3 of the Most Annoying Face Mask Problems and How to Fix Them

Jade-Ceres Violet D. Munoz

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Mask mandates are there for a reason. We may not all love them, but we need to follow nonetheless. Masks have been proven effective in slowing the spread of Covid-19. According to the CDC, the virus spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. These droplets are transmitted through coughing, sneezing, talking, shouting, and singing. When properly worn over the mouth and nose, masks provide a barrier that reduces the spray of droplets.

The primary purpose of masks is to protect those around you. These are especially useful for people who have Covid-19 but may never develop symptoms of the virus (asymptomatic) or those who are already infected but do not show symptoms yet (pre-symptomatic). Both cases can spread the virus to others. Masks can also offer you some protection -- but it will depend on the type of fabric, the number of layers, and how well it fits.

While it is clear that masks offer protection, having the need to wear them every day does come with certain annoyances. Here are the most common ones and some quick fixes for the issues:

  1. Fogging up glasses - If you’ve been wearing glasses for as long as you can remember, you will know that there are many things that can cause your glasses to fog up. So this is certainly not enough reason to not wear a mask. Like everything else that fogs up glasses, there’s a way to prevent it from happening. The main cause of glasses fogging up is your hot breath escaping upwards. Here are a few solutions you can try:
  • Look for a mask made with breathable material. This is what works best for me. I’ve found several masks that are made with a tight-knit cotton material but are still very easy to breathe in. I never have problems with fogging when I use those kinds of masks.
  • Get a mask that has a wire sewn in at the part where the nose bridge goes. When you wear it, pinch it so it fits properly. Tighten the sides of your mask for a snug fit.
  • Use anti-fog on your glasses. This is a solution you can find in most optometry shops and even in drugstores. They work wonders, not just for when you’re wearing a mask, but to prevent your glasses from fogging when you go in and out of buildings and the extreme temperature change would usually cause fogging.
  • Wash your glasses with a little bit of foamy soap and water before you wear them. Doing this usually leaves a thin film of foam which spreads out condensation and prevents fogging your lens. Some swear by using shaving cream to clean the lens.
  • Put medical tape or an adhesive bandage on the bridge of your nose. This tip from Consumer Reports is said to work by closing the gap between your nose and your mask.
  • Put a sheet of tissue inside your mask. I’ve also personally tried this one and found it effective at stopping the fogging. The tissue (you can use facial tissue or two sheets of toilet paper) absorbs the moisture from your breath and stops it from fogging up your glasses.
  1. Irritation at the back of the ears - The common reason for this is using the disposable medical or surgical masks that have garter ear loops. The elastic loops cause chaffing and irritate the back of your ears. Here are a few possible solutions for this problem:
  • Check that you have a mask that fits right. Sometimes your ears can hurt because you are using a mask that is too small for you and it is pulling at your ears.
  • Get masks that tie behind the head instead of using the ones with loops. This is a bit harder to work with especially if you need to take the mask on and off throughout the day, but you’ll find it more comfortable to use in the long run.
  • Get ear savers. This is a crocheted strip or a strip of cloth measuring between 3 to 5 inches with buttons at either end. It goes at the back of your head and you loop the garters of the mask around the buttons. If you can’t find them anywhere, you can simply make them if you’re a bit crafty.
  • Get a mask with a different material for the ear loops. Neoprene is a stretchy material that is often used for non-medical grade face masks. Earloops that are made with these are comfortable.
  • Apply a layer of petroleum jelly to the back of your ears. This prevents chafing and irritation.
  1. Maskne - Mask acne is caused by the build-up of sweat and bacteria from wearing masks for extended periods, according to Dr. Debra Jaliman, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology for Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. There are a few things you can try to help prevent this:
  • Wash your face and make sure your mask is clean before you wear it. Wash your mask daily if it is the washable kind.
  • Switch to a different type of mask. Maybe the material of the mask is the problem. Try wearing one made with 100 percent cotton, which is more breathable and might make you sweat less.
  • Try a different skincare routine. Use a milder soap or even a non-soap cleanser. Try a fragrance-free moisturizer -- aside from the usual reason of keeping your skin nice and soft, it can also lessen mask friction.
  • Stop using makeup while wearing your mask. The combination of sweat, heat, and makeup is not good for your skin. If you need it, you can wear your makeup after you take off your mask and remove it before you put it back on.
  • Do acne spot treatment with over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide.

If the itchy spots on your face persist after trying all these, you may want to see a dermatologist. It might not be acne. It could be a rash or contact dermatitis.

Using a facemask is not always easy, but there are simple solutions to the annoying problems that may come with daily mask usage.

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