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With many states requiring people to wear face coverings when out in public per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guidelines, demand for cloth face masks has skyrocketed, and hundreds of retailers (including major names like Nordstrom, Old Navy, and Athleta) have come out with their own non-medical grade masks. However, while face masks may be effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), they often aren’t comfortable to wear for long periods of time and can feel like a nuisance to have to put on every time you walk out the door.
Enter face mask accessories, which are currently all over Instagram. Whether it’s a chain or lanyard to conveniently hold your mask when not in use or a mask extender to prevent your ears from hurting, brands are coming up with creative ways to make wearing a mask less of a (literal) pain. Some are as fashionable as they are functional, too, with metallic accents or pretty patterns. But are they just a fad—or something actually worth considering?
Below is everything you need to know about the trendy new face mask accessories, according to experts, and where you can buy them for yourself.
Are face mask accessories worth buying?
“Accessories may be of value if they encourage people to wear masks without compromising the integrity, fit and form of the mask,” says Gonzalo Bearman, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and Director of the Infection Prevention Program at VCU Health in Richmond. After all, wearing something—even with flashy accessories—is better than nothing.
If you’re someone who wears a mask for hours on end (i.e. you’re an essential worker or healthcare provider), certain accessories could relieve any pain caused by your mask. “Headbands and extenders have been effective in relieving pressure off the back of the ears during extended wear,” explains Kimberly Schwenk MSN, RN, VP & Chief Nursing Officer at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. As for lanyards and chains, Schwenk notes that while they don’t offer any benefit in terms of comfort, they do limit how much you touch the outside of your mask (which can reduce the risk of contaminating your mask or your hands).
However, there is one possible downside to face mask accessories, particularly extenders—they can impact the fit of your mask, rendering it less effective. “If an extender makes a mask less snug around the face, and if it compromises the ability of the mask to cover both the nose and mouth, then it should not be used,” Dr. Bearman cautions, adding that expanders should not be used for medical-grade fitted masks.
Where to buy face mask accessories online
Whether you’re an essential worker looking to make your mask more comfortable or someone who just wants to make theirs more stylish, there are a few retailers currently selling face mask accessories. One of the best places to look is Etsy, where there are tons of options. You can buy a chain or lanyard like this one with hundreds of rave reviews, a headband with buttons to hook your mask on instead of your ears, or, if you wear glasses, you can snag these “mask mates” which clip your mask directly onto your frames (reviewers say this solves the painful ear problem). Other popular places to find face mask accessories include Pretty Connected, home to the original chain straps which sold out in hours, and Anthropologie, where people are buying cute glasses chains to use as mask holders.
If you’re looking for more practical add-ons, Amazon is a good place to start. The retailer has everything from adhesive nose clips (if your mask doesn’t have a built-in wire, this can help it fit more snugly to your face) to basic mask extenders like these with hundreds of five-star ratings. Just remember to check that whichever accessory you choose doesn’t affect the fit of your mask, per Dr. Bearman’s warning.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Face mask accessories: Where to buy mask chains, lanyards, extenders, and more