Normalizing the Face Mask

A butcher wearing a surgical mask slices cured meats.

Even for the most positive and accommodating personality, mask-wearing probably won’t ever really be called “fun.” It’s an acquired taste, and one we’ve all had to adapt to recently. Breakouts have happened, earrings have gotten in the way. Straps have broken, eyeglasses have fogged up, and turning around to go back for a forgotten mask has almost become a habit. 

More recently it’s starting to feel normal. Like using the bathroom or brushing your teeth, what once was annoying is now just part of life. But, with bidets and heated toilet seats in mind, we know improvement is possible. After gathering some tips and tricks from fellow mask-wearers. here is a list of ways to make the new normal a little nicer for all of us. 

A cartoon illustration of workers wearing face masks.

Find a mask that actually fits

Faces tend to vary in size, but most masks, reusable and disposable alike, are one-size-fits all. That doesn’t add up. If your mask is too big it probably slips down below your nose or makes your face feel like it’s disappearing. If it’s too small it’s going to be uncomfortable and might not cover the necessary facial features. One solution is an adjustable mask — these BaubleBar masks feature adjustable straps that help fit the fabric snugly around your nose and mouth, preventing any slippage or too much tightness behind the ears. Another option is to find a mask that’s not one-size-fits-all: these Christine Alcalay masks come in sizes Extra Small to Large, plus lots of options for fabric type and print. 

Keep Several Masks In Rotation

The practicality of washing and re-using your face mask after every wear is almost nonexistent, and occasionally accidents happen — say you drop your mask in the street. You’ll probably want to have a backup with you. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one reusable mask for each day of the week, plus one you carry in your bag at all times. If necessary, keep a box of disposables handy just in case (just make sure you snip the straps before throwing used ones away).  

A stack of cloth face masks on a wooden table.

For glasses-wearing folks

According to our glasses-wearing friends and family members, there are a couple tricks to keeping the lenses from fogging up. First is a mask that fits properly (see above); second a nose wire or some kind of adjustability around the bridge of the nose is a must. Baggu does these masks with a nose cover and a glasses-friendly shape.  

For working out

A sweaty situation no matter what, but like the rest of your workout gear, you want the mask you wear when you exercise to be flexible, ultra-lightweight and breathable — you don’t want to feel it there. Brands like Reebok are now making masks that fit this criteria. 

For poor air quality and smoke

If you live in a city with poor air quality or bad fire seasons, some face masks can help to filter out the air pollution and protect your lungs. Vida makes activated carbon-filtered PM2.5 masks in multiple sizes at $10 a piece — filters that offer a high degree of filtration from particulates. If you’re extra sensitive to poor air, Dr. Pete recommends using a 3M or Honeywell N-95 facial mask. The numbered label stands for the mask’s ability to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles larger than .3 microns, he says, with proven effectiveness. 

 

For more information, refer to the CDC's mask recommendations and guidelines for COVID-19.

 

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