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While the CDC states, “any mask is better than no mask,” you want to wear the most protective mask you can. You also want to know for sure what you are wearing. A false sense of security could put you in a situation where you unknowingly expose yourself or others to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, 60% of the KN95 masks that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health evaluated in 2020 and 2021 were deemed counterfeits. To protect yourself, you must learn to recognize red flags when buying these items.

How a KN95 mask works

A KN95 mask covers the mouth and nose. It has two elastic ear loops so you can secure the mask to your face. A KN95 mask filters out 95% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. For comparison, human hair is roughly 70 microns wide. While SARS-CoV-2 particles are smaller, the virus bonds to something larger, such as water droplets or aerosols. These items are larger than 1 micron, making the KN95 effective at reducing your chance of becoming infected by SARS-CoV-2.

The dangers of wearing a counterfeit KN95 mask

A counterfeit KN95 mask may allow particles much larger than 0.3 microns to pass through the material. If this is the case, aerosol droplets that carry the SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect the wearer. 

How to tell if a mask is counterfeit

While it might be tough to distinguish an expertly copied mask from an authentic one, there are a few key red flags that tell when you should be wary.

  • The packaging is questionable: A product from a legitimate company will arrive in a sealed, tamper-evident package that contains the company’s information.
  • The packaging contains misspelled words: Misspelled words and blatant grammatical errors are two ways to identify a counterfeit KN95 mask.
  • Words like “genuine” or “authentic” appear on the packaging: The CDC states, “If a listing claims to be ‘legitimate’ and ‘genuine,’ it likely is not.”
  • The mask is “FDA-approved”: The FDA is not responsible for testing masks.
  • The mask is “NIOSH-approved”: NIOSH does not approve KN95 masks. KN95 masks are manufactured in China and imported to the U.S.
  • Consider the seller’s name: Be wary of sellers with questionable names (e.g., one spelled using only consonants).   
  • There is no expiration date: A KN95 mask does not last forever. All genuine KN95 masks come with an expiration date.
  • There is no GB number or branding on the mask: A KN95 mask is stamped with “GB2626-2019.” This means the mask was made according to Chinese respirator standards. Older masks are stamped with “GB2626-2006.” As long as the expiration date is still good, these masks are good to use.
  • Review the seller’s history and reviews: If a seller has a history of selling a wide variety of rotating products, there’s a good chance you are purchasing is a counterfeit.
  • Consider the details: Is there “unlimited stock” during a shortage? Are the graphics crisp or do they appear cut and pasted? Does important information only appear in an image and not as text? Is the contact email from a free email service? 

KN95 masks

Salon World Safety KN95 Protective Masks

Salon World Safety KN95 Protective Masks

These white, foldable KN95 masks have a 3D cup structure to provide a tighter seal around the face. The five-layer design provides filtration and comfort. 

Sold by Amazon

ChiSip KN95 Face Mask

ChiSip KN95 Face Mask

If you prefer a black KN95 mask, this will be your top choice. These masks feature the essentials, including ear loops and an adjustable nose clip. Plus, they have a skin-friendly layer to absorb moisture for a more comfortable wearing experience. 

Sold by Amazon

SupplyAID KN95 Face Mask

SupplyAID KN95 Face Mask

The KN95 masks in this five-pack feature an exhalation valve to prevent fogged glasses and improve air exchange. The masks are GB2626-2006, so be sure to check the expiration date upon receipt.

Sold by Amazon

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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.