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The best KN95 masks and how to shop for them, according to experts

KN95 masks are disposable respirators, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw them out after a single use, experts say.
KN95 masks are manufactured to offer 95% protection from particulate matter, like N95 masks.
KN95 masks are manufactured to offer 95% protection from particulate matter, like N95 masks.Vivian Le / NBC

While many people aren’t wearing?face masks?as often as they did during the Covid-19 pandemic, they’re still a great piece of personal protective equipment to keep at home, says Dr.?Nina Shapiro, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at Westside Head and Neck in California.?Masks can help prevent illness and protect the people around if you happen to be experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness. There are many types of face masks to choose from, but properly fitting respirators offer the most protection, according to the?Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while?N95 masks?are the gold standard, some people find them uncomfortable. KN95 masks offer a similar amount of protection, so long as you buy high quality models.

We spoke to experts about how to shop for KN95 masks and rounded up a handful of options that meet their guidance from brands like Powecom and Evolvetogether. Plus, we bought and tried on all of the face masks we recommend to ensure their packaging, features and fit align with what experts say to expect.

SKIP AHEAD The best KN95 face masks | How to shop for KN95 face masks

Selected.Our top picks

How we picked the best KN95 masks

While shopping for KN95 masks, experts recommend keeping the following factors in mind:

  • Filtration level: KN95 masks must filter out at least 95% of particulates, experts told us. For all of the masks we recommend, we obtained associated lab tests regarding filtration. We got documentation from the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory or had brands send us documentation directly.
  • Construction: The KN95 masks you buy should have ear loops and at least five layers of material. We made sure all of the masks we recommend are designed with these features, as well as an adjustable nose bridge.
  • Brand transparency: Brand transparency is key when buying any type of face mask, but it’s especially relevant for KN95 masks, which the United States does not regulate the way it does for N95 masks. There are, however, ways for brands and manufacturers to increase their trustworthiness, like FDA registration or inclusion in the FDA’s now-defunct emergency use authorization (EUA), which it passed in 2020 to help medical workers choose KN95 masks when there was a shortage of N95 masks. All of the masks we recommend come from manufacturers registered with the FDA — while this has nothing to do with regulating mask quality, it increases accountability for the brand selling it, experts told us. Some of the masks we recommend also appeared on the FDA’s EUA — we note which ones.

The best KN95 masks to shop

Best KN95 masks overall: Powecom KN95 Face Mask

Powecom’s KN95 masks were featured on the FDA’s EUA list. They are available in black and white, as well as multiple colors, all of which come in a pack of 10. You can also purchase individually packaged KN95s. The masks have an adjustable nose piece and their ear loops are latex-free, according to the brand.

Best multi-color KN95 masks: WWDOLL KN95 Face Mask

WWDOLL’s KN95 masks were featured on the FDA’s EUA list. They come in a pack of 25 and are available in multiple colors. These masks have an adjustable nose bridge and stretchy earloops.

Best KN95 masks in neutral colors: Hotodeal KN95 Face Mask

These KN95 masks were featured on the FDA’s EUA list. They come in a pack of 40, are built with an adjustable nose bridge and stretchy ear loops, and come in colors like white, black and grey.

Editor’s pick KN95 mask: Evolvetogether KN95 Face Masks

Out of all the masks I’ve tried, I find these to be the most comfortable due to their round shape. The mask doesn’t press up against my mouth, making it easy to speak, and the panels around the perimeter help create a tight fit against my face without leaving indentations in my skin. I wore these masks for three years while attending college classes during the pandemic, and I still buy them today.

Evolvetogether’s KN95 masks come in a pack of five and are individually wrapped in biodegradable pouches. Each mask has six layers, an adjustable nose bridge and stretchy ear loops. The KN95 masks come in multiple colors.

Best KN95 masks to buy in bulk: WellBefore KN95 Face Mask

WellBefore offers KN95 masks in multiple colors and allows a choice between standard ear loops and head straps. The masks have an adjustable nose bridge, and you can purchase as few as 10 masks, which come individually wrapped.?Note: The price listed above reflects the cost of 10 KN95 masks with standard ear loops. You must purchase a minimum of 10 masks per order.

How to shop for KN95 masks

It’s difficult, sometimes impossible, to be sure you’re buying a real KN95 mask just by looking at it, says Dr. Jeremy Friese, a former Mayo Clinic physician and the founder and CEO of Humata Health. The CDC doesn’t provide specific regulations to follow when choosing a KN95 mask, but they do offer a list of tips to help you spot masks that may not meet the necessary standards.

Experts we interviewed recommend you review your masks before wearing them with the following in mind:

  • A KN95 mask should not be damaged in any way
  • Packaging should never include false claims or logos from the FDA. The FDA does not permit their logo to appear on packaging of any sort.
  • KN95 masks shouldn’t cost more than $3 apiece, according to the CDC.

Additionally, shoppers should review lab testing documents that clearly illustrate how well a mask acts as a filter before they use it, says Anne Miller, executive director of Project N95, a nonprofit that helps people source personal protective equipment and medical supplies. Some brands publish these documents online, while others may send you them if you ask.

Another factor to consider while shopping for KN95 masks is FDA registration. To register with the FDA, manufacturers pay a fee and submit certain criteria about the operation. Though experts tell us this is better to have than not, FDA registration has no bearing on the quality of the face mask itself and does not denote approval of the mask or its manufacturer by the FDA. Miller also says that the list of KN95 models the FDA specifically approved in its 2020 emergency use authorization is one of the best resources to use when sourcing the respirators, even after the FDA stopped updating the list in 2021.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts with specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Nina Shapiro is a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at Westside Head and Neck in California. She is the author of “Hype: A Doctor’s Guide To Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims and Bad Advice,” as well as a children’s book, “The Ultimate Kids’ Guide To Being Super Healthy.” Shapiro was also the director of pediatric otolaryngology and a professor of head and neck surgery at David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles for 25 years.
  • Dr. Jeremy Friese is a former Mayo Clinic physician and the founder and CEO of Humata Health.
  • Anne Miller is the executive director of Project N95, a nonprofit that helps people source personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

Why trust NBC Select?

Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at NBC Select who has covered face masks since 2020. She’s written about disposable masks, KN95 masks, N95 masks and KN95 masks for kids, in addition to at-home Covid tests and vaccine card holders. For this article, Malin spoke to three experts about how to shop for KN95 masks and tried every mask she recommended in the article.

CORRECTION (Aug. 26, 2021, 5:45 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly included some face mask manufacturers on the FDA’s EUA list. Manufacturers for masks from Evolvetogether, Hope Health and Well Before are not on the list, but are only registered with the FDA. We’ve kept them on the list because they meet guidance from medical experts.

UPDATE (Aug. 26, 2021, 5:45 p.m.): A previous version of this article included the VIDA KN95 face mask. We’ve removed it from the list because the brand is shipping M95 face masks for some orders of KN95 face masks given "global shortages," according to its site.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

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