Wearing A Mask Sucks -- Here Are 7 Ways To Make It Suck Less
Summer is the season so many of us look forward to—hitting the beach or the pool, BBQs with friends, road-tripping with the fam, and wearing minimal clothing as we bask in the heat and feel the sun on our shoulders. So listen, we get it that covering your face with a piece of cloth anytime you go anywhere this summer sucks. Like, a lot. Masks are already an adjustment—those ear straps can irritate your skin, your glasses can fog up, and it may be hard to find one that fits properly. Now that it’s 90 degrees, they are even more uncomfortable—making you feel hotter than you already do and getting stinky and sweaty after just a few quick errands.
What’s more inconvenient—having to wash your sweaty mask or being bed-ridden for weeks? Feeling your body temperature rise more quickly than usual or living the last few days of your life on a ventilator? Investing in a few back-up masks so you can switch out the stinky one or not being able to walk across the room because there’s a weight on your chest for months on end?
As much as we all wanted this nightmare to be over by summer, it’s not. COVID-19 continues to ravage our country, and until we all (like allllllll of us) start doing our part and wearing the damn mask—even if it’s hot out—we’re not going to beat it.
So here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable in a mask during this COVID-19 shit-storm of a summer.
1. Choose the right material.
Certain fabrics feel lighter and more airy on our skin, especially in the summer heat. Make or buy masks made out of cotton, or even fabrics that wick away sweat and moisture like exercise clothes do. You’ve seen the ads—everyone’s making them—so invest in few that don’t feel as hot on your face. Avoid fabrics like polyester that make you feel like you’re sitting inside an oven. And be grateful this pandemic didn’t happen during the 70s.
2. Modify the straps on your mask for comfort.
If placing the strap around the back of your ears bothers you, you have other choices. You could use an S-clip, extender strap, or button “ear saver” (there are endless options on Etsy) or wear a headband with buttons and attach your straps to those to relieve your ears of irritation.
Or even just use a paperclip for a quick fix.
If you wear glasses, glue buttons to your frames and loop your straps to them, making your glasses and mask one cohesive unit. Get innovative!
3. Bring back-ups.
Your mask, like the rest of you, will get hot and sweaty. You might not be able to switch out your pants as you swelter in the Target parking lot, but great news! You can reach into your purse for a clean, dry, back-up mask. And don’t forget to wash them all and get the germs (and the sweat) out of those suckers as soon as you get home.
4. Practice wearing your mask at home to ensure that it’s comfortable.
It needs to be snug, but not too tight. You need to be able to breathe, but if it’s too loose, it won’t do its job—keeping infected respiratory droplets from going out or coming in. You want to make sure your mask is comfortable enough that you will able to keep it on the entire time you’re out and not find yourself ripping it off in public. Don’t do that! So try different fastening options at home, buy or make a few and pick your faves, and make sure you’re truly ready to face the masked world before heading out the door. Try wearing it a few moments at a time at first and building up from there.
5. Recognize that you may have to adjust the products you put on your face.
While it’s advisable to wear moisturizer to prevent heat rash or skin irritation from your mask, wearing a lot of makeup may not work right now as masks are likely to make you hotter and sweatier. Your makeup could rub off on it and clog your pores as the mask will prevent your skin from being able to breathe as it normally does. This is yet another reason to switch out and use your back-up mask as the day goes on. Putting a fresh, clean one on can help reduce breakouts, which tbh, is the last thing we need right now.
6. Breathe freshness.
Try some mints or menthol cough drops to make that hot air inside your mask feel less stuffy.
7. Time your “chin-strap moments.”
If you really need a big deep breath of non-masked air, wait until you aren’t near any people before pulling your mask down. And take a swig of water while you’re at it. Then, mask up. Walking around with your mask around your chin just because it’s hot out is completely pointless. Nate Favini, MD, medical lead at Forward, shares this analogy: “Wearing your mask down around your chin is like having a condom and leaving it on the nightstand while you have sex.” Just having it near your face—but not on—does no good, folks.
Again, we know that wearing masks in the hot summer sun isn’t great. You might feel like you can’t breathe well, but if you wear a mask properly, you’ll be fine.
“When it’s hot and sticky outside, and the humid air you’re exhaling is getting trapped by your mask, things might get a little stifling,” admits Natasha Bhuyan, MD, One Medical’s regional medical director. But, she reaffirms, wearing a mask does not increase your risk of CO2 poisoning. She would know, as she, like all doctors, wears one all day long. “Even though we are exhaling carbon dioxide, it already exists in the environment… Wearing the mask does not increase this risk,” Dr. Bhuyan adds.
More and more states and cities are mandating masks in order to enter buildings, shop at stores, etc. So even though it’s summer and the last thing we want is another layer of fabric on our bodies, it’s just the reality of our world right now. Pandemics don’t give a shit that we want to go swimming and grab lunch with a friend and pull tomatoes from our gardens and watch our kids play baseball.
No one is claiming it’s comfortable to wear a mask in the summer. But it is essential. It is life-saving. And it is one of our only defenses against a virus that continues to grow more and more tentacles and spread its wrath from town to town, state to state. We all need to suck it up, wear a mask, and remember that in the end, we all just want to live to see 2021.
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