Health And Wellness

6 Ways To Make Your Face Mask More Comfortable

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How To Make Face Masks More Comfortable During Coronavirus Pandemic

It's been said ad naseum, but it remains true: The world is in a new kind of normal, and nothing will ever be quite the same.

A part of that new kind of normal is wearing face masks, both to protect ourselves and to protect others. And as much as companies attempt to come out with cute masks, with various fun colors and patterns and features, these masks still get pretty uncomfortable if you're wearing them for long stretches.

For our safety, and the safety of others, we must wear them. And learning how to make face masks more comfortable makes all the difference.

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What can we do to make wearing face masks feel better? First, pay attention to how you're wearing it.

If you're wearing a face mask with elastic ear bands, they can rub on your ears, cause chaffing, and become really uncomfortable after a while. Plus, if your mask is too tight, the ear bands might be pulling at your ears and contributing to soreness.

Says Robert Raimondi DDS, of One Manhattan Dental, “Walking around New York City over the past few months, we have seen a lot of clever and unique homemade masks. What I want people to think about with masks is protecting people from you, the air you are breathing out, but, more importantly, the droplets and aerosols.”

Then, think about the air you're breathing in. “Homemade masks primarily protect those from you, but can also protect you from those around you,” he adds.

Aside from the fit of the mask, here's what you can do to make wearing these very necessary masks much more pleasant.

1. Make sure the mask fits properly.

Masks can help you from touching your face, as long as you aren't adjusting and playing with it. Because of this, be vigilant about wearing a properly-fitted mask.

“It should be snug against your face, and not loose or too tight,” Dr. Raimondi advises. 

If the masks are uncomfortable, it's most likely that you're wearing one that's too tight. “If you wear an ear-looped mask and it hurts your ears, it is too tight. We recommend getting one that fits properly,” he adds.

2. Ensure that you're able to breathe.

Since the weather in some areas is becoming warmer, many people are wearing masks during their daily exercise, or even for a nice mellow walk.

But if you can’t breathe in your mask, you can get sick. Or, you might just take it off. And neither is ideal or safe. Your mask should be breathable and secure, but not suffocating.

Determining breathability is pretty self-explanatory. Put the mask over your face, and attempt to breathe through it. Then, attempt to talk while wearing it. The heavier you're breathing (if you're carrying heavy packages or doing exercise), the harder it may be.

In general, the thinner the mask material is, the more breathable it will be. While a cloth mask fits, it should also allow you to breathe comfortably if it's the right fabric for your breathing needs. If not, try another mask. Most importantly, make sure it fits the CDC's guidelines.

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3. Prep your hair beforehand.

If you have long hair and the ear bands are stretchy enough, you can put your hair in a bun or ponytail. Then, wrap the loops of the ear bands around your hair instead of your ears.

“This can help some people relieve that pressure. Some also use make-shift clips that the loops wrap around or purchase masks that tie around your head, rather than loop around your ears,” recommends Dr. Stephen Lloyd, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at JourneyPure.

4. Be mindful of the materials used.

Also consider the fabric your mask is made out of. A good bet is if your face masks are made from 100 percent cotton material. Says Dr. Lloyd, “This material is cooler than polyester and won't make you as hot.” It's also likely to make breathing easier, making the mask more comfortable. 

Which is the best type of mask to use?

According to Dr. Raimondi, “Medical masks are the most effective types because they are able to filter tiny particles. Depending on what the mask is made of will depend on its level of protection to yourself and those around you. Make your mask out of a dish towel (which is the best material to use), cotton blended shirt or an antimicrobial pillowcase.”

5. Refrain from putting lubrication on the mask.

Some have suggested putting Vaseline under a mask to avoid irritations. But according to doctors, this isn't the way to go.

“We do not recommend lubricating your mask. A clean face is best,” advises Dr. Raimondi. “We strongly recommend you take care of your skin to make sure it is well moisturized, and that you attend to sore skin with things like Aquaphor or Vaseline to keep sores clean and moisturized.”

So, rather than applying products to your skin while wearing the mask, when you're at home, this is the best time to add soothing products. This is especially helpful for frontline workers who must wear their mask all day.

6. Know when to replace your mask.

Whether you made your own mask of cloth, or use non-woven fabric surgical masks, eventually, you will need to replace it. But how do you know when to replace your mask?

Much like anything else you wear, if those ear loops get stretched out of shape or the fabric of the mask feels worn out, thinning, or ripped, it's time to replace it. How long that takes may depend on how often you wash it or how sturdy it is in the first place.

Warns Dr. Lloyd, “If you've washed your reusable cloth mask multiple times, it might start feeling itchy, worn, or thin, adding to the discomfort. In this case, it's time to throw that one away and make a new one.”

Thankfully, it's pretty easy to make your own face mask with materials you already own.

RELATED: How To Make Your Own DIY Face Mask To Protect Against Coronavirus

Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.