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The benefits of clear face masks—and where to buy them

Jamie Ueda
Reviewed.com
These masks make it easy to see facial expressions and read lips.

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that people cover their faces in public to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Because of this, retailers, brands, and designers are coming out with new face masks nearly every week. 

We’ve spent the past couple of months testing face masks at Reviewed and found the best cloth face masks for most people. One drawback of these masks, though, is that they cover the mouth and nose, making it hard to see facial expressions. Personally, I have caught myself smiling at someone in my cloth mask, only to realize that there is no way for them to know this. Luckily, given the fact that so many brands and designers are coming out with face masks, there are now options out there that solve this problem. Enter: the mask with a clear panel. 

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What are the benefits of face masks with clear panels?

The benefits of clear face masks—and where to buy them

Clear masks look like a cloth face covering, but they have a clear panel in front of your mouth, making it easier for people to see facial expressions or read lips.

According to Dr. Cassandra M. Pierre, the acting hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center, “there is not enough data on these types of masks to determine their level of efficacy.” But says these may be beneficial for people where seeing facial expressions or reading lips is important and helps with comprehension, like those hard of hearing or deaf, people who speak different languages or dialects, or those who work with children. 

Dr. Pierre also stresses that these masks, along with the other cloth face masks we often recommend, should not replace hospital-grade masks in healthcare settings, as they are not as effective as medical-grade and N95 masks. All face masks, along with clear ones, should provide an extra layer of protection by blocking respiratory droplets, which is the primary way that COVID-19 is transmitted. They should also fit well and have no gaps or openings around the mask.

If you could benefit from a mask with clear panels or are longing to show off that smile you’ve been hiding for months, there are a few retailers selling face masks with clear panels.  

Where to buy clear face masks 

Etsy is your best option when it comes to buying clear face masks.  The options seem endless, with many DIYers offering their own homemade versions. Most of these masks are made with fabric and have a clear panel in the front of the mouth. There are a few versions that are completely transparent which show your entire face but according to some reviews, these may fog more than others. There are many colors and prints to choose from with some masks stating that they are anti-fog. 

Another great place to buy clear face masks is Rafi Nova. The retailer makes backpacks, diaper bags, pouches, and face masks that are made with fabric that’s fair trade and ethically sourced from artisans overseas. Their “Smile Mask” is made with cotton fabric and a plastic panel that is BPA-free. According to the website, their masks are three layers, antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, and offer UV protection. The masks are available with ear loops or ties. 

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.