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Respirators vs. Masks: What you should know

The topic of masks is a complex one that is changing every day. Adore Me wants to be completely transparent in how we're approaching a sensitive, but incredibly important topic.

If you take away one thing: Understand the difference between a Respirator and a Mask.

A respirator is designed to protect you from other people.

A mask is designed to protect others from you.


The N95 is the respirator you've most likely read about. The KN95 is a variant of this product (though not blanket-approved by the FDA) . Respirators fit tightly around your face to create a tight seal that prevents droplets from entering. They also are made of a special thermoplastic material that is very effective at preventing any airborne particles from entering through the surface. 

Fun fact: There are also respirators with names like R99, N100 or P95


The core purpose of a mask is to protect other people from you. If you cough or sneeze, or even while speaking, wearing a mask will prevent droplets from entering the air and infecting others. That is the entire purpose of wearing a fabric, non-surgical mask; the kind that you can sew at home or a number of fashion companies are making. 

This is especially true with COVID-19, where many people are asymptomatic and could be grocery shopping and not even realize they are spreading the virus while talking (this GIF is terrifying):

Just watch that GIF again. Every one of us should be wearing a fabric mask when we leave the house.   

A surgical mask - the blue medical mask most of us are visually familiar with, protects you from "large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria)" - that's from the FDA


If you are a grocery store cashier and interacting with lines of customers all day long, you should be protected from them. It's almost nonsensical that that cashier would be wearing something that protects the customer...from them. But that's the current situation we're in. And that's sadly better from a month ago, when there were no face coverings.

Every essential worker deserves the right to be protected when they go to work. 

Through March and April, we all mobilized for health care workers and it was inspiring. But the general public seemed to forget about the grocery store cashiers, package deliverers, police officers, firefighters, postal workers, bus drivers, and warehouse workers all making it possible for others to stay at home. 


As of late March, the primary respirator available in the U.S. was the N95. The guidance was, and continues to be: every N95 should go to a healthcare worker on the front lines. We agree. 

The KN95 opens up a new way for non-healthcare essential workers to receive a reasonable level of protection. To finally be able to protect themselves from others while out in the field and on the job. 


Masks provide varying levels of medical protection against the virus, but there is also an important cultural element. When everyone wears masks it shows a shared drive to beat the virus; a subtle nod that you're taking things seriously. That you're willing to exchange a tiny bit of discomfort for the safety of the greater good. 

This entire initiative is about extending this social signaling to the safety of essential workers. We hope that the entry of the KN95 to the market and increasing understanding of this complex topic will push the public to insist that all essential workers are protected.

Finally, don't just take our word for it:

The CDC has an infographic getting into more detail (link here):



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