Discover the clever products putting an end to the pain.
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Face mask putting on
Credit: Courtesy of Getty

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We all have to do our part to help slow the spread of coronavirus, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that includes wearing a non-medical face covering in public. While these face masks won’t necessarily prevent you from catching coronavirus, they will reduce the risk of anyone who’s unknowingly infected transmitting the virus to others.

After the CDC released these new guidelines, different types of face masks made from various materials started popping up. While you’ll see people sporting everything from bandanas to scarves in public, most variations play on the traditional mask structure with cloth covering the mouth and elastic ear loops.

Unfortunately, these elastic loops do more than keep your mask securely in place: they’re prone to causing irritation on the backs of your ears. In fact, it’s such a common issue among health care workers that they started using clever hacks — like incorporating ear elastics into elaborate hairstyles — to prevent behind-the-ear irritation. And this ingenuity goes beyond hairdos; it’s also led to the creation of plenty of clever products specifically designed to deter this painful side effect.

With both essential and non-essential workers adapting to wearing face masks all day, we decided to compile some genius products for preventing face mask irritation in one place. Below, 5 quirky products that will make the new norm of wearing face masks just a little more comfortable.

1. Face Mask Strap Clip

Face Mask Strap Clip
Credit: Courtesy of Etsy

Plastic “ear savers” are one of the most popular ways to prevent behind-the-ear irritation. Simply wrap the mask’s elastic straps around the clip, rather than your ears, to immediately relieve pressure. This double-sided clip has 4 hook levels to account for different head sizes while ensuring your mask properly hugs your face. Already a best-seller on Etsy, it’s earned raved reviews from shoppers saying it arrives fast and makes wearing a mask less uncomfortable.

To buy:, from $8

2. Headband With Buttons

Headband with buttons for face mask
Credit: Courtesy of Etsy

Strategically placed buttons on either side of this knit headband create an alternative place to hook mask elastics rather than the ears. It’s made with an extra stretchy Lycra and cotton blend that hugs the head without adding extra pressure, making it a comfy pick for all-day wear. Deemed an “ear saver” by one shopper, it’s also machine-washable and available in a handful of color options, from bright fuchsia to navy blue.

To buy:, $12

3. Face Mask Baseball Cap

Cap Face Mask Buttons
Credit: Courtesy of Etsy

You’ll practically forget you’re wearing a mask when sporting this baseball cap: It features buttons on both sides of the head to hold your mask in place without cutting into the skin. The unisex hat, available in khaki and charcoal gray, also has a metal slide adjuster on the back to ensure a perfect fit. And if you don’t already have one, you may want  to add a cloth face mask from the same Texas-based seller to your purchase and wear them together.

To buy:, $20 (originally $25)

4. Scrub Cap with Buttons

Scrub cap with buttons for face mask
Credit: Courtesy of Etsy

These upgraded scrub caps are a favorite of health care workers on Etsy thanks to buttons sewn onto either side of the cap. Available in a variety of fabrics, they feature adjustable ties at the back of the head to ensure the cap fits appropriately. Plus, they’re a great way to protect your hair from pulling or yanking when wearing an N95 mask.

To buy:, $8

5. A Non-Elastic Mask

Reformation face masks
Credit: Courtesy of Reformation

Another great way to prevent ear irritation is avoiding elastic altogether. If you’re able to wear a cloth mask, rather than a surgical mask, it’s possible to find designs with ties rather than elastic, like Reformation’s cloth face masks. They feature two sets of ties to ensure a close fit without anything rubbing against your ears. What’s more, Reformation is matching purchases of its non-medical grade masks with a mask donation to L.A. protects.

To buy:, $25 for set of five

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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