By this point in the pandemic, you’ve hopefully found a face mask or two that work for you. But just because your mask works well, that doesn’t mean it can’t work better — whether that means it’s more comfortable, more convenient to keep close when not covering your nose and mouth, or more functional, like protecting your face but not fogging your glasses. To find the best, most useful mask accessories, we surveyed 19 people — from mask designers to health-care professionals to stylists to DIYers — about the things they use to make mask wearing even more convenient. Read on for all the chains, lanyards, ear savers, anti-fogging accessories, headbands, and other stuff they recommend.
Repurposed glasses chains are perhaps the most popular mask accessory we heard about, with countless jewelry and accessory brands starting to offer their own takes. But mask chains are not just a way to add a touch of personal style — they also keep your mask close at hand and prevent its elastic from getting stretched out prematurely.
“I spent the first few months of quarantine making friendship bracelets, and this feels like the mask-chain equivalent of the arm party that’s currently on my wrist,” says Zoe Weiner, a beauty-and-fitness editor at Well+Good. She calls this chain, which has little alligator clips you can use to hold a mask, “bright and happy,” adding, “since it has a rainbow of beads, it matches every mask in my wardrobe (because, yes, there are a lot of them).”
The first person to tip us off to using an eyeglass chain as a mask accessory was stylist and Strategist contributor Alison Freer, who told us back in May that a mask chain was “the single best purchase” she had made in months. If you just want something affordable that also looks nice, Freer included this chain among the handful she wrote about. It also affixes to a mask with alligator clips, and this writer now owns one and can vouch for it as well: The chain doesn’t get tangled when I chuck it in my bag, and it’s extremely cute.
Another more affordable chain is this one with large beads, which Spencer Arnold, a co-founder of body-care brand Bathing Culture, calls a “fab” option. You can attach it to a mask using a clasp. Arnold told us he likes to use a mask chain because “if you are running errands, it’s easy to keep tabs on your mask.”
If you’re looking for an option for kids (or for adults who have embraced the camp-counselor aesthetic), stylist Stephanie Tricola loves these beaded chains. For just $10, you can choose whatever color beads you’d like and have your name added to the chain, which holds masks with a clasp. While Etsy calls them lanyards, these lack the adjustability that the true lanyards further down on this list offer (so if you want that feature, keep scrolling).
Designer and illustrator Tuesday Bassen, who has begun making her own line of face masks, highly recommends these chunky chains from Eyewear Love Affair that attach using a clasp. “They have clips and a glasses attachment,” she explains, “so you can alternate between using them as a necklace or a chain for your mask and sunglasses.” Bassen owns them in three colors and tells us she’s been “relishing in being able to accessorize even though my face is covered.”
Dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf relies on a medical-grade “N95 in the office,” but when she’s off duty, she “has fun supporting small businesses that have creatively adapted to this ‘new normal’ and designed fun masks and accessories to interchange.” Among those accessories are Pretty Connected’s mask chains, which she wears “to avoid losing or setting down my mask when I have to step out.” The chain attaches to a mask with a lock-style clasp.
The chain Freer actually uses is this more expensive one from jewelry brand Éliou. “Not only does it nostalgically remind me of the beaded eyeglass chain my grandmother used to wear, having my mask hanging neatly around my neck, ready to pull up and on at a moment’s notice, has made being out in the world a lot less stressful — and it’s made me a more diligent citizen, too,” she writes. While it is a bit of an investment, Freer notes the chain is more than just utilitarian, calling it “an elegant-looking accessory to add to your current stack of layered necklaces.” The chain attaches to a mask using an alligator clip.
This House of Terrance chain accented with various baubles reminds us of a classic charm bracelet and comes recommended by Khadijah Austin, the chief operations officer at Shukuru Couture, which recently released a line of face masks. The chain attaches to a mask using a clasp.
“Now that everyone is matching their masks to their outfits, having similarly cute accessories is so important,” says Ally Shapiro, who has designed a line of face masks with her mom, Jill Zarin (who, need we remind you, not only is a former Real Housewife of New York City but also married into a fabric business). Chains are among the cute accessories Shaprio relies on so she doesn’t “lose a mask or get it dirty.” For “an upscale look,” she loves this pearl option from Tarin Thomas, which, she says, “you can alternate between wearing with sunglasses or masks” thanks to the rubber loop.
A couple of people told us they prefer wearing mask lanyards, which, unlike chains, can typically be adjusted with toggles to provide a snugger fit.
For a basic lanyard that gets the job done, Dr. Rashmi Ambewadikar of Astoria Smiles Pediatric Dentistry recommends this one. She likes how its adjustable toggle lets “you control how tight or loose” your mask is around your neck. Plus, you get two for just $9, so you’ll always have an extra if need be.
Dermatologist Dr. Heidi Waldorf told us she bought these Ear Budeze lanyards for herself, her staff, and her friends and family. “You attach the ends to the mask’s ear loops and then adjust the strap to sit on your head or neck; it bypasses the ears completely,” she explains. She adds that this is particularly great for anyone with a very small or large face who finds standard mask straps too long or short to stay on comfortably, because the lanyard’s toggles “can be adjusted for any head size.” She also likes that “you can take the mask off and put it on without removing the strap.” And when she’s out of the office, Waldorf just hangs the lanyard “on a doorknob or in the car, so nothing touches the mask,” which keeps things more sanitized, she says. Pediatrician Dr. Jen Trachtenberg says this lanyard is also a good option for kids who are a little leery of masks: “I’ve found masks with the toggle fastener around the head to be much more comfortable for many kids with ear sensitivity,” including her son.
Often made of silicone or other flexible materials, ear savers are strips with pegs or nubs that you place at the back of your head and loop your mask’s straps onto; they eliminate any discomfort from having mask straps behind your ears. Two doctors we spoke with — Waldorf and double board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Dara Liotta — note that anyone looking for an ear saver in a pinch can even use a paper clip.
Dentist Dr. Saddia Patton of Downtown Dental bought these silicone ear savers to use at her practice because, after a few hours of wear, her mask would start to tug and feel uncomfortable around her ears. “They’ve been working great,” she says.
Ambewadikar also admits that, after a long day, her “masks do pinch on the backs of the ears.” She recommends these ear savers, which are also made of silicone and can be adjusted to be slightly shorter or longer by interlocking one of the nubs into one of the grooves.
Sarah Stearns, a crafting and DIY blogger, told us about these ear savers that can provide an even more precise fit; their fabric strips can be adjusted kind of like you’d adjust the straps on a backpack. She says this is one reason they’re a great option for kids. Another: They come in ten colors, so you can almost certainly find your kiddo’s favorite.
A few folks told us they rely on toggles (like those on the lanyards above) to adjust any mask straps that have gotten stretched out or don’t provide a perfect fit. You can place the doodads on each strap and simply slide to achieve a snug fit.
After Nicole Garcia, the chief marketing officer of crafting website Most Craft, bought a bunch of cloth masks for her family, she discovered the elastics were too big for her children. So she added these silicone toggles, which, she says, “are amazing for my kids’ little ears and tiny faces.” They allowed her to fit their masks “perfectly.”
Tricola likes these metal toggles because they have a sleeker look than your standard plastic or silicone options.
If you’re a wearer of eyeglasses (or sunglasses), you may notice your lenses fogging up when you wear a mask. The most straightforward way to prevent this is to make sure your mask has a tight seal over the nose. While some masks have wires or other inserts to help contour them to the bridge of the nose, others do not. The items below can help you achieve that tight seal.
Dr. Ashley Brissette, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine, told us about this attachment, which she says creates “a seal over the nose while wearing a mask” to prevent lenses from fogging (or just keep air and droplets you breathe out from escaping). The affordable “defogger” comes in several colors, so you can buy a few to match your mask collection. Brissette has another tip for glasses-wearers looking to avoid fog: Wash your lenses with soapy water, which will form a protective film over them that fights condensation.
According to Stearns, adding a metal nose wire to a premade mask that lacks one is an “easy sewing project that anyone can do,” even without a sewing machine. She says you simply encase one of these metal strips inside a small, folded rectangle of fabric and whipstitch it to the top inside edge of the mask. (Stearns has a tutorial here for anyone interested in further instruction.)
Some people we talked to mentioned using hair accessories — think headbands or clips — as alternative ear savers of sorts. Some are designed specifically for mask wearing, and all provide a way to ease pressure around your ears and more comfortably wear a mask for longer periods of time. (If you want to go the DIY route, “buttons can be sewn onto a headband, surgical cap, or hat to anchor masks’ ear loops,” notes dermatologist Dr. Michele J. Farber of Schweiger Dermatology Group.)
“You can make wearing masks more comfortable by pairing them with purpose-built mask headbands, which have large buttons sewn on either side at ear level,” explains Stearns. “To wear them, you just loop the elastic around the buttons instead of behind your ears.” She likes these mask headbands from Etsy, which come in 36 colors and patterns. Dermatologist Dr. Hadley King says she and many of her colleagues also rely on button headbands, which “definitely make the mask more comfortable.”
“My assistants and hygienists love these,” says dentist Dr. Danielle Lombardi of this inexpensive four-pack. “The headbands keep their hair out of their face and take the pressure off their ears, making wearing multiple masks and a shield all day more tolerable and comfortable.”
Wardrobe stylist Chelsea Volpe told us about this clever styling hack: She has been using barrettes like these affordable clips from Anthropologie “to pin a mask’s ear straps back, letting me accessorize my hair and adjust the sizing of my mask at the same time.” The clips could also work as (extremely fun-looking) ear savers.
After using the barrette hack on his wife, celebrity hairstylist Nate Rosenkranz “started looking into other possibilities that mimicked the concept.” He ended up ordering these suspender clasps online, which he attaches to his hats to give them the same mask-holding functionality as a headband with buttons. “They blend in, aren’t permanent, and totally do the trick!”
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