Wearing masks for the whole day is one of the hardest parts about being back in school. I decided to find the best mask to wear for the full school day, and came up with some great masks, as well as some things to look for when finding your ideal mask.

Adjustability is key in a comfortable mask. Many masks have a wire in the nose part of the mask. This is especially important for people who wear glasses, because it can help prevent fogging. But a nose wire also helps keep your mask in place, and overall makes masks more comfortable. In addition, adjustable ear straps are very important, because nobody’s head is the same size. Most of the non-adjustable masks always end up hurting my ears by the end of the day, and it is extremely helpful to be able to adjust the straps when my ears start getting sore. In general, the more adjustable parts of your mask, the better.

Having a formed shape in the mask also makes for a much more comfortable experience. Look for masks that keep a little bit of open space in front of your mouth, for example, KN95s. The less material you have directly in front of your face, the less material you will be sucking into your mouth. Especially if you are in PE or have to wear a mask for sports, having a defined shape can save you a lot of pain.

I tried a variety of different masks, both paper and cloth, and came up with a favorite for each category.

Out of the cloth masks I tried, the Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit was my favorite. It is fairly affordable, at under $20, and is extremely comfortable to wear for the school day. The adjustable straps make it fit any head size, and it is easy to adjust them as you wear it. It has a nose wire, and is made out of a comfortable material that also seems like it will hold up well. It also has a pocket for filters, and comes with three filters, although they do take some effort to get in.

If you are looking for a good disposable mask, I found KN95s to be the best. They keep an air pocket in front of your face, causing them to stay out of your mouth a lot better than the standard blue surgical mask. Like all paper masks, they don’t have adjustable straps. While this makes them slightly less comfortable for long periods of time, the flatter straps do a good job distributing the pressure on your ears. KN95s come in a variety of colors, and in big packs. As someone who misplaces their mask a lot, having a bunch of disposable masks is nice because I can always grab a new one as I am running out of the house. There are a variety of KN95 models available everywhere, but durability does vary, so I recommend reading reviews.

If you aren’t happy with your mask, I recommend looking for a different one. Masks are fairly affordable on Amazon. A 25 pack of KN95s costs around $30, and regular paper masks can cost as little as $10 for a 50 pack. Cloth masks can range anywhere from $10 to $30, and you can even get 3-packs in this range. Of course, I wasn’t able to review every mask, but I hope these suggestions help you find a mask that will make your school days a little more comfortable.

Caption: Displayed, are a few of the many masks I tried. I found cloth masks with a defined shape (bottom left) to be the most comfortable.
Photo by Abe Nelson
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