I recently had a chance to review a couple of different masks that either were designed for people with different sensory needs, or work well for them. This is pretty important to my neurodiverse family, as we still aren’t used to wearing masks and have sensory needs too. Until we were fully vaccinated—two weeks post-second vaccine was the beginning of May—we almost never left our house since March 2020, which kept our mask wearing to a minimum. Though we always wore one the few times we went out. We’ve learned that some masks work better for some of us than others. Also, while wearing some masks, I get anxiety attacks, so finding masks that fit my needs has been an ongoing effort.
The first mask I tried is made by Ibex and is my absolute favorite commercially-made mask so far. It’s made of merino wool but is incredibly soft inside and out, is stretchy, and is very comfortable to wear. I couldn’t believe it was wool. It just felt like a soft cloth across my face, not really like a mask at all. I’ve learned that I’m very picky about my masks, and finding one that I can wear for a long time is vital but hard to do, and Ibex nailed it. The fact that this mask folds up to very little and can easily fit in your pocket is also a huge plus. It’s also really easy and comfortable to pair this with a disposable mask for those times when double-masking is important.
The Ibex mask has very stretchy earloops that are adjustable, it breathes well and wicks moisture, and it doesn’t fog up my glasses as much as most masks do (though they still fog up a very little). The mask has three layers, including an anti-bacterial and water repellent middle layer. After wearing, the mask washed up really well.
The only negatives I can think of for this mask is that it falls off my nose if I talk too much—I’m still working on getting the right ear loop adjustment—and the price. It’s a bit steep at $25, but they have had it on sale for $15, so keep an eye on the site!
The Ibex mask comes in one size, in black, midnight navy, and charcoal. They sent me what was labeled midnight navy, but it was much darker than the image shown on the website, just FYI.
To sum up, the Ibex mask is a fantastic mask that is soft and comfortable, if you can afford it. And, compared with most other masks I’ve tried, it barely feels like you’re wearing anything.
The second mask was made by Rafi Nova who specifically set out to create a sensory-friendly mask. The outside is cotton, the lining is 100% Mulberry silk, and the middle is an anti-bacterial layer. It has somewhat stretchy jersey knit straps that go around the ears and clasp behind your head.
My teenage kids and I each tried a Rafi Nova mask (all of us tried the adult size) and it worked very well for them, but less well for me. We all have differently shaped faces, though, and different sensory preferences.
Some features we noticed or learned about:
- The silky inside feels nice to people who like silky textures.
- The stretchy and adjustable fastener takes pressure off your ears (except for my ears, apparently).
- There is plenty of room in the mouth area for talking and moving your mouth without rubbing against the fabric.
- The fabric is a bit stiff rather than flexible, which also helps keep the mask away from your mouth without any inserts.
- The mask includes nose stiffeners that help (a little) with fog prevention and fit, but they are minimalist, which can be a pro or a con.
- If you don’t have a small face, it might slip off your nose if you talk too vigorously, partly because of the silky interior.
- The mask washed up really well; afterward, I couldn’t even tell it was washed.
My kids really liked the Rafi Nova mask. It fit their faces well, stayed in place, and was comfortable for long periods of time. It didn’t work well for me, but I have a larger face, my glasses kept fogging up, and the mask made my face sweat. I’m not sure why it was so different on me. I also didn’t like the clasp behind my head, but everyone’s sensory issues are different, and some people greatly prefer the behind-the-head fasteners, so YMMV.
All in all, the Rafi Nova mask is a fantastic, high quality one that I can recommend if your face is the right size and shape. It sells for $14 for the two kid sizes and $16 for the adult size. It’s available in a very nice light blue, light pink, hunter green, black, and “Over the Moon” (kid sizes only). It looks very professional, so it would work well for school or any time that patterns aren’t appropriate.
Note: I am recommending this mask despite Ravi Nova’s partnership with Easterseals. Easterseals promotes ABA therapy for autistic kids, which is an abusive and traumatic practice that has been shown to cause PTSD in many who are subjected to it. The mask is just a really great option for some folks with specific sensory needs, so I wanted to cover it.
Note: I received samples for review purposes.