Best face mask 2021: The most comfortable and effective face coverings

Browse the best face masks for specs-wearers, sport, breathability, and more

best face mask
(Image credit: Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash)

Wondering where to buy the best face masks? Even with the vaccine being rolled out, it's clear we'll be needing to wear face masks for a long time still. Today's best face masks are a world away from the cheap, ineffective, uncomfortable offerings many of us were making do with in the early days of the pandemic. 

In this guide we've selected the best options for a range of uses – whether you're looking for a mask that's good for sport, one that won't cause your glasses to steam up, or one that'll fit a smaller face, we have a mask for you here. And it goes without saying, all the best face masks in our list are designed to fit closely and effectively filter particles.

Finally, once you've read this article, we'd encourage you to bookmark it too, because we’ll be updating this page regularly as new face masks come on to the market, making it a handy resource for you over time.

Where to buy best face masks in the UK

Not in the UK? Jump straight to the best face masks in the US.

Muc-Off face masks | £5.99 each at Muc-Off
Specialising in bikes and motorbikes, Muc-Off is a surprise addition to our best face masks guide, but has earned a place thanks to a clever solution to the steamed-up glasses issue. These masks all have a small nose flap that sits beneath your specs and keeps them clear. They're also nice and comfy, well made, and very breathable.View Deal

Vistaprint masks with integrated filter | £17 from Vistaprint
Here at T3, we've ordered a few of the Vistaprint masks and found them to be great. There's a huge variety of patterns, the cut fits the face well, and the fabric is comfortable – both the soft cotton lining and the adjustable elastic ear loops. Additionally, the sewn-in wire nose bridge enables a secure fit that stops glasses from steaming up. They now come with an integrated filter, too. They're available in both adults and kids' sizes.View Deal

Great British Designers face masks | 3 for £15 at Boots – buy one get one half price
These colourful face masks from British designers are made from tightly woven cotton sateen, and are nice and breathable yet still effective. You also get two little cloth pouches to store them in when you're not wearing them, and profits go to charity too. View Deal

The comfiest face mask | £15 £10.50 for 2 at Falke
These face masks are made from fast-drying, round-knitted material for a soft, comfy feel – the outside is moisture-repellent, while the inside is fleece. There are a range of sizes to choose from, with a detailed fit chart so you can make sure you pick the right one for your face. We're big fans of the cool, sporty style, too – available in yellow, black, white, grey, navy and blue. View Deal

The most stylish face mask | £20 each, or £55 for 3, from Wolford
Tights brand Wolford has knocked it out of the park in the style stakes with this understated face mask. It's not style over substance, either – as well as a sleek design, this mask boasts comfortable, machine-washable, double-layer fabric, an adjustable nose wire, face-contoured design and soft ear straps. View Deal

The best face mask for sport |£26 at Under Armour
The hi-tech UA sports face mask is engineered for better airflow, comfort, and a cool feel. While it's not perfect, its the best face mask for sport we've found (see our UA Sportsmask review). You'll find more exercise-friendly options in our face masks for runners roundup. View Deal

Cheap face masks | Multipacks from under £5 per mask at ASOS
If you're on a tight budget, head to ASOS. While we suspect many of these won't be the best quality face masks you'll wear, they're pretty much unbeatable on price. There are lots of multipack options to choose from, some with added features such as nose clips and charity donations.View Deal

The best face mask for glasses |£20 each at Reiss
While an adjustable nose piece will help stop your glasses fogging up, for an even closer fit around the face, try this face mask from Reiss. It has a wire sewn along the top edge, so you can shape it to your exact facial contours. Excellent for stopping air escaping and fogging your specs up.View Deal

The best clear mask for lip-reading | £10.50 from TylermadeCo on Etsy
This face mask has a clear window built in so your mouth remains visible, making it a great choice if you're coming into contact with anyone who relies on lip reading. Or if you haven't yet perfected your smize. It's made from double-layer cotton with a nose wire, is extremely well reviewed, and delivered from within the UK. View Deal

The best face mask for sensitive skin | £76 for 3 at Wolf & Badger
These stylish face masks are made from 100% silk. While they're a fair bit more expensive than other styles, they're super lightweight (silk is on average 6 times lighter than cotton), very breathable, and great if you have very sensitive skin. The design is double-layered, and curved for a close fit around your nose and chin. View Deal

The best disposable face masks | £8.99 for 50 at Amazon
For disposable masks, head to Amazon. This bulk-pack is very cheaply priced and very well reviewed (4.5 star average over 21k+ reviews). The 3-ply design comes with a nose clip for a snug fit. Note, they're not medical grade.  View Deal

Medical-grade face masks | £23 for 50 at HoMedics
If you're a carer or need something medical-grade, these single-use, disposable face masks are available to order in bulk at HoMedics. Another option is to head to Medisave, which has surgical face masks and KN95 masks available to order.View Deal

None of those take your fancy? Here are some more face mask options to try...

  • NEQI – Simple but very effective, and great value too
  • Look Fantastic – Luxury face masks with a mulberry silk outer layer and breathable cotton lining
  • Buff – Kid and adult designs with surgical-grade filters
  • Moshi Omniguard – Extremely breathable, with filters included and a carry pouch
  • Sea Salt – 3-pack, printed masks, made from organic cotton
  • Casetify – Simple design with changeable filters
  • Migrate Art – Super-cool reversible prints from top designers, with 100% net profit going to #masksformeals initiative
  • Baukjen – Basic cotton or premium designs (in fun prints) available
  • Boden – Three-pack of different Boden colours and prints
  • Hype – Different styles and designs; adult and child options available
    Samuel Johnson – Options for men, women and children
  • Marta Scarampi – High quality face masks, with different size options for men, women and children
  • Cotswold Outdoor – A few options available, in different sizes and styles
  • Adidas – An excellent cheap face mask, but better for small faces
  • Gap – Multi-packs for kids, adults, and families (but there are some sizing issues)

Where to buy the best face masks in the US

The best face mask overall | $18 at Vistaprint
Durable construction, quality fabrics, and free shipping mean Vistaprint is our pick for the best face mask overall right now. These face masks feature reinforced stitching, a 3-dimensional chin structure. An in-built nosepiece can be adjusted for a snug fit (good news for glasses wearers), and there's a replaceable nanofiber filter. There are loads of different prints to choose from, and kids' sizing available too. View Deal

The best face masks for charity donations | $22 for one at Hedley&Bennett
Hedley& Bennett runs a buy-one-donate one scheme on its single face masks, and gives a percentage of proceedings from multipacks to charity too. The face masks themselves are super-smart, fitted designs with a filter pockets, flexible metal nose piece, reinforced stitching and space for a name tag.View Deal

The comfiest face mask | 2 for $20 at Purple Sleep
Purple has harnessed its innovative comfort tech to create a face mask you can wear for hours at a time. There's Hyper-Elastic Polymer gel for super-stretchy ear bands that won't lose their shape, and moisture-wicking Breeze Mesh for a breathable but effective mouth cover.View Deal

The best face masks if you wear glasses | 5 for $30 at Tie Bar
These Tie Bar face masks have a wire sewn into the top hem, to creating a custom, close fit that'll stop air escaping and fogging up your specs. They're also really excellent value for money – just $6 per mask (only slightly more than our 'cheap' option). They come in a selection of tonal, understated prints, including subtle stripes and tiny spots, and are made from 100% two-ply cotton, with an additional layer of shirting fabric. View Deal

The best face mask for sport | $30 at Under Armour
The US Sportsmask is hands-down the best face mask for sport right now. The hi-tech UA face mask is engineered for better airflow, comfort, and a cool feel. View Deal

The best kids' face masks | $18 at Vistaprint
Our best face mask overall also makes what we think are the best kids' face masks right now. Vistaprint offers some super-fun designs in smaller sizes, including dinosaurs and planets. Like the adult version, they're good quality and durable, with reinforced stitching, plus a 3D chin structure and a nose bridge. For more options, check out where to buy kids face masks (we also love this Disney/Pixar range, but beware, reviewers say it runs very small).View Deal

The best cheap face mask | 5 for $26 at ASOS
ASOS has quite a few different multi-pack face mask options available, the cheapest working out at $5.20 per mask. There are plain and patterned options for both men and women. An easy, cheap option, with free shipping and returns. Alternatively, you could head to Adidas for basic masks at 3 for $20.View Deal

Disposable face masks | 50 for $24.99 at Daily Steals
If you need a bulk pack of disposable face masks, there are a few options. As well as Daily Steals, you can also try NewEgg,  Gearbest or Akings.View Deal

The best eco-friendly face mask | $12 each at Bomme Studio
Bomme Studio is selling dual-layer face masks made from sustainably made, upcycled 100% cotton fabric. These face masks have been designed in line with CDC recommendation and are being manufactured in LA, California. If you order on a weekday, there's free same-day shipping too. Alternatively, bag maker Caraa is selling face masks constructed out of repurposed materials from its production line.View Deal

The best patterned face masks | $15 at DIOP
Detroit-based DIOP has a range of face masks made from 100% wax printed cotton in a range of bold, vibrant prints. The elastic on these sits around the back of the head, to remove ear strain when wearing for long periods. A portion of proceeds also goes to charity.View Deal

Want some more options? Try these...

  • StringKing – 2-ply washable cloth face masks
  • Naturepedic – Basic, double-layer organic cotton masks, 6 for $49
  • RendallCo – Double-layer dense, woven cotton, designed and made in LA
  • LA Apparel – Lots of colours and styles to choose from
  • Eastern Serenity – Various styles to suit different face shapes
  • Reformation – Basic, non-medical, reusable masks, plus the option to donate
  • Vida – Fitted fabric face masks, with multi-layer filter and nose strip for a snug fit
  • Araks – Luxe, high quality pleated face masks in a variety of floral and other prints
  • Subzero – Alternative styles, from Day of the Dead skulls to glow-in-the-dark options
  • Matteo – Double-layered, 100% cotton masks, with a pocket for a filter
  • Radian – Great value 5-pack, with kids' sizes also available

What kind of face mask works best? 

There are a lot of different types of face masks. Medical-grade face masks, including surgical masks and N95 masks, are in very short supply, so it's mainly non-medical face masks that are being recommended to the general public.

For example, the UK document regarding face masks states: "A face covering is not the same as a facemask such as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers. These supplies must continue to be reserved for those who need it." Here's a closer look at the different types of face mask.

Man wearing face mask

(Image credit: Getty)

Surgical masks

Surgical face masks are probably what you think of when you think of a face mask. These are disposable, single-use masks made from pleated synthetic fabric. The fabric is breathable and these masks don't form an airtight seal against the face. How well they filter pathogens varies according to different studies. They're in very short supply at the moment.

Respirator masks

Respirators are the most effective at filtering pathogens. These are fitted to the face and sealed to keep pathogens out, and tested rigorously by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 

There are a few different types, with different efficiency rates. For particles 100-300 nanometres in size: N95 respirators can filter 95% of particles; N99 respirators filter 99% of particles; and N100 respirators filter 99.7% of particles. Coronavirus is estimated to be 125 nm in size. 

Fabric face masks

Finally, there's homemade fabric masks, which are the least effective of the bunch at filtering pathogens. However, the research we have so far suggests that wearing one is still much better than not wearing one when it comes to reducing the likelihood of you unknowingly passing on the virus to others. 

There are a few elements that affect how effective cloth face masks are at filtering pathogens. One is the fabric it's made from – porous fabrics don't keep out tiny droplets very well. The CDC suggests two layers of tightly woven 100% cotton. Adding a filter, such as a coffee filter or paper towel, can help make your fabric face mask more effective.

Fit is also all-important. Gaps around your nose and jaw will make your mask much less effective. If your mask fits snugly around your nose and face, this should help improve the situation.

Ruth Hamilton
Ruth Hamilton

Ruth runs T3's Outdoors editor (think camping, hiking and adventure sports) as well as running the site's Wellness channel (covering sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing). Due to some unfortunate timing, she joined the T3 team just as COVID-19 'joined' the UK, which means she hasn't managed to get to many industry events IRL yet – although she has enjoyed the resulting boom in popularity for outdoor activities. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and will talk at length about them to anyone who'll listen.