This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 09: A woman wearing a protective mask walks by Fifth Avenue holiday ornaments on December 9, 2020 in New York City. Many events for the holidays have been canceled or adjusted with additional safety measures due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
In the summer, we couldn’t get enough of breathable masks that helped us feel (slightly) less hot ‘n bothered — but, what about during winter? While mask-wearing is a key step in keeping us and those around us safe, we’ve recently discovered that it also provides protection against wind and sub-freezing temps. If you’re wondering whether or not you should bulk up your mask collection for the very cold season ahead, then we’ve got the answers — starting with a refresher on the proper safety factors to look for when mask shopping followed by the best styles to don in shiver-worthy weather.
What should I look for in a face mask?
In terms of safety, the most important factors to keep in mind when gauging mask efficacy and safety are the fit, materials used, and how many layers it’s constructed with (three is the best recommendation). “The mask has to be fitted around the face, chin, and nose with minimal gaps,” Dr. Anthony Harris, MD, medical director and leader of the COVID-19 clinical response team at WorkCare previously told Refinery29. “Second, it has to be multi-layered. It shouldn’t just be one single layer of cloth — unless that layer is dramatically thick, which is usually not the case.”
Which face mask fabrics are best?
While mask materials range from techy, moisture-wicking fabrics to natural fibers like silk and cotton, according to Dr. Harris, there isn’t so much a need to winter-ify your mask wardrobe, but to make sure you’re continuing to follow the CDC protocols, not to mention compromising breathability for sturdier fabrics. “Adding additional layers of cloth to the mask itself may not provide increased protection, however likely won’t contribute any deleterious effects,” says Dr. Harris. Personally, I’ve been loving silk masks (like Slip’s, above, which has a cotton inner lining) for their lightweight, comfortable feel with a slight wind-resistant effect — something I sincerely appreciate during early-morning walks with my pup.
Are wool face masks safe?
While wool may seem an obvious cold-weather alternative fabric, Dr. Harris advises people to proceed with caution: “You might want to stay away from wool since it’s porous and not tightly woven,” he explains. The exception? “With multi-material or multi-layered masks, it comes more down to comfort as long as the multiple [layers] are there.” For example, a cotton-lined wool option like Huckberry’s merino wool-blend mask (which features a cotton middle layer) fits the bill: “The wool at that point becomes more of an insulator, comfort factor.” Other quality options? Under Armour Sportmask, which was made with outdoor exercise in mind, but also has an insulated, cushion-y construction that makes it ideal for all-weather wear.
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