What to look for when buying a clear face mask, according to experts

There's a new type of mask in town — and it's about to make talking while wearing a facial covering a lot easier. After months of muffled conversations and covered faces, masks with clear windows that let you read a person's lips are becoming more readily available.

We've learned a lot about how to shop for cloth face masks in recent months, but clear face masks are uncharted territory for many of us. With this in mind, Shop TODAY reached out to medical experts to find out how to shop for one.

Why are clear masks important?

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing and often rely on reading lips to communicate, face masks that cover the mouth can be a challenging and frustrating barrier.

"Wearing a mask is one of the recommended strategies to mitigate the current global pandemic. Unfortunately, covering the bottom part of one's face and mouth makes communication more difficult, especially for persons who are hearing impaired or older adults," said Dr. Ruth L. Bush, associate dean of medical education and a professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine.

Even those who aren't hard of hearing can find communicating while wearing a cloth face mask difficult, especially since you can't see facial expressions.

"A major part of the connection that we make with others depends on our facial expressions. Facial expressions are universal - a smile is a smile in every culture and language," said Ife Rodney, MD, founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, Maryland. "Clear face masks make it possible for us to communicate more effectively and maintain that human connection, while still practicing the protective measures necessary during this global pandemic."

How to shop for clear face masks

Similar to cotton masks, clear masks form a barrier that can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The plastic used to create the clear window in these masks is a pretty solid material choice, according to the medical experts Shop TODAY interviewed.

"Masks that are transparent may be as effective as cloth masks and might even be more effective since durable synthetic materials (plastics for example) provide strong barriers to respiratory droplet dispersal," said Dr. David M. Aronoff, director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Division of Infectious Diseases.

While shopping for a clear face mask, there are a few ways to determine if you've found a quality one:

  • Make sure it's tightly sewn: "The safety of plastic masks depends on how tightly the plastic is sewn into the surrounding fabric and how well it creates contact with your face, which will determine if respiratory droplets can pass through," said Dr. Nate Favini, medical lead of primary care practice Forward.

  • Cover your bases: "Consumers should look for clear masks or face coverings that cover both the nose and mouth and, like cloth face coverings, fit well under the chin," Aronoff said.

  • Look for a nose rest: "Because plastic is a stiffer material than cloth, it does not easily bend to fit your face's contour, so having a built-in nose rest will help the clear mask stay properly positioned on your face," Rodney said.

Clear face masks available online

1. Highermou Transparent Face Mask Set (Four-pack)

Whether you're a fan of neutral colors or love a bold print, this set of four transparent face masks comes in a range of colors to suit your every mood. The clear window shows off your entire mouth, so communicating is made easy.

2. ShowMySmile Anti-Fog Clear Window Face Mask

If you'd like the best of both worlds and want a clear window plus plenty of protective cotton around the edges of your mask, this Etsy bestseller could be your perfect match. It features an anti-fog window, cotton fabric and a plastic wired top so you can easily adjust it.

3. MagnoliaStitchCo Face Mask

Having a hard time convincing your kids to wear a mask? This fun design has a clear window in a playful lip shape and comes in a variety of colorful prints. If you're a kid at heart, there are also several adult patterns available!

4. Sachika Boutique 100% Clear Face Mask

Many clear face masks come with fabric sewn around the side, but this 100% transparent one lets you show off your whole face while staying safe. The vinyl material is also pretty easy to wash by hand, and the mask has quickly become an Etsy bestseller. "It feels great to have a mask that fits well and can blend on my face instead of blocking my expressions!" one happy customer wrote.

5. Xiaojmake Transparent Face Mask

You can really never go wrong with polka dots or stripes, and this transparent mask comes in both patterns — plus a light and airy gingham design! Customers call the transparent mask "lightweight," "comfortable" and "breathable."

6. Feeke Face Mask with Clear Window (Two-Pack)

Even after several months, we're all still getting used to wearing masks regularly, and part of finding the right one for you is experimenting with different varieties. Luckily, this unisex two-pack is pretty affordable, so you can give clear face masks a try without breaking your budget.

7. Sagton Clear Face Mask Set (Five-Pack)

Grab a clear face mask for every weekday with this five-piece set that comes in a range of solid colors and cute prints like florals, hearts and Halloween patterns. The lightweight, unisex mask can also be adjusted at the nose for a more customized fit.

8. UTSDesignStore Clear Mask

Two layers of fabric and one layer of PVC shield make this clear face mask ideal for anyone who needs to clearly communicate without compromising on safety.

"Great construction, beautiful sewing! I'm currently an ASL interpreting student, so this is very important for me," one reviewer wrote.

9. EvaFAST Reusable Face Masks with Clear Window (Five-Pack)

Need to infuse a bit of variety into your face mask routine? This multipack comes in several vibrant floral, patriotic and kid-friendly prints that snugly cover both your nose and mouth. At just $14 for five masks, the budget-friendly set is an easy way to give clear face masks a try.

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