While face masks have become a necessary fact of life in the age of COVID-19, you might still be adjusting to wearing them all day long. Let's face it — between sucking in the fabric and the ear loops chafing your skin, face masks can be, well, a little annoying.
That's probably why more and more mask accessories are popping up on the market with the promise of increased convenience and comfort. One recent trend — face mask brackets — is gaining popularity among mask wearers.
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These silicone-based support frames, which you insert into your face covering, claim to make breathing easier and to keep you from feeling uncomfortably hot while donning a mask. Supposedly, these little structures keep the cloth from touching your nose and mouth, thus creating more breathing space and less friction between your face and the fabric.
But are they safe? We enlisted infectious disease experts to weigh in.
Are Face Mask Brackets Safe to Wear?
Since face mask brackets are brand new, no one really knows.
"This is a very narrow issue with no actual scientific data or even a significant body of experience," David Freedman, MD, a professor emeritus of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Indeed, research is needed to understand how these brackets alter the effectiveness of face masks, for good or for bad, agrees Christopher Sulmonte, MHA, an expert on best practices for infection prevention and project administrator for the Johns Hopkins Bio-Containment Unit.
You may find the additional accessory more uncomfortable than simply sporting the mask alone.
"However, based on our current understanding, brackets may make face masks less effective if the bracket worsens the fit of the mask itself," Sulmonte says. In other words, the brackets may create gaps or cause the mask to not cover the entirety of the nose or mouth.
Conversely, "anything that improves the snugness of fit [of a mask] and prevents air from flowing in or out from the edges is an enhancement of effectiveness," Dr. Freedman says.
If these bendable brackets can improve your mask's fit, Sulmonte agrees that "brackets could be helpful in situations of heavy breathing or high moisture, like exercise, where the mask can more commonly stick to the skin."
Since there are variations on bracket design, users would have to experiment to find the best fit, Dr. Freedman says. One brand on Amazon recommends either using double-sided tape or sewing the silicone bracket into the mask to keep the insert snugly in place.
Still, Sulmonte cautions that some people will find the additional accessory more uncomfortable than simply sporting the mask alone.
Proper Care for Face Mask Brackets
If you do decide to give these silicone mask supports a spin, keep in mind that you'll need to disinfect your reusable brackets after every wear, Sulmonte says.
Scrubbing with soap and water should do the trick. Soap is safe and suitable for silicone and similar materials, Dr. Freedman adds.
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