Best breathable face masks for travel: planes, trains and automobiles

·7 min read

If you’re planning a getaway - by air, road or rail - it will mean you'll need to wear a face mask for a prolonged period, so you may need a different face covering than your usual day-to-day design.

We’ve all been wearing reusable masks for a good few months now, so by now, you’ve probably built up a small collection of ones for everyday wear.

While you may be used to wearing a mask for short periods in the shops, while in cabs or during the commute, it’s a wise investment to consider a different design for longer, continuous wear.

Not just one either; many airlines recommend bringing a couple to swap into on particularly long flights, and masks have been mandatory on all public transport since June 15 - and there’s the return journey to think about too.

Material matters

Maskne - blemishes and breakouts triggered by wearing masks - has become a problematic dermatological side effect of Covid safety measures, and it can be exacerbated by long periods of wear. To try and beat this, dermatologist Dr May Gilbert from Pulse Light Clinic recommends wearing masks made of a lightweight, breathable fabric like cotton "to allow some airflow to dry out any dampness from wearing a face mask. Breathable fabrics will help absorb moisture and prevent the skin from building up bacteria."

She adds there are some fabrics to steer clear from, especially if you're prone to spots. "If you have acne-prone skin, you could see a flare up in acne breakouts, eczema and rosacea due to continuous use of face masks. Stay away from nylon fabrics as they trap heat and do not absorb moisture so the sweat will build up against your skin - along with bacteria."

Along with cotton, linen and silk are also great alternatives; the natural fibres are more comfortable to wear against skin and cause less irritation.

Skin specialist Dr Jaskaren Midha recommends air passengers keep some masks spare "as you will want to change it if it gets damp or you sneeze into it."

Favour masks with filters

You may have seen some mask designs with a pocket to slide in a filter as an additional way to protect against coronavirus.

These are particularly helpful for travellers as it means you can pack extra filters in your bag to swap in and keep the mask working effectively. You’ll still need to wash your mask after use of course, but extra filters can be a lifeline for long trips.

Remember, medical staff and frontline workers still need PPE to stay safe, so you should avoid purchasing single-use clinical medical grade face masks unless absolutely necessary.

Keep your skin clean

Long journeys are also the perfect time to give your skin a time out.

"If you are heading on a long haul flight, and you won’t be carrying your face cleanser you can opt for a face wipe and moisturise mid-flight," Dr Gilbert says. "Cleansing is important to remove debris and create an antibacterial barrier of safety."

Dr Midha goes one further; "consider not wearing any makeup. Since no one will see your lower face, it's the perfect time to give the skin a break from pore-clogging cosmetics."

Why wear a face covering?

It is still absolutely crucial to wear a mask in confined spaces, shops and public transport. Wearing a secure covering your entire mouth and nostrils helps catch the microscopic droplets that spray out when you talk or sneeze - generally unseen by the naked eye - which can infect other people.

Wearing a covering has been proved to significantly cut down the chances of other people catching coronavirus - even if you don’t feel unwell, many people can be asymptomatic. You could still be a spreader of the virus. Continue to wash your hands thoroughly, use hand sanitiser and remember, never travel if you feel unwell.

You can find the latest travel advice from the Foreign Office here.

See our favourite masks for travel below

PopSockets Face Mask Pastel Nebula

PopSockets is one of a number of businesses to diversify their business to meet the huge national demand for face masks. Available exclusively online at £16.99 a go, the small collection is ideal for men, women and teens with Insta-ready patterns covering breathable, comfortable polyester.

Every mask comes with a removable filter set in a dedicated pocket, and you can buy a pack of ten filters separately here to replace old, used ones.

The elastic ear loops are fitted with toggles for a closer fit and there's a bendy wire in the nose bridge too - welcome news for anyone who wears glasses.


£16.99 | PopSockets

Not Another Bill Face Coverings

Made with soft, breathable cotton that's comfortable to wear for hours at a time, Not Another Bill’s face coverings customised with your initials - to match your monogrammed luggage.

Each one is handmade in the UK and there are toddler versions to protect small faces too.


£12 | Not Another Bill

Slip Silk Face Covering

Available in three shades, this luxurious face covering is made with the same care as Silk's cult silk eye masks and pillowcases. The company uses long-fibre mulberry silk on its face masks to cover the mouth and nose, complemented with adjustable ear loops and a bendy nose wire for a secure but comfortable fit.


£39 | Cult Beauty

£20 | Wolf & Badger

Ted Baker Face Masks

Heading on a work trip? Look the business in a Ted Baker face mask, made from excess scrap cotton so they should be comfortable and breathable during periods of long travel. Right now you can get three for £30, making it the perfect time to bag a multi-mask designer bargain.


£30 for three | Ted Baker

Lily King Reusable 100% Cotton Japanese Floral Crane Face Mask

A gorgeous design, beautifully crafted with 100 per cent cotton, this mask offers a way you can stay Covid-safe as well as stylish. It features elasticated ear loops and is machine washable.


£16.95 | NOTHS

MBT Studios Navy Geometric Washable, Reusable Filtered Face Mask

This stylish mask comes complete with two disposable PM2.5 filters to change into the pocket to help trap allergens.


£12.99 | NOTHS

Great British designer face coverings by Mulberry and Raeburn and Halpern

Three leading brands have come together to offer ASOS shoppers a high end way to stay safe with a triple pack of pleated face masks. Made from a double-layer construction there are panels to add filters and two carry pouches to keep fresh and dirty masks separate from your other belongings.


£15 | ASOS

AVIRO Face Masks

The sustainable face mask brand has produced a collection of coverings that are ideal for wearing while travelling. The sleek masks have been coated with HeiQ Viroblock, an antimicrobial finish that creates a protective layer and traps pathogens. Available in a variety of neutral colours, and as single masks, pairs and multi-packs.


Shop now

Copper Clothing Face Masks

Copper Clothing uses copper to infuse masks as a preventative measure against airborne Covid particles. Available in S/M and M/L, the masks have toggles on the ear bands to allow for a tighter and more secure fit.

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£22.99 | Copper Clothing

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Skin specialist Dr Jaskaren Midha

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