Have you bought a fake mask? Here’s how to find out.

Due to COVID-19, there has been increased demand globally for protective face masks. Alarmingly, this demand has caused a heightened supply and distribution of counterfeit masks.

Counterfeit masks may look similar to authentic masks but are poor in quality and don’t provide adequate protection. We spoke to Terri Goldstein, Medical Specialist and Registered Nurse to provide her knowledge on different masks available and how to spot a counterfeit or low-quality mask.

Select your mask

There’s a variety of masks to choose from, each with their own protective properties. Surgical masks have a 3-layer protection design and are a relatively safe choice for protection against bacterial and viral infections. N95 face masks  (also referred to as KN95) can filter out at least 95% of particles of all sizes from the air. Ordinary cloth masks are made from double layers of fabric with a filter layer in between.

Terri advises that whatever mask you choose, don’t fall for overly cheap products as price is often a tell-tale sign of quality. “Go for the standard prices and always check for labelling and a description of the materials used.”

Check the packaging

“Always check the packaging first. If it looks or feels different to its regular packaging and is not advertised as having new packaging, then that’s usually a red flag.”

If you have chosen a 3-ply surgical mask, Terri informs that “usually, the outer packaging of more formal medical surgical masks will be marked with a product registration number and the place from which the mask was made.”

If you have chosen a N95 mask, it should always have the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) label. “Fake N95 masks won’t have the NIOSH mark or have the name misspelt, like ‘NISH’ or ‘NOISH’” Terri tells us.

Put it to the test

Use this checklist to test if your mask is legitimate.

Surgical mask

□ Check that your mask has three layers – a translucent piece (top), white piece (middle), and coloured piece (commonly green, blue, or white).

3-ply surgical mask

□ The outer layer is designed to be waterproof. Check this by folding your mask so that the outer side forms a funnel and pour some water into it. If the mask holds up water properly, it is legitimate.

□ Ensure your mask is not shedding any particles.

□ See if you can easily breathe with the mask on – if it’s difficult to breathe, it’s probably a counterfeit mask.

Ordinary cloth masks

□ Check that your mask has three layers – a double layer of fabric with a filter layer in the middle for greater protection.

Make sure you purchase your face masks and other protective personal equipment (PPE) from trustworthy suppliers. At Winc, we can supply you with legitimate products for reliable protection. All Winc suppliers are carefully evaluated to comply with Winc’s strict social and ethical procurement policies and product quality standards, so you can have confidence shopping with Winc.


View our health, hygiene and safety category to see our full range of masks and PPE here.