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Face masks: which one to choose to protect against COVID-19?

Jul 19, 2021

The experience gained during the pandemic shows that face masks prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the environment by infectious people. But how well do masks protect the wearer from inhaling particles containing the virus? 

The optimal effect of wearing a mask is a combination of the high ability of the material to filter the incoming air against the background of uncomplicated breathing.

Parameters for evaluating the effectiveness of mask protection?


Filtering capacity of mask material

The degree of protection of the material against penetration and/or removal of particles from the incoming air that passes through the mask material.


Filtration efficiency when wearing a mask that simulates real operating conditions

Degree of protection of the material against penetration of particles in real conditions: when wearing and breathing.


Pressure drop through mask: reflects how easily air can pass through the material

High pressure drops mean more resistance to air passing through it, i.e. breathing through the material will be harder than with a low pressure drop. 

The conducted researches proved that:

  • fabric masks they have the lowest filtration efficiency (28%): from 72% or more particles from the air enter the person through the mask.;
  • for non-certified masks filtration efficiency is 63%: 37% of particles from the air enter through the mask to the person.;

As tissue or non-certified masks are used, the filtration efficiency drops even lower - more than 80% of particles from the air reach a person.

  • certified masks for a face that meets medical standards, they have a relatively high efficiency-70%: 30% of particles from the air enter through the mask to the person.;
  • respirators they have the highest filtration efficiency (up to 98%) – they pass no more than 2-5% of particles from the air through the filter;

As certified masks and respirators are worn, filtration efficiency drops: up to 53% (for medical masks) and 35% (for FFP2) of particles from the air enter the person.

  • face shields they do not provide protection from inhaled air and are suitable in conditions of containment of large particles or worn over a mask for additional protection.

The least discomfort with breathing is provided by medical masks for the face type II and typical three-layer surgical masks. Respirators and fabric masks are characterized by higher pressure drops of air passing through the material, i.e. breathing through them will be a little more difficult.face shields do not provide protection from inhaled air and are suitable in conditions of containment of large particles or worn over a mask for additional protection.

Specialists of the MCSC named after A. S. Loginov have prepared recommendations on the choice of a protective mask against coronavirus.

  1. Make a choice in favor of a respirator to protect against infection is necessary:
  • people at high risk of severe SARS-CoV-2,
  • persons in direct contact with the sick and/or belonging to a high-risk group;
  • all those who are at high risk of infection (confined spaces, high air temperature, crowds of people).
  1. If you are already infected and are not quarantined, you must wear a certified medical mask to ensure the safety of those around you.
  2. Masks should be changed regularly in order to maintain an optimal level of protection for you and others.

Wearing a protective mask reduces the amount of virus that enters with inhaled air. The less virus enters the body, the better all internal systems will function.

Remember that no one knows how hard and with what outcome an infected person will be sick. Therefore, before the formation of collective immunity, it is strictly recommended to wear a mask in order to protect the people around you and yourself, regardless of the new coronavirus infection that has already been transmitted, vaccination, and other reasons.

By strictly following the rules, a person can protect themselves and their loved ones from contracting the virus.

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