Face shield vs. mask

Medical Supplies & Equipment

In most cases, it’s best to wear a mask rather than a face shield, as masks offer the best all-round protection.

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Should you wear a face mask or a face shield?

Vaccinations might lower positive cases and deaths, but COVID-19 is far from gone. It still makes sense to protect yourself in enclosed areas, especially when physical distancing isn’t possible. Nevertheless, should you be wearing a mask or a face shield for the best protection?

Face shields are primarily designed for use in addition to a mask during procedures and treatments that require close contact with others. They are not all that effective alone. Masks are the most effective option for day-to-day use, filtering out the majority of droplets.

Face shields

Face shields are thin sheets of clear plastic that span from around the forehead to below the chin. They’re held to the face either with a band around the head or clipped to goggles or glasses.

Face shields offer some protection from large droplets coughed or breathed directly on the shield area, but more diffuse droplets hanging in the air can easily get up around the edges. Depending on the quantity you buy them in, most cost $1-$5 each.

Face shield pros

  • Wearing a face shield and a mask offers more protection from large droplets than wearing a mask alone. This isn’t necessary for day-to-day use but is handy for people who come into close, extended contact with people at work, particularly near the face, for instance, during beauty treatments.
  • Some people who can’t wear masks for medical reasons — such as breathing issues or severe anxiety — may find they can tolerate wearing a face shield.
  • Because they’re transparent, face shields allow others to lip-read while you’re wearing them.

Face shield cons

  • Face shields don’t offer as much protection for the wearer or others as face masks because droplets in the air can still travel around the edges of the shield, making it easier for the wearer to be infected or infect others if they’re positive and don’t know it yet.
  • It can be uncomfortable to wear face shields for long periods.

Best product face shields

iPanda Pack Safety Face Shield

iPanda Pack Safety Face Shield

These simple face shields with a headband are sold in packs of between five and 240 for personal or commercial use.

Sold by Amazon

TCP Global Salon World Safety Face Shields

TCP Global Salon World Safety Face Shields

These face shields have a glasses-like frame with arms that you wear over your ears. You can more easily wear your glasses underneath than you can with some other styles of face shields.

Sold by Amazon

Maxboost Protective Face Shield

Maxboost Protective Face Shield

Well-padded around the forehead, most users find these face shields comfortable to wear. They’re easy to adjust and great for anyone who has found other face shields too big or wide.

Sold by Amazon

Masks

Masks are made from cloth or disposable non-woven fabric, fitting over the mouth and nose to trap droplets. They’re the best option for most individuals for general use out and about, trips to the store and so on.

Cloth face masks can vary widely in price depending on how many you get in a pack and whether they’re reusable or disposable, but most packs cost $1-$15.

Mask pros

  • Because they’re closer-fitting than face shields, fewer droplets get through masks, offering better protection for both the wearer and the people around them.
  • Cloth masks can be washed and reused many times and are more eco-friendly than face shields that create a large amount of plastic waste when discarded.
  • Masks come in a range of sizes and styles to suit most wearers.

Mask cons

  • Some people find themselves unable to wear masks due to breathing conditions or psychological conditions.
  • The vast majority of masks aren’t see-through, which is an issue for people who lip-read. 

Best masks

Perry Ellis Standard Reusable Woven Fabric Face Masks 

Perry Ellis Standard Reusable Woven Fabric Face Masks

Packs of three reusable cotton face masks come with adjustable toggles on the ears to get a good fit. They’re available in a range of prints.

Sold by Amazon

Original Penguin Reusable Woven Fabric Face Masks

Original Penguin Reusable Woven Fabric Face Masks

These triple-pleated face masks are comfortable to wear and have a compartment to hold a filter. You can choose from a wide selection of prints and colors.

Sold by Amazon

Levi's Re-Usable Bandana Print Face Mask

Levi’s Reusable Bandana Print Face Mask

With a cool bandana print, these masks stand out from the crowd. In particular, the large size is best for most adults.

Sold by Amazon

Should you get a face shield or a mask?

If you’re only going to get a face shield or a mask, opt for a mask for the most protection for you and others. However, if there’s a reason why you can’t wear a mask, wearing a face shield is better than nothing. In addition, in some scenarios, you might need the extra protection of wearing both a mask and a face shield — for instance, if you perform beauty treatments, such as eyebrow threading, that require you to get up close to your clients’ faces.

 

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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