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What are the different types of face coverings?

There are a few main types of face coverings, masks or respirators that you may have come across:

Face coverings

Face coveringsFace coverings include everything from fabric masks, to scarves or another piece of fabric that you use to cover your nose, mouth and chin. Scarves tend to be made from loose knit materials and are unlikely to provide much protection. If you can, fold the material several times to make it more difficult for droplets to pass through the fabric. Face coverings should be washed after each use.

Face coverings (fabric masks) like the ones in the picture to the right, can be bought or you can make them at home. They should cover the mouth, nose and chin and can be secured with string or elastic bands. These provide a barrier between you and other people and can help to limit the droplets that are released if you cough or sneeze.

They should be washed after each use and you should follow the guidelines below for putting on and removing masks to prevent contamination.


Medical grade/surgical masks

Medical grade/surgical masksEach country will have its own guidance about who should, or should not, wear these. Our advice here is intended to be a general guide only.

Surgical masks offer good protection and are made from a minimum of three layers of synthetic nonwoven material and offer high levels of protection. Medical masks are generally reserved for those looking after people with a suspected COVID-19 infection. Certain countries may also suggest that these are used by patients with underlying health conditions, people over the age of 60 years, and anyone who is experiencing symptoms that may be COVID-19. In this situation, ELF would support your choice if it is in line with your country’s guidance.



RespiratorRespirators, such as FFP2 (N95), FFP3 (N99) provide the highest levels of protection and are designed specifically for certain groups, such as healthcare professionals who are working in direct contact with people with COVID-19. They should be fitted to the person using them, by formally carrying out a face fit test, and are not recommended for use by other people. While medical grade masks and respirators provide high levels of protection neither protect the wearer completely. The level of protection goes down the longer the mask is worn, and the level of protection will reduce a lot if they are not worn correctly.  You should always follow strict guidance when putting on, wearing and removing masks, face coverings or respirators.