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The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is no joke, and if you don’t have a fresh supply of N95 or KN95 face masks, then now is the time to stock up. We’ve already written about the best places to buy N95 face masks online, and how to spot counterfeit KN95 masks online and in person. We also wanted to create a quick resource for individuals worried about the highly contagious COVID-19 variant known as Omicron.
So as we approach the second anniversary of the coronavirus arriving in the United States, what are the best face masks for Omicron specifically?
The Best Face Masks for the Omicron Variant of COVID-19
This new variant is sweeping through New York City and other cities like wildfire. All around the country, cases are surging as school districts grapple with new outbreaks among students and staff. The author of this piece recently recovered from a bout with the Omicron variant after attending a large indoor gathering unmasked. As with other coronavirus variants, the best face masks for Omicron and COVID-19 are N95, KN95 and KF94 respirators, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As per usual, cloth face masks, scarves, bandanas, and disposable face masks offer very limited protection, and experts from the CDC recommend wearing N95 or KN95 face masks when traveling, spending time in crowded indoor places, or after potential exposure to the virus. Of course, you can also receive one of the highly effective COVID-19 vaccines (followed by a booster shot after six months) for potentially life-saving protection.
For a secure fit on your face, we also recommend looking for face masks with adjustable nose guards. To avoid ear irritation, adjustable ear loops can also be a nice feature. We recommend buying N95 masks for Omicron from reputable sources, and we’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years talking to experts and researching trusted retailers for face masks.
Below, you’ll find our top recommendations for the best face masks for Omicron. If you’re shopping for KN95 or N95 masks, then we recommend starting your search at Blue Bear Protection or Wellbefore. We’ve also included some of the best KN95 face masks available via Amazon Prime, and we recommend checking out Amazon’s guide to KN95 face masks. Finally, keep scrolling for some important tips on avoiding counterfeit masks. Always use caution when buying masks from unknown retailers or brands.
1. Wellbefore Individually Wrapped N95 Face Masks
Wellbefore is a great source for PPE and face masks for COVID-19. Not only does this retailer offer fast shipping and low prices, but they also have a huge selection so that you can purchase the best face masks for your needs. Right now, Wellbefore is selling individually wrapped KN95 face masks with adjustable ear loops for as little as $1.99/mask. You can also purchase N95 face masks for the same price. In addition, you can choose various colors, styles and sizes to ensure the best possible fit on your face.
2. Blue Bear Protection KN95 Masks (20-Pack)
Blue Bear Protection is one of our favorite places to buy both N95 and KN95 face masks online, and we’ve found that the company has excellent products and reliable customer service. In fact, these are the masks worn by some SPY.com editors. These KN95 face masks are fairly priced and designed to filter out 95% of airborne particles at least 0.3-microns in size. Each box comes with 20 masks per order. Unfortunately, Blue Bear Protection’s popular KN95 face masks for kids are sold out, and we recommend purchasing these adult masks before they sell out, too.
3. Makrite 9500-N95 Face Masks (20-Pack)
Blue Bear Protection also sells N95 face masks, which are made to U.S. standards for personal protective equipment. (You can read more about the difference between KN95 and N95 face masks here.) If you want the best face masks for the Omicron variant, then we recommend ordering these Makrite N95 face masks via Blue Bear Protection. Thanks to a recent price drop, these masks are more affordable than ever.
4. HUHETA KN95 Face Masks
Are you nervous about buying face masks online from a company you don’ know and trust? HUHETA might not sound like a familiar brand name, but it’s actually one of Amazon’s many house brands. Like a generic product you might buy at the supermarket, this product is owned and sold by Amazon itself. These affordably priced KN95 face masks are designed with five layers that filter out 95% of particles 0.3 microns in size. These face masks do not have adjustable ear loops, but they do have an adjustable nose guard.
5. Wellbefore KN95 Face Masks
We’ve personally tested Wellbefore’s N95 and KN95 face masks, and this company makes it easy to order PPE that suits your needs at prices you can afford. In our experience, Wellbefore shipments arrive on time, and you can purchase with confidence knowing you’re buying high-quality face masks for Omicron. These KN95 face masks feature adjustable ear loops and nose guards. Bulk purchases and monthly subscriptions are also available if you need to order large quantities.
6. FGCCJP KN95 Face Mask
FGCCJP is another one of Amazon’s house brands, and so we think you can buy these affordable and well-reviewed KN95 respirators with confidence. Each order comes with 30 individually wrapped masks, which are designed to filter out 95% of particles 0.3 microns in size and above. These face masks are in stock and can be purchased via Amazon Prime for 2-day delivery, which is convenient if you or your family need masks fast.
7. ALG Soft Shell N95 Face Masks — 20 Pack
This is another clamshell N95 mask that’s multi-layered and equipped with an inner filtration layer that removes 95% of airborne particles that aren’t oil-based. These masks from ALG are lightweight and made to be disposable, easier to wear and therefore more protective due to increased use. They have a two-strap design and each of the straps are latex-free. These masks are also glue-free, odorless and used by healthcare professionals around the country. For both medical professionals and civilians who want to buy N95 masks online, this is a fantastic option.
8. Kimberly Clark N95 Pouch-Style Respirators
Lots of people are looking for face masks made in the USA, and these genuine N95 respirators are made in the USA by Kimberly Clark, one of the world’s top manufacturers of paper products. Because of the unique pouch design, the fabric of the mask won’t be pressing against your face, which can provide enhanced comfort if you need to wear a face mask for hours at a time. Not only are these some of the best face masks for Omicron, but they’re also available via Amazon Prime.
9. evolvetogether Milan Disposable Face Masks
FOR DOUBLE MASKERS
A lot of people like to double mask when traveling, meaning they wear an N95 face mask and a disposable or cloth face mask on top. These matte black disposable face masks from evolvetogether are celebrity-approved and ideal for double masking. Please keep in mind that these disposable masks are not N95 masks, and as such, they will offer very limited protection if worn on their own. That being said, they’re a sleek and convenient option if you’re looking for a solid disposable mask.
How To Spot Counterfeit N95 Face Masks
We recently spoke to several experts about identifying counterfeit N95 and KN95 face masks, and we collected a ton of useful tips for smarter shopping. Counterfeiters are getting more sophisticated, and you should definitely use caution when shopping for maks on Amazon and other stores that allow third-party listings. We’re confident that none of the masks featured in this piece are counterfeit.
When shopping for the best face masks for the Omicron variant, we recommend looking for the following red flags that a mask is counterfeit:
- There are no labels on the product packaging or mask itself
- There’s no approval number on the respirator, headband or box
- There are no NIOSH-related markings on the box
- NIOSH is misspelled
- There are decorative elements on the mask or extra fabric; certified PPE doesn’t have these details
- The products are labeled or marketed as N95 masks for kids, as the NIOSH does not approve respirators for children
- If the respirator has ear loops instead of headbands, which provide a tighter fit, it’s most likely not actually NIOSH-approved
FAQ: Face Masks and Omicron
What shoppers need to know...
With the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeping through cities in the United States, we know a lot of our readers are stocking up on face masks again. Hopefully, you're searching for N95 and KN95 face masks. If you're not sure what to purchase or have concerns about counterfeit N95 face masks, we've answered some common questions below. Keep reading to ensure you're making an informed decision when buying the best face masks for the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The CDC reports that the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which was first detected in the United States on December 1, will likely "spread more easily than the original [COVID-19] virus". Since the Omicron variant is so new, official information is hard to come by, but early indicators show that the new mutation is more contagious but not necessarily more deadly. Anecdotally, the new variant appears to be spreading extremely rapidly here in New York City, which is undergoing a new surge. Multiple members of the SPY.com team have tested positive since December 1, and we know many people in the same situation.
The CDC recommends wearing N95 or KN95 face masks to protect yourself from Omicron and all strains of COVID-19. Unfortunately, disposable masks, cloth face masks, and DIY face masks made from bandanas or scarves will offer little to no protection, especially against a highly contagious virus such as this new variant. We recommend buying N95 and KN95 masks from trusted sources, and we've spoken to experts and researched the best options for our readers. We recommend retailers such as Wellbefore and Blue Bear Protection if shopping for N95 masks online.
N95 masks are made to U.S. health standards, while KN95 masks are made to Chinese standards, which some people believe are less strict. (KF94 face masks are made to Korean standards.) However, both types of face masks (also called respirators) are designed to offer the exact same protection. These face coverings are made with multiple layers that filter 95% of airborne particulates 0.3-microns in size, thus protecting the wearer from COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.
Unfortunately, yes, you should be wary of fake KN95 face masks. Large retailers like Amazon host many third-party retailers, counterfeit masks are getting more sophisticated. To be safe, we recommend buying N95 masks from PPE companies such as Wellbefore, 3M and Blue Bear Protection. If you are shopping for KN95 face masks on Amazon, we recommend sticking to Amazon's house brands, which include HUHETA and FGCCJP.
You can also watch out for common red flags such as:
- There are no approval numbers on the face masks, headband or packaging
- No NIOSH-related markings on the mask or packaging; "NIOSH" is misspelled
- There are decorative elements on the mask or extra fabric; certified PPE doesn't have these details
- The masks are labeled or marketed as N95 masks for kids