Before the pandemic, most people didn’t own face masks unless it was the kind used for skincare purposes. Most of us walked taught our kids to cover their cough when they had a cold and to wash their hands after blowing their nose or coughing, but we didn’t actually wear something over our face to prevent the spread of germs.

In the beginning of the pandemic, face masks were in short supply, and many people started making and selling face masks from their homes. Many of these homemade and even store bought masks come in fun colors and patterns. For example, our kids have masks with in their favorite colors and with their favorite TV characters on them.

Now that almost two years have passed since face masks became common and even required in many places, surgical masks are not in short supply like they were at the beginning of the pandemic. N95 masks may still be hard to find, but it’s fairly easy to buy a box of surgical masks.

When it’s easy to get either a surgical mask or a cloth mask, which one should you choose? Doctors say to choose the surgical mask. In fact, doctors believe a 1-layer cloth face mask doesn’t really offer much protection at all.

Dr. Asha Shajahan is the medical director of Community Health for Beaumont Grosse Pointe and a family medicine physician for Beaumont Health. She believes an N95 mask and a 3-layer surgical mask are the best types of masks to use. If it’s not possible to find either those options and you have to go with a cloth mask, she suggests making sure that cloth mask has at least two or three layers.

Shajahan also recommends going to the CDC website to look at their mask recommendations. According to the CDC website, N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare workers. Face masks should be snug fitting and not made out of materials that make it hard to breathe. In addition, they should not include valves that can allow virus particles to escape.

Even if you’re vaccinated, Shajahan recommends wearing a face mask in certain indoor settings. She explained, “I wear my mask in every indoor public setting where I don’t know the people that are there. I think that’s just a public health recommendation and I really hope people abide by it.”

What kind of face mask do you usually use? If you usually wear a cloth face mask, are you going to start using surgical masks instead?