It’s Hot. Here’s How To Make Your Face Mask More Comfortable

Molly Longman

I’m going to kick this off with two statements that are likely beyond obvious to you (unless you’ve spent the first half of 2020 living off the land in the desolate wilderness with nothing but a penknife and a ball of cord to keep you company, à la My Side of The Mountain). You should be wearing a mask. And it’s freaking hot outside.

What do these two things have to do with other? Well, wearing a mask in the heat is a pain. Masks can get sweaty, feel stuffy, and can even leave us with a heat rash.

“It’s worth acknowledging that masks are uncomfortable, especially when it’s hot and humid,” says Nate Favini, MD, medical lead at Forward, a concierge medical service. “They’re annoying, and I don’t think we should pretend that’s not true. I’m empathetic — but it doesn’t mean that wearing a mask isn’t crucial.” 

Because the fact is, face masks work. They reduce transmission, helping to curb the spread of coronavirus and to quite literally save lives. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an increasing number of cases, so it’s more important than ever to wear a mask,” says Natasha Bhuyan, MD, One Medical’s regional medical director. “Until we have a vaccine, widespread masks are our best defense against this virus.”

But 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 Dr. Bhuyan. (To be clear: While there’s a myth circulating that wearing a mask can lower oxygen levels, it’s not true. Doctors and nurses wear them all day long, and they’re doing okay. “Even though we are exhaling carbon dioxide, it already exists in the environment… Wearing the mask does not increase this risk,” Dr. Bhuyan says.)

So, yes, wearing a face mask on a 100-degree day is still worth it. And to make it easier on you, we asked doctors for their best tips for staying comfortable while doing your civic duty and covering your face in steamy temps.

Get a more breathable mask. Choose one that has more structure than those that lie flat against your mouth. But Dr. Favini cautions that the more breathable a mask is, the less protection it may offer to the people around you. “There’s the tension of wanting people to have masks that are more comfortable versus wanting them to have ones that are more effective.” So if you’re going to be indoors and/or around others, wear a more effective mask, even if it makes you feel hotter. (Or layer up. Which brings us to…)

Choose the right material. This is especially important if you’re getting heat rashes from your mask. “Consider fabrics that are either natural, like cotton, or synthetic fabrics that wick away sweat, such as fabric found in exercise clothing,” says Ted Lain, MD, dermatologist and chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology. “The latest recommendation is to use multiple layers of fabric to produce the most effective protective barrier to the virus, so instead of using a thick cotton, consider a thinner cotton fabric but layering it.”

Bring backups. A sweaty mask stinks — literally and figuratively. So have a few fresh ones in your bag. That way if you sweat through one, you’ll have another at the ready. This can make you more comfortable, and prevent breakouts. “Sweating and the humidity in the mask area certainly can lead to a dermatitis, or even an acne breakout,” says Dr. Lain. Pack each extra in a clean, sealable plastic baggie so it won’t be exposed to any germs before you slip it on your face.

Time your “chin strap” moments. Sure, if you’re totally alone, then it’s fine to pull your mask down and take a few deep breaths. But then pull it back up, Dr. Favini says: “Wearing your mask down around your chin is like having a condom and leaving it on the nightstand while you have sex.” 

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In some cases, this means transforming carbohydrates to ethanol (wine! beer! cider!) but in other cases, it’s a mode of turning, say, cabbage, into kimchi. In other words, the whole fermentation process can be described as a means of pre-digestion. All those microbes help break down the sugars and starches in your food, before you’ve actually eaten it. “If you struggle with digestion — if you’re prone to stomach aches or IBS — the pre-digestive nature of fermented foods can make them easier to process,” says board-certified naturopathic doctor, Maura Henninger. “Your gut is like a little eco-system — you need to tend to it, and the bacteria in things like kimchi and kombucha may be beneficial.” Gastrointestinal doctors and healers like Dr. Henninger have been recommending fermented foods for centuries, but the practice of fermentation dates back much further than that. As early as 7000 BC, there is record of an ancient Chinese beverage called Kiu that’s best described as an early iteration of beer. Around 3500 BC there’s evidence of the ancient Egyptian practice of using yeast to leaven bread. By 2000 BC, across China, the fermentation of vegetables (kimchi) and home-brewed tea (kombucha) was a widespread practice. In subsequent years, the Germans earned fame for their sauerkraut; in Russia, pickles became a delicacy; across Korea and China, miso and fermented tofu maintained relentless popularity; and in the U.S, pastoral families pickled perishables of all kinds to preserve them in the days before freezer aisles offered wealths of unspoilable lasagna noodles.But for the expansiveness of its history, the last decade has shown a wild spike in interest in fermentation. According to a survey by restaurant management software company, Upserve, fermented foods saw an 140% increase in popularity on American restaurant menus in 2018. Kombucha grossed 1.67 billion dollars globally in 2019. So the question is, why now? According to Jim Spalding, kombucha brand KeVita’s Senior Director of Brand Strategy and Communications, kombucha, specifically, can act as a notably accessible route to honing in on gut health without some of the more cumbersome routine shifts modern-day wellness can require. “Probiotics are often associated with the fermented food trend,” he explains. “Our line of Master Brew Kombuchas all contain billions of live probiotics per bottle, which give consumers an accessible way of incorporating more probiotics into their daily routines.”KeVita is particularly committed to unveiling flavors that fall within already-popularized palates (think: Meyer Lemon, Lavender Melon, and Lemon Ginger). “Our proprietary ways of formulating taste experiences — along with cultures, ferments, and probiotics — aim to propel ‘alternative’ foods and beverages into the mainstream,” says Spalding. 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  • Demand For At-Home Haircuts Has Gone Up 600% Since Lockdown

    With many Americans still feeling anxious about visiting a hair salon during the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for at-home services has never been higher. In fact, Shortcut — an app that allows clients to request an in-home haircut from a licensed barber or stylist in their area — reports a 600% increase in bookings over the past three months. 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