Do face masks with clear plastic panels work?

Sometimes it’s important for people to be able to see your lips and mouth. Maybe you work with young children learning to read. Or perhaps you interact with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. But you want to keep yourself and those around you safe from COVID. In these cases, people have wondered if face masks with clear plastic panels can be used instead of cloth masks.

Though there are no studies on face masks with clear panels, the CDC says that these masks are OK in certain circumstances. The CDC specifically notes the following groups of people could consider wearing these special masks:

  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Young children or students learning to read
  • Students learning a new language
  • People with disabilities
  • People who need to see the proper shape of the mouth for making appropriate vowel sounds (for example, when singing)

Like cloth masks, masks with plastic panels should cover your nose and mouth. There should not be any gaps around the edges of the mask. (Face shields and goggles are not OK, even in these circumstances.) In addition, make sure that: you can breathe easily; that moisture doesn’t collect on the plastic; and that you take off the mask when trying to sleep. 

So keep yourself and those around you safe. If any of the special circumstances on the CDC website applies to you, consider wearing a mask with a plastic panel. 

Last update: Feb 25, 2021, 8:25 pm ET

Science review: ERS, SKB