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What You Need to Know About Canada’s New Three-Layer Face Mask Guideline

Health officials say masks meeting these criteria provide the best protection against COVID-19.

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New face mask recommendations - Woman wearing disposable face maskPhoto: Shutterstock

What is the new COVID-19 face mask guideline?

In November, the Public Health Agency of Canada updated its guidelines on non-medical masks and face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now, it’s recommended that a mask should be made up of at least three layers—two layers of tightly-woven fabric such as cotton or linen, and a third, middle layer of a filter-type material, like a non-woven polypropylene fabric or a disposable filter. This update comes as health officials learn more about the science of masks and how infectious respiratory droplets move through the air.

What exactly is a non-woven polypropylene fabric?

Polypropylene fabric is a term used to describe any textile formed by heating and cooling a synthetic resin. Why is a layer of this fabric in your mask useful? It doesn’t absorb moisture, which means the droplets that hit this material are repelled and evaporate quickly. It’s also one of the lightest synthetic fibres available and can be found in craft fabrics and reusable shopping bags.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, this non-woven filter layer offers extra protection by trapping small particles. Your mask should be washed daily, and the filter changed just as often (or as directed by the manufacturer).

Can you make your own?

Yes! The Public Health Agency of Canada has three sew and no-sew tutorials demonstrating how to make your own three-layer mask (or check out how to make our DIY face mask—no sewing required!). If you can’t find craft fabric or disposable filters for the third layer, you can also use a folded paper towel. However, this layer shouldn’t interfere with your breathing—don’t use plastic films or pieces of non-breathable plastic.

If you don’t trust your DIY skills, here are a few face mask options currently on the market that meet the new public health guidelines.

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Pure Balanxed Reusable Face MaskPhoto: Pure Balanxed

Pure Balanxed

Made of soft and stretchy upcycled cotton, bamboo and Tencel fabric leftover from the brand’s loungewear collection, this mask also comes in a children’s size.

Pure Balanxed Adult Fabric Masks, $14.50, purebalanxed.com

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Herschel Reusable Face MaskPhoto: Herschel

Herschel

An adjustable lightweight nose bridge ensures this mask fits close to your face.

Herschel Classic Fitted Face Mask, $19.99, herschel.ca

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Roots Reusable Face MaskPhoto: Roots

Roots

For extra breathability, this mask is designed with four layers of lightweight jersey and broadcloth fabric.

Roots Lightweight Reusable Face Mask, $22, roots.com

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Ellie Mae Reusable Face MaskPhoto: Ellie Mae Studios

Ellie Mae

For those who prefer a pleated mask, this version includes a pocket to accommodate a filter (replacement filters are available in a 10-pack for $7).

Ellie Mae Cotton Face Mask, from $20, elliemaestudios.com

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Peace Collective Reusable Face MaskPhoto: Peace Collective

Peace Collective

The multi-layer handsewn mask is made in Toronto from 100 percent cotton and includes one disposable filter (replacement filters are available in a 20-pack for $15 or 50-pack for $35).

Peace Collective Face Mask, $30, peace-collective.com

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Narces Reusable Face MaskPhoto: Narces

Narces

For every mask purchased, this Toronto brand is donating masks to local healthcare institutions.

Narces Mask, $30, narces.com

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Mackage Reusable Face MaskPhoto: Mackage

Mackage

The shapable nose strip and extendable chin cover of this mask eliminates any gaps.

Mackage Upcycled Face Cover, $40, mackage.com

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Echo Reusable Face MaskPhoto: Hudson's Bay

Echo

These three-layer cotton masks are perfect for everyday wear.

Echo Textured Cotton Face Mask, $16, thebay.com

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Photo: Unbelts

Unbelts

This polyester and organic cotton mask features super-soft elastic ties that go around the head for maximum comfort.

Unbelts Single Mask with Filter, $19, unbelts.ca

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Photo: Frank And Oak

Frank And Oak

The ear elastic on this cotton mask can be adjusted using the toggle to ensure a snug fit.

Frank And Oak Set of Two Reusable Masks, $24, frankandoak.com

Next, learn how to keep your glasses from fogging up while wearing a mask.