8 Lightweight Face Masks for More Airflow and Less Glasses Fog This Summer
They're made with lightweight and sweat-wicking materials that keep you cool while meeting CDC guidelines.
Earlier this spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone wear a face mask in public to slow the spread of coronavirus. The guidelines caused a surge in demand for face masks, which brands met by launching their own variations of the new daily essential—and it quickly became clear not every mask was the same.
Depending on the construction of the mask, it fell away from your face or hugged it tightly. Some designs caused pesky behind-the-ear irritation, while others left skin inflamed and acne-prone. But the worst offenders were masks created with thick fabrics that barely allowed any airflow, turning your breath into a blazing furnace.
Luckily, there’s a revolution of breathable face masks that take into account the high temperatures ahead this summer. These designs use lightweight or sweat-wicking fabrics that don’t restrict airflow to keep you cool and comfortable during hours of wear. They also come in less traditional constructions—like scarves—that expand the surface area of fabric filtering your breath to prevent heat from building up around your mouth and nose.
There is one downside to these breathable picks: They typically offer less filtration, and according to Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network and clinical assistant professor at the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, this could increase your chances of contracting COVID-19 or an upper respiratory infection. However, she says, “a breathable mask is still better than no mask.”
It’s also worth noting most cloth face coverings won’t prevent you from contracting the novel coronavirus. (Only an N95 design, which should be reserved for medical professionals, provides that level of protection.) Rather, face masks prevent the wearer from infecting others when asymptomatic, making it just as important a precaution as social distancing and washing your hands.
“Surgical masks and cloth coverings can reduce viral transmission by 70% if everyone wears them and wears them correctly over [their] nose and mouth,” Dr. Parikh adds, emphasizing the importance of not only wearing a mask, but wearing it properly.
As a result, if you’re wearing a mask with added layers of filtration but keep dropping it to your chin for a breath of fresh air, you’re better off opting for a more breathable choice. Not only are they more comfortable, so you fidget with them less, but many are also lightweight enough to wear during outdoor workouts. Shop our top breathable face masks below.
1. Tough Outfitters 12-in-1 Cooling Scarf
This versatile pick is made with a lightweight blend of spandex and polyester that’s sweat-wicking and breathable for a cooling effect on even the hottest days. Already an Amazon best-seller, it can be worn as a helmet liner, headband, handkerchief, and, most importantly, a face mask to meet CDC recommendations. Not only does it offer UPF 50 protection—which is 98% effective at blocking the sun—but it can be soaked in water for a stronger cooling effect.
Available at amazon.com, $15
2. Koral Netz Face Mask
J.Lo-approved activewear brand Koral launched its first face mask last month with a sleek design that maximizes comfort and breathability. It’s made with the brand’s unique Netz performance fabric, an antimicrobial blend of polyamide and spandex that’s fast-drying, stretchy, and breathable. The machine-washable pick is expected to ship June 30.
Available at koral.com, $20
3. VTER Cotton Breathing Mask
Amazon reviewers couldn’t stop raving about how easy it is to breathe wearing these affordable masks. They’re made with a blend of 35% cotton and 65% polyester that blocks dust, dirt, and pollen while also absorbing excess moisture. Better yet, reviewers agree the fabric is extra soft—and it’s even used to craft the ear loops to prevent uncomfortable behind-the-ear irritation.
Available at amazon.com, 5 for $20
4. Onzie Mindful Mask
Activewear brand Onzie also repurposed its performance fabric into a form-fitting face mask that allows airflow and wicks away moisture to keep the environment under your mask comfortable. Safe to wear solo or as an additional N95 mask cover, the popular pick is hand-wash only—but reviewers don’t mind. They say it’s the “best mask” they’ve purchased during the pandemic.
Available at onzie.com, 2 for $24
5. StringKing 3-Layer Face Mask
By focusing on disposable designs, brands can incorporate less durable fabrics into their creations that are often more lightweight. These single-use masks fit the bill with 3 layers of protection, including melt-blown and spun-bound polypropylene, that offer filtration with breathability. They also feature an adjustable wire nose piece and elastic ear bands. Shop them in a box of 50, a case of 1,000, a half-pallet of 24,000, or a pallet of 48,000. They’re available in white and blue.
Available at stringking.com, 50 for $38
6. Buck Mason Slub Knit Bandana
One Health writer comfortably wore this bandana on 3 seperate plane rides across the U.S. totaling more than 12 hours—and found the 100% sub cotton pick the perfect flying companion. It was breathable and lightweight once tied in place and never felt like it was impeding her airflow throughout the flight.
Available at buckmason.com, 2 for $28
7. Old Navy Triple-Layer Face Mask
The Old Navy masks have received mixed reviews from customers that claim they’re perhaps too lightweight—but that’s ideal for some shoppers that dislike the oppressive feel of other options. The budget-friendly find is made with 100% cotton that’s machine-washable, and the masks also come in child sizes. Due to the masks’ popularity, they’re not expected to ship until July 13.
Available at oldnavy.com, 5 for $13
8. The Purple Face Mask
Science-backed sleep company Purple repurposed pieces of its pillows to create an unbelievably soft face mask you’ll actually want to wear. It borrows moisture-wicking Breeze mesh, an unbelievably soft fabric with plenty of airflow, from the brand’s Harmony Pillow to create the face covering. It then takes temperature-neutral Hyper-Elastic Polymer from the ergonomic neck-support Purple Pillow to create shape-holding elastic ear loops that won’t chafe your ears. The result is a lightweight, machine-washable option that promises the same level of comfort as the rest of the brand’s lineup.
Available at purple.com, 2 for $20
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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