Understanding The Differences Between Face Masks

Understanding The Differences Between Face Masks

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Understanding The Differences Between Face Masks


Update, January 14th, 2022: The CDC updated it's mask guidance today.  Some key points:

Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask.


To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.


A respirator (N95 / KN95) has better filtration, and if worn properly the whole time it is in use, can provide a higher level of protection than a cloth or procedural mask.


When choosing a mask or respirator for a child (including N95/KN95 masks designed for children), it is important to understand that fit and comfort are key to mask effectiveness.  If the mask is poorly fitted or  uncomfortable, it is likely that it will be worn incorrectly or removed often, reducing the intended benefits. For children, choose a size that fits over the nose and under the chin but that does NOT impair vision. 

    review on cdc website


    As the Omnicron variant has caused a marked surge in infections even among those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, the CDC is preparing to update their guidance on mask usage (see above). This comes amidst recommendations from medical professionals for the public to upgrade their masks to the highly protective N95 or KN95 masks.

    One minute summary of this blog:

    • mask recommendations by the CDC are expected to change as health professionals have been encouraging the public to choose N95 or KN95 face masks over other types of masks.
    • N95 and KN95 face masks are both believed to offer superior protection over fabric and surgical masks.
    • The CDC estimates that approximately 60% of KN95 face masks sold are counterfeit. 
    • Mellow Monkey has always offered high quality, authentic KN95 face masks for adults and kids. Each package of masks sold has a verification label with serial number that can be looked up by the manufacturer to validate authenticity.
    • KN95 face masks are in stock and available in our Stratford, Connecticut  store and online at MellowMonkey.com

    KN95 mask 

    Apart from fabric face masks, there are two types of regulated medical grade masks:

     surgical mask

    Surgical masks - those pleated blue masks that are rectangular when folded flat are a one size fits all mask and are loose fitting and often do not provide a seal along the sides.


    Respirators - these are a more sophisticated type of mask meant to form a tight seal against the face ensuring the user breathe through the device's filter instead of the gaps on the sides (as can be the case with surgical masks.)

     k95 white mask N95 white mask

           KN95                   N95

    Respirators are now available in several versions, most commonly KN95 and N95 face masks. Both are designed to filter respiratory droplets and smaller aerosol particles that carry infectious diseases like Covid-19.

    Both KN95 and N95 face masks filter out at least 95% of particles from the air. So what's the difference? 

    • N95 masks are manufactured and certified in the US with a requirement that they filter out at least 95% of particles (hence, the "95 designation.) N95 masks also have headband attachments which are required by NIOSH. 
    • KN95 masks are manufactured in China and while they are subject to different certification requirements - they are also required to filter out at least 95% of particles. In addition, a "fit test" certification on real humans is also required to ensure the masks allow little to no leakage. This fit test is not a part of the US certification. Another distinction is that most KN95 face masks feature elastic ear loops which most users find more comfortable to wear and easier to put on.

    Which mask is right for me?

    • Cloth/Fabric Masks - are believed to only block 10-30% of aerosol sized particles in various laboratory studies that have measured filtration efficiency of cloth material masks. Some people wear a surgical mask underneath a fabric mask to improve the filtration efficiency but we are not aware of any studies that measure the benefits of doing this.
    • Surgical Masks - the US FDA believes that these masks are effective against protecting against splashes and large particle droplets - but not the small particles from a sneeze or cough.
    • N95 or KN95 Masks - the certifications on these masks require that they filter out at least 95% of particles and these masks are believed to be highly effective at trapping and filtering virus particles expelled via a sneeze or cough. 

    The CDC estimates that around 60% of KN95 face masks sold in the U.S. are counterfeits - made to look like masks produced by legitimate manufacturers in China.  These counterfeits do not meet NIOSH requirements. KN95 face masks sold by Mellow Monkey contain an anti-counterfeit seal that can be looked up to verify the product's authenticity.

    N95 or KN95?

    • Either mask is a good choice at providing a high degree of protection. The key is making sure the mask is tight fitting and covers both the wearer's nose and mouth. A face mask worn with the nose exposed is not effective at protecting the wearer and also puts others at risk.
    • N95 face masks can be purchased when they are available but are also being distributed in limited quantities by the federal government, state, and local governments at no cost. Remember that N95 face masks have the headband attachments which can be more difficult to put on, especially by younger and older wearers.
    • KN95 face masks can also be purchased when available and Mellow Monkey offers these masks in a variety of colors for adults and also a KN95 face mask for children
    • Regardless of where you buy your KN95 face masks, it's very important that you choose a reputable vendor who is selling only authentic masks.  Just because the mask has" KN95" printed on it does not make it authentic. 
    • Mellow Monkey has only sold Powecom KN95 face masks throughout the pandemic and each package has a anti-counterfeit label with serial number that can be looked up and verified here.

    While face mask sales were never anticipated to be a part of our home décor and gift product line, we have been committed to providing our community with high quality face masks at very reasonable prices since the pandemic began. Like you, we look forward to the day when these are no longer required.

    Stay safe!

    Howard, Owner

    Mellow Monkey

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