As new variants of the Coronavirus emerge, you’ve likely heard that wearing two masks can provide increased protection. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven’t outright endorsed the practice yet—its guidance still focuses on how your mask should fit—other public health experts are recommending it. In an appearance on NBC’s Today Show at the end of January, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, indicated he thinks it is a good idea. “It just makes common sense,” he said.
Linsey Marr, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech who has studied how pathogens can be transmitted through the air, agrees. In an email, she told me that the new strains provided reason for all of us to increase our vigilance to all social distancing precautions, especially in everyday, indoor high-risk situations (like shopping at a grocery store or traveling on public transit). “For masking, this means improving the fit and filtration of our masks,” she said. This is what double masking accomplishes. “The first layer acts as a good filter, and the second layer adds some filtration while also greatly improving the fit,” she says. When you wear a disposable base layer mask underneath a tightly fitting cloth mask, you get this significant extra protection.
Below, we’ve collected some of the most dependable sources of disposable layered masks to wear underneath your cloth face coverings, as well as some alternative expert-approved ways to add layers and improve fit, so you’ve got zero excuses left to be roaming the Key Foods aisles with just your handmade Etsy face covering any longer.
The Best Disposable Face Masks for Wearing Two Masks
As long as they meet a certain standard, most surgical masks are basically direct replacements for each other. The below masks come from reputable manufacturers with decent standards for quality control. Expect a pack of face masks with sturdy nose bridges (that actually stay bent!), in-tact ear loops, and relatively thick fabric. Note: medical-grade, disposable N95 masks are still in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers.
Evolve Together face mask (7-pack)
Evolve Together disposable face masks are available in several different colors, including black, green, and gray.
Wyze disposable surgical mask (50-pack)
Tech company Wyze is working with its manufacturing partners to source and sell disposable masks at a very cheap 24 cents per mask.
Nomad Goods disposable face mask (50-pack)
Nomad Goods primarily sells leather Apple accessories, including some excellent AirPods cases, but the company now sells disposable face masks at 30 cents per mask.
General Brand disposable face mask (50-pack)
The massive New York retailer of electronic essentials has acquired some PPE. These basically brandless ones cost 14 cents per mask.
CandyCare disposable face mask (25-pack)
A smaller amount of face masks for 20 cents per mask, but these CandyCare masks are available through Amazon Prime.
The Best Cloth Face Masks for Wearing Two Masks
We’ve been testing and recommending washable cloth masks since April. As it turns out, many of the ones we’ve liked best for wearing alone turn out to be excellent when wearing over another mask. The name of the game here is fit, so all of the below masks have either adjustable ear ties or loops, or come in multiple sizes.
Buck Mason M1 All-Day Face Masks (5-pack)
You might know Buck Mason as a direct-to-consumer brand well-liked for its T-shirts. Now they’re turning that tasty cotton into masks with adjustable ear ties.
Under Armour Sportsmask (2-pack)
This sporty face mask is among the best for working out. It comes in a bunch of different sizes that helps make sure you get a close fit.
Baggu Fabric Mask Tie (3-pack)
The makers of the best reusable grocery bags are now making face masks. (Don’t worry, they aren’t made with the same stretchy, non-breathable, fabric.) They offer them both with adjustable ear loops and adjustable ear ties.
Tie Bar face mask (5-pack)
A five pack of masks from the same place you copped your first pocket square. Their ear loops have a little cinch that makes sure the mask will fit tightly around another mask.
Con.Struct cotton cone mask (3-Pack)
Printed face masks with adjustable, cinchable ear loops.
Fossil face mask (3-pack)
A better print with adjustable, cinchable ear loops.
Banana Republic face mask (3-pack)
This three pack is often back-ordered, and it’s no wonder. It comes in some nice colors and has adjustable ear loops.
Zenbu face mask
The shape of these masks helps ensure they fit comfortably over any nose and any other mask. Especially thanks to the nose bridge and the adjustable ear loops.
Herschel face mask
Just like your high school backpack, but this time you’ll actually use the adjustability features.
The Best Neck Gaiters for Wearing Two Masks
Like regular cloth masks, neck gaiters can be easily worn as a second mask over a disposable face mask. Initially designed to keep wearers protected from high winds during runs, gaiters have proven a decent solution to prevent the spread of this infectious disease. Here are a few that we like.
Banana Republic adjustable gaiter
When you picture a gaiter, it probably looks like this one from Banana Republic. It only comes in one size, but you can get it in black, gray, and navy.
Nike neck gaiter
REI Co-op merino wool neck gaiter
Merino wool is the quintessential cold weather fabric: extremely soft, just warm enough, and lightweight all at the same time.
Nekku neck gaiter
As you might have guessed, there are innumerable neck gaiters available from infinite Etsy retailers. This well-reviewed one from “Nekku” comes in several wavy color options, has reams of five-star reviews, and ships quickly from Seattle.
The Best Disposable Filters to Make Your One Mask as Good as Wearing Two Masks
If you’ve got a well-fitting face mask with a built-in filter pocket, Marr says a good filter can serve as an effective replacement for another mask. We’ve found four decent sources for effectively identical replacement 2.5 pm filters, which are finely woven enough to catch and trap Covid particles before they reach your respiratory system and are sized perfectly to fit behind most masks. (You can also wear these behind cloth face masks without filter pockets, just use some double sided tape to hold it in place.) If you struggle with mask breathability, this might be a good option for you.
Vida mask replacement filters (5-pack)
Casetify mask replacement filters (10-pack)
Kinglight mask replacement filters (10-pack)
ICU Health mask replacement filters (30-pack)
The Best Mask Braces to Make Your Mask As Good as Two Masks
Rather than to wear two layers of face masks herself, Marr opts to wear a surgical-type mask with the addition of a mask frame. These help give any mask a much closer fit, to make sure very few particles are able to avoid passing through its filter. The company behind one of these, Fix the Mask, actually offers a template you can use to cut your own frame for free on its website, but the ones they make themselves are likely of much higher quality.
Fix the Mask mask brace (2-pack)
Fix the Mask
Paramount Dental mask fitter