Qualities to Look for in Face Mask Protection

Qualities to look for in face mask protection

Qualities to Look for in Face Mask Protection

Healthcare professionals say masking up is one of the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19, COVID-19 variants, rising cases of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), and the flu. However, not all masks are created equally. Therefore, experts say choosing the right face mask for you and your situation is key to staying healthy. 

Types of Face Masks: 

Masks that meet a standard

Masks that meet a standard are tested and certified masks that meet specific standards for filtration efficiency, breathability, and other performance criteria. These medical grade masks meet standards set by regulatory agencies.


respirator N95 face maskA respirator face mask is a type of N95 mask that is specifically designed to filter out airborne particles and protect the wearer from inhaling harmful substances. Respirators provide a tight seal around the nose and mouth to prevent air from bypassing a filter. In healthcare settings, Respirator N95 masks protect against airborne infectious diseases. In industrial settings the respirator protects against dust, fumes, and harmful airborne particles. This face mask is not recommended for use by the general public because of the training and test-fitting needed to wear them correctly.

Alternative Face Masks like The Communicator™ face mask with window

The Communicator Clear Face MaskClear face masks are a type of face covering with a clear plastic panel that covers the mouth and nose, allowing for improved communication and visibility of the wearer’s face. Use a face mask with a window in settings where seeing the wearer’s face is imperative, such as in schools, customer-facing businesses, and public transportation, as clear face masks allow for improved communication, lip-reading, and facial expression recognition. The Communicator™ clear face masks are ADA effective and promote diversity and inclusion for the deaf community. 

Procedure masks

Procedure MaskThis type of mask is disposable and is commonly used in medical settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. A medical grade face mask is designed to protect the wearer and others from the spread of infectious droplets and is made of multiple layers of soft, breathable material, such as tissue or polypropylene. A procedural face mask, often referred to as medical grade surgical mask, may have a flexible strip that conforms to the nose bridge, helping to reduce the gap between the mask and the face and create a better seal.

Cloth face masks

Cloth Face MaskA cloth face mask is a type of face covering made of cloth or other textiles that can be worn over the mouth and nose to help prevent the spread of droplets from the wearer to others. Cloth masks are reusable, can be made from a variety of materials, and are designed to be comfortable. Cloth face masks may not be an effective barrier against microscopic particulates from the wearer’s mouth or nose, so their effectiveness can vary depending on the type of material used.

Even though face masks may not be created equally, if you put effort in to mask, be sure to have a medical-grade or better mask. However, knowing which mask is right for you, means understanding the corresponding level of protection each face mask offers.  

ASTM Standards were created during the pandemic to help educate consumers: 

    • Level 1 standard means the mask filters out at least 20 percent of all airborne particles smaller than 1 micrometer. Level 1 offers a low barrier protection.
    • Level 2 standard means that the mask filters out at least 50 percent of those particles giving users a moderate barrier. 
    • Level 3 standard is considered high barrier protection. These masks filter out at least 98% of airborne particles. 

Consequently, each user should consider where and when to use the right face mask. Understanding the location for use will help users determine what level of protection is needed. If you are caring for someone who is sick or immunocompromised, choose a mask with a higher level of security. Conversely, if you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations and in a less crowded venue, you might consider a lower level of protection, but the level of defense is only one piece of the puzzle. There are 5 factors to consider about when choosing the right face mask for you.  

Considerations when choosing an inclusive face mask:  

  1. Choosing the right mask for inclusivity

    Communication: Ensure that masks do not interfere with communication for people who rely on lip-reading or facial expressions to communicate. Consider using clear masks or masks with a clear panel over the mouth like The Communicator™ mask. Choosing a fog free mask can also help make lip-reading more precise. 

  2. Design: Pay attention to the design of the mask, such as the shape and position of the nose bridge, to ensure there is no discomfort for people with facial abnormalities.  
  3. Breathability: Make sure the masks are breathable to avoid causing discomfort, especially for people with respiratory conditions.
  4. Size: There is a range of mask sizes available to fit different face shapes and sizes, including larger sizes for people with facial hair.

Overall, choosing a face mask that is right for you depends on many factors. A properly fitting face mask can help reduce the risk of infection. Although, each person must weigh the level of protection needed, the fit and material as well as the need for inclusivity when determining which face mask is best for you and your situation.  


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, September 8). Masks and respirators. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html 


Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. (2021, May 2). Covid-19 advocacy and resources – disability rights education and defense fund. Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://dredf.org/covid-19-advocacy-and-resources/  


Masking: Which one is best? University of Utah Health. (2023, January 6). Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2022/01/omicron-masking.php 


Understanding ASTM levels for facemasks – coronavirus.kdheks.gov. Kansas Department of Health and Environment. (2020, July 30). Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1416/Understanding-ASTM-Levels-for-Facemasks-PDF—7-30-20?bidId=