As new strains of the coronavirus are encountered across the United States, Americans are being asked to rethink their prevention strategies. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently advised citizens to start double-masking whenever possible to further slow the spread.
Masks prevent the transmission of viral particles through breathing, but not all masks are created equal. According to Dr. David Katz, founder of Yale University's Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, "The finer the mesh of the mask, the greater the capture. So, surgical and N95 masks are better than, say, cotton. A material with very rough mesh — something like burlap, for instance — would be useless."
However, cotton masks (especially doubled up) are still useful in preventing COVID. "The evolution of new viral strains is about variation at the molecular level," Katz told PEOPLE. "This will influence the interactions of the virus with our immune system, but in no way alters the basic structure of the coronavirus, or its interactions with the mesh of a mask."
We've rounded up six types of multi-layer face masks that fit Dr. Katz's expert criteria. Each is tightly-woven and will reliably filter a majority of particles:
WWDoll 25-Pack KN95 Face Masks, $49.74; amazon.com
3M Aura Particulate Respirator N95 Mask, $5.99 (orig. $6.99); wellbefore.com
Evolvetogether 30 Black Face Masks, $35.97; evolvetogether.com
Botn 10-Pack Black Adjustable Strap KF94 Masks, $20.99; amazon.com
Vida FDA Emergency Use Authorized KN95 Masks, $33; shopvida.com
Maskc 10-Pack Midnight Face Masks, $18; shopmaskc.com
Remember: Any mask is rendered ineffective once it becomes observably moist, so you'll want to switch out these disposable options often. "Once saturated, the capacity to trap more moisture is obviously limited," Dr. Katz explained. Below, read more about our top picks for masks to slow the spread of every strain of COVID-19.
WWDoll 25-Pack KN95 Face Masks
More than 2,700 Amazon shoppers swear by these five-layer KN95 masks. According to the brand, its middle two layers alone can block more than 95 percent of particles. The white variation is backordered, but if you order now, they'll be back in stock by February 4. They're also available in black and even a pale pink.
Buy It! WWDoll 25-Pack KN95 Face Masks, $49.74; amazon.com
3M Aura Particulate Respirator N95 Mask
Not only does this N95 mask filter out at least 95 percent of particles from its wearer, but it goes the extra step of reducing the wearer's exposure to outside particles. Its tight-fitting design meets the requirements imposed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and reviewers say it's a great fog-free choice for anyone who wears glasses.
Buy It! 3M Aura Particulate Respirator N95 Mask, $5.99 (orig. $6.99); wellbefore.com
Evolvetogether 30 Black Face Masks
There's a reason every celebrity under the sun seems to wear Evolvetogether's three-ply masks: They're manufactured in an FDA-registered factory and are held to the same high standards as medical PPE produced in the facility. The stylish masks feature a waterproof outer layer, filtering center, and extra-absorbent interior, giving them a bacterial filtration efficiency of 98 percent.
Buy It! Evolvetogether 30 Black Face Masks, $35.97; evolvetogether.com
Botn 10-Pack Black Adjustable Strap KF94 Masks
Doctors have called KF94 masks the South Korean equivalent to the N95, which explains why they're one of the buzziest new developments to hit the U.S. healthcare scene. This model is made with unique adjustable straps and a comfortable tri-fold design that prevents air leakage and keeps the mask in place.
Buy It! Botn 10-Pack Black Adjustable Strap KF94 Masks, $20.99; amazon.com
Vida FDA Emergency Use Authorized KN95 Masks
The classic KN95 masks from Vida are a no-frills option worth investing in. Each five-layer mask prevents over 95 percent of airborne particles from reaching the outside world, while its nose clip and ear loops keep it as comfy as possible. Grab a 10-pack for $33, or save long-term with a 20-pack for $62, 30-pack for $90, or 50-pack for $150.
Buy It! Vida FDA Emergency Use Authorized KN95 Masks, $33; shopvida.com
Maskc 10-Pack Midnight Face Masks
Maskc is another celebrity-favorite mask brand that lives up to the hype. The tightly woven, three-ply masks have a uniquely soft texture, making them both skin-friendly and protective. An adjustable nose bridge ensures a secure fit, while the masks themselves are up to snuff in filtering out 95 percent of particles.
Buy It! Maskc 10-Pack Midnight Face Masks, $18; shopmaskc.com