Now that wearing face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus are a normal part of our daily public lives, it’s time to think about which type of face covering works for you. Many are opting for alternatives to traditional fabric masks, including neck gaiters and balaclavas. But are neck gaiters – also called snoods or neck warmers – safe? And what are the best ones to buy?
Find the answers to all of your questions and we'll tell you where to shop a variety of neck gaiters, whether with filter pockets, sporty, floral, designer or at a bargain for under £10.
RELATED: 9 sporty face masks to work out in
What is a neck gaiter?
A neck gaiter is a fabric scarf that slips over your head and then covers your neck, mouth and nose. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, lightweight neck gaiters have been used as an alternative face covering to a standard face mask.
If you want to ensure your gaiter is as safe as possible, you can choose one with a built-in pocket for a filter and ear loops
Neck gaiter with filter pocket, £18.50/$19.90, Etsy
Neck gaiters have in the past been most commonly used in winter, for sports, running or riding motorcycles, and are often made of fleece, wool or synthetic materials.
What is a balaclava?
Balaclavas are a face and head covering that leaves only the eyes exposed, the full coverage differentiating them from snoods. While neck gaiters don't necessarily cover your head, tube-shaped snoods can be adjusted to do so. Like neck gaiters and face masks, you can purchase balaclavas with filters for extra protection.
For winter, many are searching for head-covering balaclavas, usually reserved for skiing or other cold weather sports
Evershop balaclava with 2 filters, from £14.99/$19.99, Amazon
Why do people choose to wear a neck gaiter as a face covering?
As more people find themselves having to wear a face mask for the first time, some have found that the standard mask is uncomfortable or they have problems staying cool underneath so prefer a neck gaiter because of breathability.
As face coverings become a main staple in our wardrobe, there are increasingly fashionable styles out there – like this two-tone reversible snood in leopard print, that you can find in the chic Oliver Bonas line of neck gaiters
Animal print jersey snood, £16, Oliver Bonas
Others may simply like how a neck gaiter looks – and as a result, like silk or muslin scarves, neck gaiters have become a popular option when it comes to face coverings.
Lele Sadoughi face masks are a favourite with celebrities thanks to the brand's chic styles – check out this gaiter with faux pearls
Lele Sadoughi Jet Pearl Embellished Gaiter, £47.33, Shopbop
RELATED: Face masks for men, from XXL sizes to masks for beards
Are neck gaiters effective to prevent the spread of coronavirus?
The general rule has been that any face covering is better than no covering. Any fabric which filters nose and mouth droplets that could potentially carry the virus is helpful, although effectiveness at preventing the spread ranges quite widely.
For example, wearing a silk bandana provides a minimum of protection, versus a cloth face mask with a filter which is a much more efficient barrier.
A soft tube snood with ear holes to keep it comfortably in place
Anti-bacterial snood face covering, also in grey, £15/$22, Accessorize
After an August 2020 study sparked alarming headlines that snoods could be worse than no protection, Science News reviewed the report and concluded you "shouldn’t trash your neck gaiter". "The headline that neck gaiters can be worse is totally inaccurate,” University of California San Francisco infectious diseases specialist Monica Gandhi, told the magazine, adding that such headlines also "can turn people off of mask wearing, which we know can protect both the individual wearing the mask and those around them."
If you have maskne or sensitive skin, try a silk gaiter, like this one with adjustable ear loops for a better fit
Silk face bandana, £29.99/$32.80, Etsy
According to the University of California at Berkeley, fabrics used for neck gaiters or snoods are often thinner than materials used for standard cloth face masks. This means you will have improved breathability but a decreased ability to contain droplets that may spread the virus.
With ear loops and a head tie, this gaiter has a face mask effect – it also has UV protection and is waterproof
Maskana UV50 Waterproof Gaiter Face Mask, £40, Wolf & Badger
It is recommended that if you wear a neck gaiter, you layer the fabric, or wear a standard protective face mask underneath. There are also snoods made from antibacterial fabric, and even with filter pockets built in so you can add a disposable filter for extra protection.
Many prefer snoods to face masks because of comfort and breathability, like this warm but lightweight bamboo design
Bamboo handyband, £12.95, Seasalt
Of course, face masks offering the highest protection are N95 masks, which should be reserved for medical personnel or those who come in direct contact with people who are showing symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19.
RELATED: Face masks for eyeglasses wearers: Tips and tricks
Shop neck gaiters and snoods with a filter pocket
This pack of snoods comes with 20 PM2.5 filters, which will block pollution and add some additional protection against COVID-19
Pack of four snoods with filter pocket + PM2.5 filters, from £17.99, Amazon
Shop neck gaiters and snoods for under £10
An Amazon bestseller
Rockjock Multifunctional neck gaiter, available in 17 colours, £8.99 for pack of 6, Amazon
This face mask is Amazon's #1 in the Women's Multifunctional Outdoor Headwear category
Arkim Unisex neck gaiter, £7.99/$9.99, Amazon
This neck gaiter is made from fleece, and will keep your whole face warm.
iets Frans neck gaiter, was £16, NOW £4, Urban Outfitters
One of the more stylish snoods out there, this jersey look in powder pink or mint green is from the popular ASOS Design line
ASOS DESIGN jersey funnel snood, was £10, NOW £6.80, ASOS
If you're looking for a good deal on snoods and neck gaiters, eBay is a great place to find bargains on face coverings
Unisex ice silk face covering, more colours available, from £4.96, eBay
Shop print and floral neck gaiters
Another fashionable offering from Oliver Bonas, this time in a star print
Star print jersey snood, £16, Oliver Bonas
Yes, you can even embrace the floral trend with your snood!
Imekis loral print neck gaiters, set of 4, from £12.74, Amazon
A soft and lightweight handmade snood you can find on Etsy
Floral Neck Gaiter, £13.99/$22.99, Etsy
Etsy has a host of fashionable neck gaiters, like this vibrant tropical print
Tropical print neck gaiter, £23.10/from $21.49, Etsy
Shop sporty neck gaiters
A soft fleece snood for workouts, made from sweat-wicking fabric. It also has a toggle tie at the back for a perfect fit
Nike Strike Winter Warrior snood, £16.95/$20, Nike
This popular neck gaiter has earned a five-star rating from shoppers
Windblock neck gaiter, £9.99, Decathalon
Shop luxury designer neck gaiters
A cosy snood by the quintessentially British fashion house
Burberry Vintage Check Snood, £190/$240, Burberry
For the luxury fashionista, a high-end silk designer look
Takahiromiyashita The Soloist silk snood, £985/$914, Farfetch
HELLO!'s selection is editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items our editors love and approve of. HELLO! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. To find out more visit our FAQ page.