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Face Shields for Preventing COVID-19

Question:
Should I wear a face shield to protect from coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Face Shield to Protect From Coronovirus (COVID-19) -- Woman Wearing Face Shield, Mask and Gloves
Answer:
Just as face masks are now commonly worn in public to protect from exposure to the virus known as SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19), face shields (clear plastic shields that cover the face) are starting to be worn outside of medical settings, and for good reason. At a distance of just 18 inches from a coughing individual, face shields have been shown to reduce immediate viral exposure by 96%, according to a study using influenza virus (Lindsley, J Occup Environ Hyg 2014).

As discussed in an article in JAMA (Perencevich, et al, April 29, 2020), the Infectious Disease Society of America has included societal use of face shields as well as face masks in its recommendations as restrictions are eased on extreme social distancing. Face shields address two key means of preventing coronavirus transmission: They provide a barrier to respiratory droplets (which, according to the CDC, can occur when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks) and help wearers avoid touching their face. In addition, unlike masks and N95 respirators, they cover the eyes as well as the mouth and nose, allow for easier communication, and are more easily cleaned (with just soap and water or household disinfectants) for reuse. They provide a better barrier to respiratory droplets than cloth face masks, but should be used with a mask for protection from airborne virus. 

Note that face shields are only necessary when in close proximity to an infectious person. As determined in a study using influenza virus (noted above), at six feet away they reduced inhaled virus by 92%, which was no better than with distancing alone — demonstrating the importance of social distancing. 

For optimal protection, a face shield should extend below the chin, reach to the ears, and have no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield (a gap typically filled by a foam cushion). Several brands of face shields are sold online and most are relatively inexpensive — costing roughly $3 to $7 per unit when two or more are ordered. 


Face Shield Product Reviews:

ConsumerLab ordered face shields from four different companies, three of which were sold on Amazon and one was sold directly from the supplier in the U.S. Sign in for our ratings and reviews of face shields from Homasen, Hrgccase, Ringkle, and SafeProtec

If you already use a face shield, feel free to share you experience, mentioning the brand you use, in the Comments section further below.

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COMMENTS

Earl20039   May 26, 2020
Perhaps you could review this one:
https://project-manus.mit.edu/fs

ConsumerLab.com   May 27, 2020
It seems to meet all the safety criteria. Hard to say how comfortable it is or if there is a fogging issue -- other masks may be better on those fronts. It is only sold in bulk (125 pieces), not for individual purchase. However, it is a creative idea for those who want to make a shield at home from a single sheet of plastic. They provide all the instructions on the website.

Kar20029   May 25, 2020
KARC SAFETY FACE SHIELD
5 pack $7.89 Amazon
Ordered Apr 13, Arrived May 20, 2020
sold by Bajie8

The headband is adjustable in that it is elastic and can expand to fit many if not all head sizes. The foam along the top ensures that there is no gap between the front of the forehead and the shield. The foam does not, however, wrap across the entire width of the shield, so there is a small gap where the 7”-long foam ends. (Perhaps a tapering design would have been an improvement.)

The Karc Safety Face Shield almost reaches to the ears on a small adult head but does not cover the ears. Therefore, it could be rated as INADEQUATE for certain purposes. (The material is 12 1/2” wide. Keep in mind that the 1”wide x 7” long foam strip sets it off the face, which is a good thing.) The clear part of the shield below the foam strip is 7” long.

The shield has not been used in various climate conditions, so no comment can be made regarding fogging up.

Each shield has a plastic film that must be removed before using them. They arrived with dents and bends because the item was sent in an envelope, not a box. However, if high-definition visibility is not an issue, it is acceptable. Overall, due to the short length of the foam strip and the somewhat narrow width of the shield itself, I would NOT recommend it for optimal protection against COVID-19.

ConsumerLab.com   May 25, 2020
Thank you for sharing your very comprehensive review of the face shield you purchased, Karen!

Christopher20025   May 24, 2020
In searching for face shields, I came across McMaster-Carr, a company that specializes in industrial-quality equipment and supplies, including safety face shields. I've ordered two (for me and my wife) of a model that includes a chin guard. Compared with the shields offered on Amazon, these look far superior in quality. The model I ordered is also pricier than Amazon's (and can be reused and repurposed for, say, a home workshop), but McMaster-Carr also has less-expensive disposable shields. Just search for "safety face shield" on the website. Although not reviewed here, the company's face shields might be worth a look if you're uncertain about Amazon's. (I do not have any connection with McMaster-Carr other than as a customer who has placed one order based on viewing face shields on the company's website and comparing its products with those on Amazon.)

CHRISTOPHER20020   May 24, 2020
Why not any type of air-tight Goggles to protect the eyes? Swimming Goggles, Bike Riding Goggles, any type without vents (hopefully won't fog and have anti-fog coatings)....
Of course, before removing, I'd wash my face thoroughly....just in case. 100% protection of eye's.

Lisa20011   May 24, 2020
Great Info. I'm thinking of combining a face shield with a cloth mask if I ever have to get back on an airplane. I wear eyeglasses and have been able to curtail the fogging with a tissue and washing the glasses before I go outside. Not sure whether the shield will cause additional fogging.

Loretta G 20008   May 24, 2020
I purchased the Safeprotec shields and received great customer assistance and prompt delivery within a few days. Love the shield - it is light and comfortable to wear and clear to see through.

William19996   May 21, 2020
Thank you for such great information on face shields. Your article had a link to a Journal of American Medical Association article on the benefits of face shields (JAMA). Regarding the virus' smaller aerosol drops, the article's author misinterpreted the study cited in your description (Lindsley, J Occup Environ Hyg 2014). The JAMA article stated, “Even after 30 minutes, the protective effect exceeded 80% and face shields blocked 68% of small particle aerosols,10 which are not thought to be a dominant mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2.” Here is information from the study: Face shields “are less effective against smaller particles, which can remain airborne for extended periods and can easily flow around a face shield to be inhaled.” In the tests, face shields blocked 68% of smaller cough aerosols, but “in the period from 1 to 30 minutes after a cough, during which the aerosol had dispersed throughout the room and larger particles had settled, the face shield reduced aerosol inhalation by only 23%.”

ConsumerLab.com   May 22, 2020
Yes, the point is that face shields do a good job protecting against a "direct hit" from respiratory droplets,but are not very effective at protecting against aerosolized particles (i.e., very small particles that are airborne), which can easily get around the shield. Masks are more useful for aerosolized particles, which is why face shields are not intended to be used alone, but in combination with a mask or respirator.

Deborah19875   May 11, 2020
The face shield selected is too wide at the base and allows people to reach under it and scratch their noses-I have seen it happen too often. The FDA approved face shields snug the face and quickly change behavior which is the real benefit

renee 19854   May 10, 2020
Be careful ordering face shields from Amazon. I bought a package because they looked (and sounded) good but they aren't "clear" so I can't see through them very well, sigh. Hopefully, any reviews on these will say whether they are really clear and easy to see through. :)

ConsumerLab.com   May 11, 2020
Be aware that face shields made of hard but flexible plastic often come with a protective film that needs to be removed (similar to the protective films on new television or computer screens). It may be on one side or both. If not removed, the shield will appear cloudy. Unfortunately, some shields do not provide instructions about this.

Marianne19944   May 19, 2020
You have to remove the protective film.

Star19853   May 10, 2020
As of May 10, 2020, the Homasen - Safety Face Shield 2-pack is $17.99 at the Amazon link in the article, a 50% increase in price.

ConsumerLab.com   May 11, 2020
Thank you for noting this. We have added that information in our Review above.

Susan19838   May 10, 2020
I just received this one from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B086DTVKVL/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

made by Plastifab Inc. AZ

I will give it poor rating because it's very thick plastic, not pliable, and hardly reaches past the chin, which is not adequate. There's not room to comfortably fit an N95 respirator mask underneath, the plastic fogs up and if you wear eyeglasses, those also fog up. Overall, a poor mask that should not be on sale to the public. This Plastifab company is honing in on the face shield market, aside from their general plastic fabrications, and their face shield is not up to speed.

Betty19832   May 10, 2020
I wonder if there is a way to add a soft cloth (chiffon?) drape to the bottom of the shield and around the back to decrease the particle issue. Would really like to see some labs experimenting with variations of the face shield as it makes so much more sense in so many ways. It would certainly be a better option for teachers and older students if they can make one that deals with the particle spread.

ConsumerLab.com   May 11, 2020
Keep in mind that the shields should be worn with a mask, which should help reduce exposure to airborne particles.

pj20009   May 24, 2020
A company in Juno Alaska makes a mask like this.
Rapid response PPE
For hearing impaired.

Fae19827   May 9, 2020
While I share the enthusiasm for face shields, the research linked above makes it clear that most of the protective effect is from the first burst and larger droplets of a cough or sneeze, and is inadequate for less local, small-droplet infectious air. "Face shields can substantially reduce the short-term exposure of health care workers to large infectious aerosol particles, but smaller particles can remain airborne longer and flow around the face shield more easily to be inhaled. Thus, face shields provide a useful adjunct to respiratory protection for workers caring for patients with respiratory infections. However, they cannot be used as a substitute for respiratory protection when it is needed."

ConsumerLab.com   May 9, 2020
Yes, as noted in our Answer above, face shields are intended to be used with respirators or masks, not alone.

Greg19826   May 8, 2020
I got a Face Shield the other day after waiting 6 weeks . It is labeled NB1282. When I have gone into grocery stores with Air Conditioning, the shield Fogs Up. The closer to the Dairy case or Frozen Foods, then it really Fogs Up. I wear it with a N95 mask. But, all in all, I like it.

Mary19808   May 6, 2020
I would like to see Consumer Labs' take on which masks are the best to purchase, also. Thanks for doing a roundup on face shields, also.

Ellen19797   May 4, 2020
I bought a face shield years ago from Harbor Freight for doing metalwork. It's a bit larger and heavier than the current medical-type shields, but it does the job.

d19790   May 4, 2020
ordinary masks (as opposed to N95) don't protect an uninfected wearer from getting infected; they prevent an infected wearer from transmitting the virus to others through the air. There is no seal around flimsy ordinary masks, so air has an easy pathway to the nose/mouth around the edges of the masks. Since masks constrict breathing, the wearer has to inhale harder; the extra suction means that more air will be sucked in via the path of lower resistance --- around the edges, rather than through the "protective" barrier that the cloth supposedly provides. Since face shields don't constrict breathing, they don't cause the counterproductive effect of creating higher airflow around the barrier. In this aspect, shields offer better protection to the wearer.

Dolores J19784   May 3, 2020
I want to say that joining Consumer Lab after hearing about it on People's Pharmacy, a few years ago, is one of the best things I've done. I always check here first before making purchases of things you cover. I am always recommending it to others. It is worth every penny of the subscription fee. I commend you for the service you provide, especially at a time like this.
Thank you.

ConsumerLab.com   May 4, 2020
Thank you for your kind words Dolores. We are glad to hear ConsumerLab.com has been helpful for you.

Bach19879   May 12, 2020
I heartily agree with this posting. Subscribing to Consumerlab has educated me to help my family make good decisions regarding their health.

Daisy 19967   May 20, 2020
I'd like to add my appreciation too. You're a trusted resource in our family.

ConsumerLab.com   May 20, 2020
Thanks for letting us know!

Linda20016   May 24, 2020
Definitely agree w this. I'm retired and on very limited income but this is one thing i keep my subscription for. definitely worth it.

Charles20019   May 24, 2020
I too want to add my thanks. I rarely subscribe to websites but this one is a trusted resource and unfailingly objective and meticulous. Thank you.

ConsumerLab.com   May 26, 2020
Thank you for your kind words!

Carol19782   May 3, 2020
After speaking with management at a big box store (Lowes), I have just learned that face shields are permitted IN LIEU OF traditional face masks in the state of Maryland, one of the few (9 or so) states where face coverings are mandated inside retail establishments. This is important in particular for people who are claustrophobic.

ConsumerLab.com   May 3, 2020
Yes. Thanks for pointing that out. In Maryland, one must have a face covering, which means that your nose and mouth must be covered, so a face shield is acceptable.

Howard19781   May 3, 2020
Bought one with attached baseball-style cap from LightInTheBox. A good idea. Only thing is it fogs up with breath moisture pretty easily.

Margaret19778   May 3, 2020
I use a SafeProtec polyurethane faceshield (www.safeprotec.com). It is super comfortable and only weighs 1.5 oz. Also it has a "self-healing" surface, so scratches disappear when the mask is rinsed with hot tap water. I can wear this all day and forget that I have it on. It has Velcro closures on the back to adjust the size and get a perfect fit.

Anna19777   May 3, 2020
The SAS shield is model 5145

Anna19776   May 3, 2020
An issue you did not discuss with face shields is that they prevent infection through the eyes, which masks do not. And, while social distancing is desirable, it is difficult to maintain outdoors in crowded cities - subways, anyone - and city parks - and a significant percentage of the population doesn't even try. How do you spell “jogger”?

I am a fit, active 71 year old with high blood pressure and have been wearing an SAS Safety Corp Deluxe Face Shield face shield $15, since mid March. It is made for woodworkers, etc. I have a large head and was able to adjust it easily to fit. It is comfortable to wear and makes me feel very safe. Several of my extremely anxious friends have ordered them.

I have been experimenting with other shields, to advise friends who are reluctant to wear one or who are having problems with masks. The endlessly inventive Chinese are producing cotton caps with soft plastic face shields that snap on to the sides, $8 on Amazon and Etsy. The caps are adjustable, mild heat straightens out the plastic. While they don't cover as well, they are perfect for, e.g., people out for a brisk walk in a city park. I added two small magnets to the bottom of mine, to weight the plastic down. It might be a more comfortable option for warm weather. I gave one to a cap-wearing friend who works in a pharmacy and who probably wouldn't wear a big shield.

I just ordered some 5 for $18 replacement soft plastic face shields from Amazon, designed to fit over a hat, with probably the same coverage as the one in the cap. Thinking of NYC's hot and humid summers, I am hoping that I can wear it over a visor with an open top when I don't need full protection, e.g, just going for a walk. I would also give one to my postman. It, too, would probably benefit from magnets. I won't get it until mid-June.

I hope this helps.

Marion19791   May 4, 2020
How do you attach a replacement shield to a hat?

Betty19775   May 3, 2020
As far as face shields go, my nephew is a mechanical engineer and he made a very high quality, easily constructed face shield to be used at the rural hospital his father is the Materials Manager for. The total cost was under $2. The nurses report that it is equal to any they had before the virus. Of course it hasn't been tested systematically and I am not promoting him per se, just saying that there are easy options out there if face shields become the next item we are all trying to get our hands on. He put the design and instructions on youtube for anyone to use in the hopes it will help others but I know you don't want links in these comments.

Personally I think face shields are a much better option than masks. First of all, I constantly see people fussing with their masks, pulling them up and down over their noses which just smears any virus all over their noses and faces. Also, they are breathable, you can see a person's face and mouth when they talk. Constructing hats with shielding attached would be simple for younger kids to wear. I'm all in on face shields!

Marion19792   May 4, 2020
What material. Is used for the high quality face shield?

ConsumerLab.com   May 4, 2020
There is no specific requirement but these tend to be made from materials such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate), PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol), polycarbonate, or acetate plastic.

nancy19845   May 10, 2020
As far as disinfecting a face mask N95 (respirator) and plain N95 to clean it, I washed the two in the washer in a small lingerie bag. I added soap and a few drops of Pine Sol (disinfectant)
and then I air dried them. They came out great. Do they lose any chemicals in the mask by washing them? I will only do this once for each mask.
I don't know if the mask material has any disinfectant chemical properties. I have several masks from years ago so I wanted to do a test.

Thank you.

Nancy

ConsumerLab.com   May 11, 2020
This is not recommended, as it may remove the electrostatic charge on N-95 respirators that aid in filtration. For more about this, see our answer about disinfection here: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/heat-to-kill-coronavirus/heat-coronavirus/

Leanna19947   May 20, 2020
Nancy, do not rely on the masks you washed for protection. They may look the same but the function is not the same.

Anne20021   May 24, 2020
Cooking one's mask:

As per Consumer Lab's video on sterilizing N95 face masks in the oven on a tray with another tray of water below to keep the elastic from drying out ............ well, it worked great and my Halyard mask was not damaged in the process. It even got rid of that "inside the mask smell" we all seem to experience with overuse. (P.S. - Having a drippy nose from occasional allergies and wearing the mask is an insufferable experience, but I do it anyway.)

Thank you Consumer Lab for presenting this method of sanitation!

ConsumerLab.com   May 26, 2020
Thank you for sharing this. We're glad it was helpful!

MARY19942   May 18, 2020
I, too, made my own face shield using a baseball cap and a clear shower curtain from the dollar store. I cut the shower curtain and glued it to the outer edge of the cap visor with a hot glue gun. The plastic encircles about 3/4 of the diameter around the hat (so it covers my ears) and hangs down to just above my belly button. I also added some fun ribbon trim over the glue seam on top and pom-pom fringe on the bottom. Now all my friends want one!


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This CL Answer initially posted on 5/1/2020. Last updated 5/21/2020.
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