Avoid Counterfeits and Find the Right Protective Mask with This Helpful Guide

By: Dani Vogel

January 25, 2022

different types of protective face masks

To better protect our patients, visitors and employees, cloth masks are no longer allowed at Renown facilities. Surgical masks, KN95 and N95 masks are allowed at Renown facilities. Appropriate face masks will be provided for visitors and patients who need one.

With recent surges in the infectious COVID-19 omicron variant, many have sought to upgrade their face masks. But, let’s face it, shopping for face masks with adequate protection can be a challenge, especially considering the countless variations and the rise of counterfeit masks.

Follow our straightforward guide below which includes some common red flags to help you discern between a high-quality face mask that provides proper protection and those that may be counterfeit.

Types of Masks

Qualities of a Real N95 Respirator Mask

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), N95 approved masks form a tight seal around your face and include a disposable respirator that removes particles including bacteria, viruses and dust as you breathe. N95 masks that are NIOSH approved undergo strict quality assurance and performance requirements to ensure mask respirators filter out up to 95% of hazardous particles.

  • As a rule of thumb, N95 masks will not have ear loops, commonly used in cloth or surgical face masks. N95 respirators will contain two elastic bands or head straps that fasten behind the head, one securing the crown of the head and the other resting at the base of the neck, providing a snug fit and seal.
  • Some other common signs that an N95 might be counterfeit include lack of all proper labeling, misspellings of NIOSH, decorative fabric and claiming to be approved for children. Currently, masks in adult sizes are the only masks to undergo NIOSH’s quality assurance and testing process.
  • Respirators approved by NIOSH will include a testing certification (TC) approval number and will contain specific labeling on the facepiece of your mask. Find a full list of Center for Disease Control (CDC) and NIOSH requirements here.

Identifying Real KN95 Respirator Masks

Often preferred due to comfortability, the KN95 respirators were initially designed to meet Chinese standards for medical masks. Firstly, if a KN95 mask claims to be approved by the CDC, it is counterfeit as the CDC and NIOSH do not support any respiratory protective devices according to international standards. However, when KN95 masks are fitted and worn appropriately they do provide more protection than disposable masks.

  • Legitimate KN95 masks will display a manufacturer number, GB2626-2019, ensuring accordance with current Chinese respirator standards for all masks made after July 1, 2021.
  • Unlike N95 masks, it is important to note that KN95 masks are available in children's sizes.
  • You might run into KN95 masks claiming to be “FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved” or “FDA-registered,” but be aware that this does not mean much and is a misleading statement. What this indicates is that a mask maker has submitted paperwork to the FDA, but the product has not been thoroughly tested for proper filtration and protection.

Surgical Masks

Medical procedure masks often referred to as surgical or disposable masks vary in their protection according to a variety of factors including fit and filtration. The CDC defines medical procedure masks as “variably shaped, including flat pleated, cone-shaped, or duck-bill. Medical procedure masks are loose and are not expected to provide a reliable level of protection against airborne or aerosolized particles as N95 respirators regulated by the National Institute of for Occupational Safety and Health.” However, these types of masks provide more protection than cloth masks and are certainly better than wearing no mask at all.

Often popular due to their level of comfort and cost-effectiveness, surgical masks can be knotted in the ear loop areas to provide a tighter seal and can be layered for additional filtration.

Depending upon your budget and level of comfortability and protection, one variation of mask may suit you over another. Please remember to do your part in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and wear a surgical mask, KN95 or N95 mask when visiting Renown facilities.
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