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When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first announced that N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare workers, many people turned to KN95 masks for help. But now, there’s a new high-performing disposable mask that people are snatching up: KF94s.
It’s easy to confuse the two masks, given that their names are fairly similar. But, while the masks have some things in common, there are plenty of differences between them. Here’s what you need to know.
First, what is a KN95 mask?
A KN95 mask is a disposable face mask that’s regulated by the Chinese government, Dr. Cedric Dark, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. When the pandemic first hit the U.S., N95 masks were in short supply. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration granted what’s known as an emergency use authorization for some KN95 masks, essentially giving them the FDA’s stamp of approval. KN95 masks were even used by some hospital staff where medical workers didn’t have access to N95 masks. But, now that the masks are more readily available, they’re more accessible to the general public.
What is a KF94 mask?
A KF94 mask is the South Korean version of a KN95 or N95, Dr. Mitchel Rosen, associate professor and director of the Center for Public Health Workforce Development at the Rutgers School of Public Health, tells Yahoo Life. “A KF94 is a Korean filtering face piece that is at least 94 percent effective at filtering airborne contaminants,” he explains. “A KF94 meets the standards and specification of the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.”
A KF94 is “probably about as effective as N95,” Dark says, adding that it’s “hard to validate.” Worth noting: “There are no KF94s covered by the FDA’s emergency use authorization,” says Dr. Lewis Nelson, professor and chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and chief of service in the emergency department at University Hospital, tells Yahoo Life.
KN95 vs. KF94
The look and fit of these masks is slightly different. KN95 masks have a front pouch that fits snuggly over your nose and mouth. They feature a metal nose wire and ear loops to help you get just-right fit.
KF94 masks are similar, with some modifications. While these masks also have a metal nose bridge and elastic ear loops, they also have a wide band across the front and side flaps that contour to your face.
While KF94 masks filter out 94 percent of particles and KN95 masks filter out 95 percent, experts say they’re basically the same thing. “There is little difference between 94 percent and 95 percent efficient,” Rosen says.
KF94 and KN95 masks offer superior levels of protection, but Nelson says you really don’t need something that powerful on a daily basis. Meaning, a three-layer mask can help keep you protected while you’re social distancing from others, but a KN95 or KF94 may be more helpful when you need to take public transit or go grocery shopping.
Whatever you choose, Rosen says that finding a mask that fits you properly is crucial. Overall, “the best protection requires a properly fitting respirator, meaning an N95, KN95 or KF94—all should be equivalent if certified and if properly fitting,” Nelson says.
Interested in trying a KN95 or KF94? Here are a few options to check out.
Powecom’s KN95 masks are authorized for use in the U.S. by the FDA. Testing has shown that the Powecom KN95 mask filters out at least 95 percent of particles. “My wife is a nurse and she felt like these were just as good as a N95 mask she uses in the hospital,” a five-star reviewer wrote. “I feel more protected than I do with a surgical or cloth mask, but it's more comfortable than an N95—a happy medium,” another fan said.
Shop it: Powecom KN95 Masks (10-pack), $27, amazon.com
These masks come in goes-with-everything black and feature the unique KF94 band across the front. One five-star reviewer said these masks are “highly quality,” adding, “I've tried a number of disposable masks and this one seems to be the best yet.”
Shop it: LG Health Care Airwasher KF94 Black Particulate Mask, $4, amazon.com
Ready to stock up? This 50-pack of KN95 masks is for you. “They are high quality, fit well, cover the nose, mouth and chin and are very sturdy,” a happy customer wrote in the reviews. “You can easily breathe through them and can keep them on comfortably for a long time.”
Shop it: N95 Mask Co. KN95 Face Mask, 50-Pack, $130 (was $150), n95maskco.com
The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.
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