The 10 Most Sustainable Face Masks - Good On You
15 Jun

The 10 Most Sustainable Face Masks

The first half of 2020 has sent the world into a spiral of widespread panic, and for good reason. From devastating bushfires in Australia, to flooding and locusts in East Africa, to a plague of hornets in the States… not to mention, you know, the global pandemic. In response, health authorities across the world have made a point of highlighting the effectiveness (or not) of face masks for each new seemingly apocalyptic situation we find ourselves in. We knew it was about time to track down the 10 most sustainable face masks.

For most of us, mask-wearing is either mandatory, encouraged, or the socially responsible thing to do. But there’s no doubt mask wearing has its downsides! Beyond possible discomfort there are environmental impacts to consider, and then there’s the all important question of how we look: there’s no denying our identity is tied up in what we wear—face coverings included. So if you’re going to wear a mask, why not choose a reusable mask that reduces environmental impact and makes a (sustainable) fashion statement at the same time?

Masks and your health

Trying to find the right mask can be confusing and intimidating. The primary benefit of mask wearing is to help reduce the spread of respiratory diseases including COVID-19, ideally before symptoms appear—remember, general health advice is for people with symptoms to stay home if they can. But even a basic mask will offer some protection to you and your family, so they’re worth a look in. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

Before we get to the brands, let’s take a moment to talk about the effectiveness of certain types of masks. The latest guidance from the World Health Organisation, currently stands as this: “WHO guidance recommends more complex masks made of three layers of fabric for the general public taking public transport or going into shops or places of worship where they cannot keep their distance.” It also advises people over 60 or with underlying health conditions to wear medical grade masks (N95 Standard) “in settings where physical distancing cannot be achieved because of increased risk of infection and/or negative outcomes.”

If you are low-risk and lucky enough to be able to maintain social distancing (you’re not within 1.5 metres of others at work, on public transport, or while shopping) then a simple single- or double-layer face mask will do the job. If you are low-risk and social distancing isn’t always doable, consider one of the three-layer options for the more crowded moments.

Disposable masks: a new environmental issue

An unfortunate side effect of the Coronavirus pandemic is the increased use of disposable personal protective equipment (PPE). As a conscious consumer, the thought of disposable masks might make you a little uneasy, especially in the long term—though of course in specific situations like hospital settings, disposable is the only safe option. But for the rest of us, there’s no reason not to invest in these ethical brands making sustainable and reusable face masks to stay safe and look great at the same time.

Both #Masks4All and plastic pollution expert Mark Benfield encourage the use of reusable and even homemade masks, for our sake and the sake of the planet. Be sure to read through all of their research-based advice to stay on top of appropriate mask use. As we slowly come out of one set of crises, we should do our best not to contribute to the overarching existential threat facing humanity—the climate crisis.

The Social Outfit

Rated: Great

Buy one mask from the Social Outfit and give one to a person in need. Accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia, the Social Outfit has a social mission to employ and train workers from refugee and new migrant communities, you can be confident your purchase is directly contributing to a better life for minorities who need it most.

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Shop the Social Outfit’s face masks. (ships internationally from Australia).

Dorsu

Rated: Great

Dorsu creates everyday basics and key signature favourites that form the core of any conscious wardrobe. Shop their fabric face masks for personal preventative measures, featuring adjustable around-the-head straps, and made with a soft cotton jersey to ensure comfort.

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Shop Dorsu’s face masks (ships internationally from Australia).

Armedangels

Rated: Great

Affordable, ethical and on-trend. Germany’s Armedangels gets a ‘Great’ rating overall from us. The brand covers all the basics for women, men and kids. Armedangels quality and long-lasting pieces are made from eco-friendly and certified materials, like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. They have designed organic cotton mix masks that catch larger droplets when speaking or coughing, and every purchase raises money for Doctors Without Borders—they are currently halfway to their goal of one million euros!

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Shop Armedangels’ face masks (ships internationally from Germany).

Springkode

Rated: Good

Springkode is a revolutionary fashion hub that lets customers buy from a curated network of luxury textile factories. They have stocked a wide range of reusable masks that have been tested as per the European Norms for particle retention capability and breathability even after multiple uses and washing cycles.

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Shop Springkode’s face masks (ships internationally from Portugal).

OhSevenDays

Rated: Good

OhSevenDays was started by Australian-Canadian Megam Mummery to promote slow fashion and the ‘power of circularity’. Based in Istanbul, the brand reclaims end of roll fabrics from the city’s garment factories and creates sharp, everyday womenswear that’s as wearable as it is ethical. These cute masks are made from two layers of upcycled scrap fabrics, and can help to inhibit the transmission of COVID-19.

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Shop Oh Seven Days’ face masks (ships internationally from Turkey).

Whimsy + Row

Rated: Good

This LA-based brand makes truly affordable ethical fashion that looks great—a rare find indeed.  By limiting each garment to short runs, Whimsy + Row utilise deadstock fabric, reduce packaging waste and take care of precious water resources. The brand has made 100% cotton machine washable masks that are good for those practicing social distancing, and for every mask purchase, one is donated to locations that need them most like women’s centers.

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Shop Whimsy + Row’s face masks (ships internationally from the US).

Ash & Rose

Rated: Good

Made in the USA from eco-friendly materials, Ash & Rose create easy-chic pieces for the modern romantic. Sadly, the business was recently devastated by flooding, but is pushing on with face mask sales and donations to local organisations in need. The masks are non-medical, double-layer cotton cloth. Each is reversible, and most have a plain solid side if you prefer a more conservative look. Material is 100% cotton, either organic cotton or designer remnant/salvage. All pre-washed and machine washable. Let’s show the brand some love!

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Shop Ash & Rose’s face masks (ships internationally from the US).

ARIELLE

Rated: Good

ARIELLE is a conscious collective focussed on sustainable textiles and domestic manufacturing. The brand has created organic civilian masks featuring an interior wool filter for particle capture, moisture wicking, and antimicrobial protection.

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Shop ARIELLE’s face masks (ships internationally from the US).

tonlé

Rated: Good

tonlé provides environmentally-friendly women’s clothing with a zero-waste design process. To do so, the brand uses remnant fabrics from large manufacturers as well as recycled threads and reclaimed wood from local suppliers for its trim and accessories. The brand is selling these triple-layered quilted cotton tie-on masks and selling them in packs of 10 at cost.

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Shop tonlé’s face masks (ships internationally from the US).

Threads 4 Thought

Rated: Good

Threads 4 Thought uses a range of sustainable materials including Lenzing Modal harvested from the limbs of beech trees. This process means that the trees are never cut down and 95% of the production materials to make the yarn are recovered and reused. Their manufacturers are a combination of Fair Trade USA certified and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production certified. Be protected, safe, and stylish for the foreseeable future with these sustainable face masks lined with organic cotton.

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Shop Threads 4 Thought’s face masks (ships internationally from the US).

Editor's note

Feature image via OhSevenDays, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use our Directory to search more than 2,000 brands.

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