If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
Despite 70% of adults in the U.S. currently having at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, you shouldn’t be tossing aside your masks just yet—the CDC still recommends that due to the new strain of coronavirus known as the “Delta variant”, even vaxxed up individuals should still mask up when indoors in public areas of high or substantial transmission (which is almost everywhere right now.)
While masks do a great job at protecting ourselves and others, what they’re not great at is protecting us from is the little everyday annoyances—we’re talking glasses fogging up, upper lip sweat on hot days, and pain around the ears after wearing one for hours. Masking up is here to stay for the time being, so you owe it to yourself to not only get an effective, well-fitting mask, but have a couple tools in your arsenal to mitigate common mask problems (like the dreaded facial “maskne”.)
Putting on face coverings also doesn’t mean you should be ignoring other CDC-recommended safety guidelines, like practicing social distancing. But hopefully these tips will make it so you won’t have to rip your mask off your ears as soon as you get home. Here are the best tips, tricks, and products for fixing common mask problems, from nose slippage, to funky fabric smells.
1. Foggy Glasses
If you don’t want your glasses to look like you just stepped out of the shower, especially during the upcoming cooler months, check the fit of your face mask first and foremost. We’ve recommended the best face masks for glasses before, but bottom line, you should be looking for a flexible seal that fits the contours of your nose. This will help the mask lie flat against your face, eliminating the air pockets that often lead to fog and condensation when you breathe.
Consider a good KN95 mask or a duckbill-style mask, which sits away from your mouth, to direct your breath forward rather than upwards into your own face, where it can fog up your glasses. You can also address the problem on the lenses itself—to prevent foggy lenses. Warby Parker sells one of the best anti-fog lenses spray that you can also use to clean your lenses. The full kit comes with the spray, a microfiber cloth, and a microfiber lens pouch (which also doubles as a cleaning cloth.)
2. Irritated Skin
Find yourself with oilier skin these days every time you take off your mask? “Maskne” refers to the acne breakouts around the jawline caused by wearing a mask for too long. Practically speaking, when your mask fabric rubs against your skin, combined with general heat and humidity, that combination of moisture, irritation, and potential bacteria cases acne. You could try spot-treating (literally) with acne dots, but drying out your skin with ingredients normally found in acne treatments can actually make you produce more oil.
Get yourself a solid facial cleanser instead, like this Daily Exfoliating Cleanser from Ghost Democracy. Their gender-neutral line of skincare focuses on packing in delivering a streamlined clean with none of the usual fillers or fragrances—this daily wash will make sure that your under-mask area stays squeaky clean without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. We also recommend simply changing out your mask often (if you’re using disposable), or tossing it in the washing machine daily. Here’s our complete guide to how to clean your reusable face masks, because according to recent data, you probably aren’t doing it often enough.
3. Overheating (And Sweat)
Some reusable cloth masks aren’t always breathable, and worse, they can irritate or chaff the skin like we’ve talked about above. Even the most breathable cotton masks can feel heavy when you’re spending a lot of time outdoors under the sun, or trying to work out. Unless you want a puddle of upper lip sweat, invest in a lightweight or moisture-wicking mask that’s easier to breath in than a heavier fabric (although you may need those come winter time.)
One of our favorite lightweight masks is this ProSport mask from BlueBear, with a soft and hypoallergenic fabric that’s super gentle on the skin, so you won’t have to worry about chafing here. It also includes a built-in slot for their Nanotec filter, which adds extra protection without adding too much heavy breathing. You can get a 10-pack of replacement filters for $8.50 here. If you still feel sticky and gross, you can always go the high-tech route and invest in a portable air conditioner that’ll cool down your head and neck area, or just toss some old-fashion grease-blotting sheets into your bag before you head out.
4. Ear Pain
You’ve heard everyone and their mother express time and time again about the importance of a well-fitting mask, but easily one of the most irritating side effects of a tight fit is pain around the ears. When your elastic loops around your ears are too uncomfortable, lucky for you, healthcare workers were some of the first to crack the code with finding easy hacks and products to prevent aching ears after an entire day of wear.
Mask extenders, which are exactly what they sound like, elongate the ear loops around the back of your head so they’re not flush tight against your ears, and you still get that same great fit. They have the added benefit of working for people with smaller faces, if you find yourself with mask slippage from too-loose face coverings. Still too much ear pressure? There are masks, like this one from WiseGuise, that wrap securely around the back of your neck, and won’t pull at your ears or sit too tight against your head.
5. Bad Breath
As someone who’s an avid skier, even before the pandemic there was nothing more rank than throwing on a ski mask that was covered in a season’s worth of breath and saliva. While you can’t, unfortunately, blame bad breath entirely on your face mask, there is something to be said about how face masks emphasize what we smell when we exhale, and it’s not always pretty.
This is the part where we tell you that really the best solution is practicing good oral hygiene (boring, we know). But starting off your day with a quality water flosser can help streamline your entire dental routine—this Waterpik has control buttons right on the handle. ten pressure settings and seven tips, a 90-second runtime, and a very large water tank.
Need a quick fix for your smelly mask? Prevent odor-causing bacteria buildup with a portable cleanser specially formulated for PPE. Cavere’s sanitizing spray has 70% alcohol to kill germs, and naturally-derived ingredients to freshen and deodorize your mask.