Clear face masks and face coverings – where to buy and what to look forPublished Date: 26 Feb 2021
An introduction to face masks and coverings in health and care settings and in use by the public.
UK governments make a distinction between face coverings and masks.
Face coverings are recommended as a protection against community transmission of COVID-19 by passing on any infection that the wearer may have but be unaware of (known as being asymptomatic). Face coverings are not designed to protect the wearer although there may be some limited protection offered. Face coverings may be purchased in the high street as disposable or reusable products, or can be made at home. Face coverings act as a physical barrier blocking any virus transmission from the wearer to people around them while talking or coughing etc. Unless marked as a disposable product, face coverings can be re-used multiple times with regular washing in between uses.
Face coverings must cover the mouth and nose to be effective and the wearer should wash their hands before and after removing their mask. The covering should be kept in a clean plastic bag when not in use. Wearers should avoid touching their face when wearing a face covering and should avoid pulling it on and off regularly because any virus on another part of their face or neck could be transferred to their mouth and nose.
Face masks are classified as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which is designed to meet a higher standard of both protecting the wearer and preventing the risk of community transmission.
NHS and Social Care settings
Face masks worn by staff in the NHS and Social Care settings are part of a package (including gloves, aprons, face shields etc) known as PPE or Personal Protective Equipment.
PPE is designed to protect both the wearer from picking up any infection, as well as to prevent the member of staff from passing on any infection that they may have but be unaware of (known as being asymptomatic). PPE is always single-use and has to be changed regularly to prevent transfer of infection between individuals. It has to be taken on and off in a very careful way to avoid any infection on the PPE from coming into contact with the wearer. PPE face masks have to be fitted to ensure that they fit the individuals face well, with no gaps around them to allow virus transmission in and out. A good summary of different levels of PPE masks is available here and the full NHS guidelines on PPE is available here .
We have been campaigning to have clear face masks widely available in the NHS to help improve communication with deaf children without the need to remove masks to allow lip-reading and see facial expressions.
The Department for Health and Social Care (in England) purchased 250,000 clear face masks from the USA for a pilot to see how useful they were for improving communication with hearing loss. We are now working with the NHS Supply Chain PPE group who have been working with UK manufacturers on innovative new products. We understand that a trial of a further four designs made in the UK will be available for trialling in the NHS soon. Further updates on our campaign success with the NHS can also be found here .
Current guidance is that face coverings are used in some education settings, except where PPE would usually be used (such as personal care with a child). Home-made clear face coverings are unlikely to provide the same degree of reduction in virus transmission as a three layer fabric face covering (as recommended by WHO). However, there are a few manufacturers of clear face masks which are available to the public to buy which meet Type II and IIR face masks (Surgical masks EN14683) standards. These are lower grade PPE used in NHS settings in lower risk environments and are equivalent to face masks. These could be used safely as an alternative in environments requiring face coverings such as education settings.
(See ‘Buying face masks or coverings for use in public places’ below.)
Our education blog sets out the latest rules and advice on face coverings masks in education. The best way to prevent virus transmission in public is by physical spacing between individuals (social distancing) and regular hand washing, but when physical distancing is not possible then a face covering helps prevent virus transmission. The general public have been asked to wear face coverings in certain enclosed public spaces and outdoors when 2 metre social distancing is not possible. The rules are different across the UK (you can find the up-to-date guidance in your country here).
PPE is manufactured to standards that cover the materials used and manufacturing methods. The NHS uses PPE that has been certified by CE marking which shows the product complies with British and European safety, health and environmental standards .
There are currently no UK product standards for face coverings and the government has advised that home-made face coverings are suitable for use by the public and has information here. The World Health Organisation and Welsh Government recommends that face masks and coverings are made of three layers of fabric.
However, the British Standards Institution (BSI) have recently introduced a new BSI Kitemark for face coverings which aims to provide consumers with confidence that their face covering provides meets standards in bacterial filtration and breathability. The certification scheme has been developed for manufacturers of face coverings who wish to demonstrate that their products have been independently assessed to perform as intended. Achieving a BSI Kitemark for a product is voluntary. We are currently working with the BSI in the development of standards that will include clear face coverings also.
Buying face masks or coverings for use in public places
We advise that you research options to determine what would be most suitable in your situation. This would include thinking about how well the mask fits, what situations you are using them in, and manufacturing standards that have been used.
There are a few manufacturers of clear face masks which are available to the public to buy which meet Type II and IIR face masks (Surgical masks EN14683) standards. These are lower grade PPE used in NHS settings in lower risk environments and are equivalent to three-layer face coverings. These could be used safely as an alternative in environments requiring face coverings such as education settings.
If you have a product you would like added to these lists please email [email protected]
USA product which meets Type II surgical mask to USA standards. Has been approved by the Health and Safety Executive for use in the NHS in lower-risk settings.
Available to buy from:
EcoTextura Clear Panel IIR Medical Mask
Available to buy from:
Manufactured in the UK to Type IIR standards.
Available to buy from:
Xula Transparent Face Mask
Manufactured in Spain to European and Spanish standards for Community Face Coverings
Available to buy from:
Other manufacturers of clear face masks or coverings:
A number of manufacturers have approached us since our campaign launched to let us know about new products they have available. Below you will find a list of manufacturers who sell clear face masks. We believe that they meet the advice of the Government that “In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.”
We have not tested these products and make no claims, either express or implied, that the shared resources will prevent infection or transmission of viruses or other diseases.