Masks have been the personal protective gear of the pandemic. As we approach a year of living with COVID, CivicScience sought to better understand how Americans are feeling about masks, where they’re buying them, and what that means for the future. 

As it stands, 69% of U.S. adults at least somewhat support mask wearing, with the strongest support coming from lower-income earners.

With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that the largest percentage of U.S. adults have spent less than $25 on masks since the beginning of the pandemic. However, those who have spent more than $75 have increased four percentage points since our last report

New Year, Same (Type of) Mask 

As was the case in 2020, disposable surgical masks and store-bought cloth masks are still the most commonly worn. And in the last month alone, 79% of respondents have purchased a face mask. 

Purchasing on the decline?  

However, while 2020 saw massive increases in mask purchases, the current numbers tell a different story. Namely, mask purchases are beginning to see a decline. 

In November, 36% of U.S. adults had bought a mask from an online retailer like Amazon. Now, 34% say the same. 

This slight decrease is also evident across big box stores–which saw a one-percentage-point decrease– small businesses–which saw a three-percentage-point drop–and the more general option of “elsewhere”–which also fell by one point since our last update. All of this to say, mask buying appears to be slowing down.  

So, Who is Buying Masks? 

Despite the fact that overall mask purchases may be seeing a decline, plenty of Americans are still buying them. Women are out-purchasing men in the mask department by 18%. 

Surgical masks are significantly more popular among those over 55 than people in other age groups, while Gen Z has the most wearing neck gaiters or balaclavas. Cone-style are unpopular in general, but usage is practically non-existent among the youngest segment of the population. 

Ultimately, masks are still a pivotal part of PPE for many Americans who have continued to purchase new masks well into 2021. However, the data suggest that the overall mask purchasing trend may be experiencing a decline, as purchases drop across the board. So what does this mean for the future? Well, disposable surgical masks will certainly stay in high demand, but many may find themselves working through the stockpile of masks they purchased in 2020, further slowing down purchases in the months ahead.