, too, in an effort to curb the transmission of the coronavirus. The CDC recommends everyone wear a face mask in public, as they can help limit the virus by blocking respiratory droplets that could be spread through coughing or sneezing. A states (and offices) begin to open up more and more, you’ll want to re-evaluate your face mask and determine if it’s practical for longer-term use.

SKIP AHEAD Where to find the right face mask

Everyone has an innate style and masks can help bring that out.

Sharon Kornstein, Owner, Image Design

“Before a vaccine becomes available, we may have to return to work,” said KK Cheng, professor of public health at the University of Birmingham. “And while some may continue with home-based working, others will be coming into offices. Masks aren’t perfect protection, but something is better than nothing.”

Given the above, face masks have become fashion’s hottest new (mandatory) trend. And as you’ve likely seen in whatever streets you wander or during trips to the grocery or around town, face masks can express personal style without sacrificing safety. Notably, experts agree that cloth face masks do not replace the need for washing hands or social distancing, and they absolutely do not alone prevent the spread of COVID-19 — no matter how stylish they are. “You should think about mask styling like any other accessory,” said Sharon Kornstein, an image consultant and owner of Image Design, a business attire consulting company. “Everyone has an innate style and masks can help bring that out.”

We’ve covered face masks extensively — from face masks with insertable filters and antimicrobial masks to face shields and face masks for kids. But which is the best for a long day at the office? And what about a socially distant and otherwise responsible) date? How about a family gathering? We consulted experts on how to best shop for the right face mask for every occasion.

Finding a mask that’s safe — and fashionable

Make sure you have a number of face masks on hand — you should wash your mask after each use, especially if you’re wearing it all day, said Kornstein. Hoarding multiple masks means less rounds of laundry and less of a chance you won’t have a clean mask to wear. It also means you’ll have choices, which are inherently desirable.

“Just as you wouldn’t wear the same thing every day, you’re going to want different masks for different outfits,” said Michelle Madhok, founder of

Kornstein recommends plain, solid-color masks for professional settings like the office — if you have dark hair, a mask with a darker ear loop will blend in more and gives a more polished look. Similarly, consider simple prints for a casual outing, like running errands or hanging with family. “You can still play up your style,” she said. “Consider bandana prints or camo prints — or a simple floral print.”

But if you plan to wear a mask for an extended amount of time, comfort should always come first, said Garcia. She recommends athletic or linen masks for a more breathable experience. Have a socially-distanced night out planned? Don’t be afraid to show off, said Melissa Garcia, a fashion and lifestyle expert. Some designer masks come with luxe chains along with the ear loops, which add a fancy flair. Try leopard print or snakeskin-print covers for a going-out style.

For date night, try a “sexier” fabric like lace, said Kornstein: “It has such a luxurious feel. You want to feel good about yourself on a date, put your best foot forward.”

Madhok recommends experimenting with different mask styles and fabrics to see what looks and feels most comfortable for you (with the caveat that each mask adheres to CDC guidance, of course). If you have a favorite brand, check to see if they’ve released their own face masks. Nearly every designer “is launching or has launched” a mask line, said Madhok. Match your outfit to your mask, or vice versa, said Kornstein. She recommends playing around with warm and cool tones, patterns and complimenting colors.

Where to find the right face mask

Shopping for the right mask for any social occasion? We’ve compiled face masks designed to help you look and feel your best. We selected stylish, comfortable masks you can wear all day that come in multiple designs and adhere to the CDC’s recommendations and the expert guidance we share above.

1. BaubleBar Face Mask Set of Two

Baublebar’s cotton face masks come in various colors and patterns to match your style — or help you elevate it. The set of two face masks come in different designs. The adjustable ear loops will you get a snug fit. The face mask has also been seen on the likes of Chrissy Teigen and Katie Holmes, according to our friends at TODAY.

2. Clare V. Bisous Masks

These patterned masks come in packs of four and are made of 100-percent cotton. Styles include plaid and paisley. Masks have adjustable ties for a more comfortable, snug fit and are hand-washable.

3. Bonobos Riviera Face Masks

Bonobo’s Riviera Face Masks come in packs of three with vibrant tropical colors and prints. They have two layers of woven fabric and a filter pouch — the filter is not included. You secure the mask to your face with over-the-head elastic straps and a four-inch wire at the nose makes for a snug fit. The set is available in Pink Multi and Navy Floral Dots.

4. Cotopaxi Teca Cotton Mask (On backorder)

These colorful, reusable masks come in five bright colors and feature a heartwarming “Do Good” message. These masks are great for showing a bit of personality in the office without making too much of a statement. Masks are reversible, too — but don’t reverse them throughout the day or within a single outing — and are made of repurposed fabric from the brand’s factories. Masks have a wired nose adjustment and adjustable ear loops.

5. Meals Clothing Watermelon Mask

These masks look almost edible and are great for casual hangouts and spending time with friends. Masks are made of cotton scraps and are machine-washable. Masks are one size fits most.

6. Nomad Boutique Snakeskin Mask

These snakeskin masks are perfect for a night out with friends. These fashion-forward masks are made of a polyester-cotton blend and have a pocket for an additional filter. Ear loops are not adjustable.

7. Sanctuary Fashion PPE Masks

The company is selling a variety of patterned face masks, which are made from cotton and are machine-washable. Masks also come in a camo pattern, which is very in-style for the fall, said Madhock. Each mask comes with an adjustable metal nose bridge for a more snug and comfortable fit.

8. Second Wind The Tina Mask in Sand

These popular face masks are the best luxury accessory for dinners out, date nights and any occasion you want to show off. They are made of linen and cotton and come with a detachable gold chain. Each mask has a sleeve for an insertable filter and comes in simple, neutral colors to match with any outfit.

9. Threadless Face Mask

Shoppers can choose from dozens of mask designs, from plain navy blue to a Darth Vader style. While the cheekier messages may not be appropriate for a professional setting, they are great for standing out on the street. Masks are made of three-ply polyester and the company is donating 100 percent of proceeds to MedShare, a nonprofit dedicated to recovering surplus medical supplies.

10. Tilt Face Mask

Face masks are made of a recycled hemp and organic cotton blend. Masks come in designs, like camo and tie-dye, and simple, neutral colors — all appropriate for the office or running errands.

11. Vida Protective Mask

Each protective mask is made of two layers of 100-percent cotton, with adjustable straps and a multi-layer filter. Masks come in eight different colors and are sold individually or in a multi-pack. In addition, the company has pledged to donate 10 percent of profits from the sale to SF-Marin Food Bank and Food Bank NYC.

12. Vistaprint Face Mask

The printing company has created their own reusable masks that allow for a filter to be inserted. The masks come in three colorful designs and have four filtration layers: a textile exterior, replaceable fiber filter, a cloth layer and a 100-percent cotton inner layer. The company is also selling packs of 10 disposable filters, that can be used for up to 12 hours.

Finding a mask that fits

Whether you’re in the office, doctor’s office or a friend’s home, it’s recommended (and in some cases required) for you to keep your mask on. This may mean wearing a mask for hours, something some nonessential workers aren’t familiar with, said Thomas Perls, MD, professor of medicine at Boston University. When shopping, you’ll want to find something that’s as comfortable, breathable and lightweight as possible without sacrificing quality, said Perls. It’s likely you’ll be wearing this mask all day, so you want something that’s not tugging on your ears or that is wound too tight around your face.

Consider a mask with adjustable loops or a strap that goes over your head, Perls added. Masks should also fit snugly around the face without leaving any gaps: Masks with a wired or metal nose bridge can help wearers fit the mask to their face and prevent the inconvenience of your glasses fogging up — friends and colleagues will surely forgive your momentary cloudiness but it’s still wise to avoid. Outside of fabric and fit, experts say to wear what you’re most comfortable with, as long as it adheres to CDC guidelines.

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