Regardless of how you feel about face masks, it’s hard to deny that they’re here to stay for a while. Everyone must do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a face mask is a small, but significant, act that we can perform to keep the pandemic in check.
The CDC advises people to wear a cloth face covering or mask when around others who are not part of your household. More importantly, in instances where social distancing outside the home isn’t possible, the CDC highly recommends wearing a mask.
However, if you’ve been wearing a mask, you’ve probably noticed that they’re not without problems. If you have to wear a mask for more than an hour, or for work, you might encounter a few mask-related concerns.
Face masks are not without their limitations, but we still need to wear them. If you’re one of the many people frustrated with a face mask issue, you’re not alone. The following are eight common mask-wearing problems and how to fix them.
1. Blocked Vision
Face masks, especially those with an upturned V-shape at the nose, can block your vision. If your face mask is poking into your eyelashes or making you cross-eyed, you may want to consider a different sized mask. A mask that’s too large may cover too much of your face and block your eyesight. A poorly fitting mask can also ride up over time and push into your eyes.
Solution: Ensure your face mask is the right size for your face. A face mask should cover your nose and mouth, but not ride into your eyes. If your mask is too small, it can leave your nose or mouth exposed. If your mask is too large, air can seep through gaps around the mask. Finding the right fit can keep you safe and keep the mask from blocking your vision. Create a tighter fit by shortening the loops holding the mask in place. Also, masks with wire around the nose area can help keep the mask in place and prevent air from flowing in.
Go on social media and you’ll find a slew of mask wearers complaining of “maskne”. Maskne, which is acne caused by prolonged mask-wearing, can plague mask wearers. The official medical term for maskne is acne mechanica, which is acne that occurs due to repeated fabric friction on the skin. Before the pandemic, acne mechanica was more common in people who played sports or worked out. The constant rubbing of clothes during sports, combined with sweat, can cause acne mechanica on athletes.
Fabric from masks can repeatedly rub against the skin, causing hair follicles to become inflamed. Furthermore, heat and humidity can make acne mechanica worse by encouraging moisture. Moisture and heat boost bacteria growth in those irritated follicles, causing acne.
Though it can be tempting to use chemical products like peels or alpha hydroxy acids, they may make maskne worse. Chemical products may dry out the already fragile skin and cause more damage. So, if you are suffering from maskne, what can you do to help your skin?
Solution: Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with maskne. Just washing or changing out your mask frequently can help prevent acne from forming and help get rid of them. The same masks that trap COVID viruses can also trap bacteria, so washing or changing masks can keep bacteria off your face. Beware of harsh soaps or drying agents that can cause more skin problems. The key is to keep the skin clean, but cleansing too often can make skin dry or irritated.
If you find you’re prone to maskne, choose your mask fabric carefully. Cotton tends to breathe much better than other materials and doesn’t stick to the skin as much. Also, try out different styles of masks. Some masks fit better than others on different face shapes, decreasing rubbing on skin.
3. Glass Fogging
When the top of a face mask isn’t flush against the skin, warm air from our breath can escape. That warm air can fog up our glasses, mainly if the environment is cold. Most of the time, fogged glasses are just an inconvenience. In specific situations, they can limit your vision and cause a safety issue.
Solution: Wash your glasses with soapy water and rinse. Washing removes any film on the glasses on which moisture can stick on. You can also create a tighter fit on the top of the mask by choosing masks with wiring at the nose’s bridge. Placing a piece of tissue or gauze at the top of the mask can also keep moisture from escaping and creating fog.
4. Earlobe Pain
Most face masks have ear loops to hold them in place. When worn for long periods, the elastic loops can irritate the skin and cause pain on the back of the ears. Healthcare workers are familiar with this problem and have invented devices and hacks to prevent this discomfort.
Solution: If you have long hair, you can wear a headband or hairpin to attach the face mask loops. Some extenders can be connected to the elastic and extended around the head, keeping the ears from having to do any work.
Wearing a mask in the heat and humidity can increase the body’s temperature. As a result, people can overheat if they exert themselves while it’s hot outside—and while wearing a mask. The body cools down in hot weather by breathing in cool air and breathing out the body’s heated air. Unfortunately, when you’re wearing a mask, the heat stays within the mask and warms the air you breathe in, raising your temperature.
Solution: Be mindful of your body, especially on hot days—with or without a mask. Look out for fatigue, have shortness of breath, or dizziness. If any of those symptoms arise, find a cool spot and hydrate yourself. Find a shady area away from others and take off your mask. If you must exercise or do work outdoors, keep your distance from others and, if safe to do so, keep your mask off.
6. Bad Breath
It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s the truth: face masks emphasize our bad breath. We are trapped with our breath while we wear our face mask, so we inevitably smell what we exhale. As a result, we may be smelling our bad breath.
Solution: You could spend the entire time popping mints and chewing gum, but that would only mask the problem (pun intended). Now that you’re aware of your bad breath, consider it a blessing. Better you be aware of it than someone else, and now you can do something about it. You can increase your oral hygiene efforts by brushing and flossing more often, paying particular attention to your tongue. If you still find that bad breath remains, you may need to inquire with your dentist to find the reason.
7. Interference with Hearing Aids and Headphones
For people who wear hearing aids or in-ear headphones, a face mask loop can become their worst enemy. An elastic cord can easily tangle a hearing aid. Removing a face mask can send an in-ear headphone tumbling onto the ground. It’s not just annoying; a lost hearing aid can also be extremely costly.
Solution: Switch to a mask with a band that ties around the head. Try to keep the number of times you take masks on and off to a minimum. Be aware each time you remove your mask.
It’s more of an inconvenience and not a health issue, but feeling “stuffy” can make wearing a mask uncomfortable. A person who feels stuffy in a mask is less likely to use a mask, so it’s essential to solve it as much as possible.
Solution: Try a mask with a lighter fabric, fewer layers, and smaller thread count. For example, stretchy t-shirt material will feel much less constricting than thick canvas. A smaller mask can also create a less “heavy” feeling, though remember to cover your mouth and nose well. Another trick is to chew gum or eat a mint. The scent opens up your nasal passages, creating a less restrictive feeling.
Because people without symptoms can transmit COVID-19, it’s vital to wear face masks outside of your home. Face masks don’t only protect you; they protect those around you if you are infected and don’t know it. Wearing face masks shows others that you respect their well-being and hope they feel the same about yours. Wearing a face is both a courtesy and a heroic act—it can save a life.Related: How Often Can You Use Reusable Masks Between Washing?