The 4 Best Face Masks for Omicron That Meet the CDC's New Guidelines

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The rapid surge in COVID-19 cases due to Omicron may have you wondering whether masks protect against the new variant. While face coverings may not be as efficient against the super transmissible Omicron, experts say, the good news is that face masks still offer protection against all variants (including the new dominant strain), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Omicron produces more virus, even than Delta," William Schaffner, MD, a professor of health policy and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, previously told Health. This increase in viral load may make it more difficult for a face covering to stop the transmission of COVID-19, making it extra important to wear a proper face mask.

Per the CDC, this means selecting a face mask made with "at least two layers of washable, breathable fabric" that covers the mouth and nose, has a nose wire, and fits snugly with no gaps. Although these attributes extend to a wide range of options, there is a superior face covering option. As of January 2022, the CDC now recommends opting for a properly fitted respirators for the "highest level of protection." These include N95 respirators, along with their Chinese (KN95) or Korean equivalents (KF94. Unlike cloth coverings, these masks don't just offer a barrier from spreading your germs, but they actually trap most incoming ones, according to the Federal Drug and Food Administration (FDA).

These are the 4 best face masks for Omicron:

Although you'll feel better about your level of protection with a respirator, it's extra important to keep an eye out for counterfeit respirators. If you're worried about accidentally purchasing a fake, you can also increase your mask's efficiency by double masking. A 2021 study published by the CDC found that layering a disposable surgical mask with a cloth mask increases their ability to block airborne particles by nearly 30% (versus when worn individually).

Ready to maximize your protection against COVID-19? Scroll down to discover the best high-filtration face masks for Omicron that have each been previously vetted by Health.

Best N95 Face Mask: Kimberly-Clark Professional N95 Pouch Respirator

Kimberly-Clark PROFESSIONAL N95 Pouch Respirator

Health previously covered this NIOSH-approved N95 mask from Amazon due to its impeccable ratings. Regulated by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the respirator is made with a woven fabric that stops and traps at least 95% of particles. Unlike many similar designs, shoppers say this one is breathable and comfortable thanks to two over-the-head straps that replace ear loops. You'll have to wait a few days for your order to ship, but these are of the few NIOSH-approved N95s still in stock online.

Best KN95: Maskc KN95 Face Mask

maskc kn95 mask in blush variety pack

Imported from China, KN95s were a popular option in early 2021 due to an Emergency Use Authorization given by the Food and Drug Administration. While the EUA has since lifted, these designs are still a great option for maximizing your protection, especially while many N95s are low in stock. Due to counterfeit issues with many online listings, we recommend going with a trusted brand, like Maskc, to purchase a KN95. This 10-pack of of blush-hued face masks is still in stock; each billed mask offers five layers of protection with premium material woven into a soft skin-friendly texture.

Best KF94: Kyungin Flax KN94 Masks

Kyungin Flax KN94 Masks

Unlike N95s, most KF94 masks never received emergency-use authorization, as their export was banned by South Korea until June 2020. Similar in design to N95s, the government-regulated masks promise protection against 94% of particles. This popular pick is FDA-registered and has an adjustable nose clip to ensure a better fit.

Best Disposable: Evolvetogether Tokyo Face Masks

Evolvetogether Tokyo Face Masks

Named the best medical-grade disposable face mask by Health, the celebrity-loved Evolvetogether mask offers three layers of protection against pollutants, allergens, viruses, and bacteria. The water-resistant exterior comes in a variety of neutral shades, including this muted gray, for a stylish pick you won't mind wearing.

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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