Making masks more comfortable

Let’s stipulate that it’s important and respectful to continue wearing masks as long as the coronavirus is out there. I wear a mask because I should, not to align with a political position.

Okay, that’s established. Now I can complain about masks.

It’s harder to breathe wearing a mask. It’s harder to hear, and harder still for me because I don’t wear my behind-the-ear hearing aids with them. Further impeding understanding, the other person’s facial expressions are partly obscured.

It’s harder to see when I look down, so I’m afraid of tripping, especially on stairs. Sunglasses fog up.

Masks slide up or down, so I fiddle to adjust them, doing what I shouldn’t — bringing my hands to my face. The elastic broke on one when I pulled it down just before entering a salon for a much-needed haircut. I had to jury-rig a fix.

Masks are hot. Loops irritate ears. A friend got a skin rash from her mask.

We can’t sip cold drinks wearing a mask.

Masks mess with a blow-dry. The only good thing about them — aside from their purpose — is that I don’t feel a need to wear makeup under one.

Since it looks like it will be a while before we can shed our masks, I searched for tips to make them more comfortable. Here are some suggestions. Admittedly, they won’t solve all of the above problems.

• The mask should be snug but not tight. Masks that tie in the back allow you to adjust the tightness, although I’ve found that they don’t stay in place as well.

• Choose 100 percent cotton masks for better ventilation.

• With ear-loop masks, a button headband can keep your ears from chafing. The straps are looped over the buttons. Google “button headband for mask” to see ones to buy or make. Other ideas for protecting the ears are to attach both loops to a mask extender, an S hook, or a paper clip that sits on the back of the head.

• Give ears a break by alternating ear-loop masks with tied ones.

• Moisturize your face well before putting on a mask.

• Avoid wearing heavy makeup under a mask.

• Carry an extra mask so that you can switch out if the first mask gets wet from sweat (or, as I experienced, breaks).

• To keep glasses or sunglasses from fogging up, make sure the mask fits tightly across the top of the nose. Some masks have an adjustable strip over the nose. Medical tape also can be used to create a seal.

• Keep masks clean. Wash them after every wearing, either in the washing machine or by hand in warm, soapy water.

• Make masks smell good: wash them in a scented detergent.

If you’re still uncomfortable after trying these tips, you might need another style of mask. Lots of masks are being advertised as super comfortable. A neck tube is an alternative, but you’ll want to make sure it’s made of cotton and not too hot in the summertime.



Yesterday was my first Father’s Day without my dad, who died December 22 of last year. It didn’t occur to me in June 2019 that it could be Dad’s final Father’s Day, even though his 99th birthday was coming up in three weeks. I don’t remember where we ate for Father’s Day or for his birthday in July, suggesting that I wasn’t thinking of those as possibly the last. I do remember telling him there was no reason he wouldn’t make 100. He’d passed so many markers — birthdays, anniversaries, physicals, yearly renewal of his driver’s license — that it seemed he had defeated mortality.

His death was unexpected, happening the day before he was to be released from a rehab center where he’d gone for physical therapy. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I wish my last words had been more than a breezy “See you next Tuesday for Christmas Eve.”

I don’t know whether humans are wired to treat every get-together with a loved one as if it were the last time. An occasion like Father’s Day can be a reminder that our parents aren’t going to be around forever, no matter how vital they appear to be.



Chicago Greeter, where I volunteer, is emerging from a coronavirus hiatus by offering scheduled walks to both locals and visitors. Normally we reserve our tours for out-of-towners.

During the transition, we’re taking out no more than four people at once, and guests must wear masks.

So, Chicagoans, here’s your chance to take a free tour. Request a Greeter visit here.



“Bolton’s book helps illustrate two facts about the Trump administration: Trump is exactly who we know he is – an amoral charlatan using the most powerful office in the world to help himself at the expense of the American people; and those around Trump help him carry out his corrupt ends, despite what they may tell themselves to justify their complicity.”

— Michael H. Fuchs, The Guardian


Leave a comment
  • I hope today's an easier day after the struggle yesterday, Marianne. (It was my second, so I feel for you.) Thanks for all the suggestions and details. I am having success with bandannas and ponytail holders for the ears -- two per side. I switched to new holders yesterday, but that was OK because I had to buy a few dozen in March.

  • Thanks, Margaret.

    I did something like your idea before I was given a couple of masks, but I used cloth napkins. It worked

  • In reply to Marianne Goss:

    You're welcome, Marianne. I think I have some cloth napkins somewhere in case the bandannas wear out! Thanks for that.

Leave a comment