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What Are Face Brackets & Do They Make Your Face Mask Less Effective?

As our ever-expanding vocabulary of new gear to combat the spread of COVID-19 continues to, well, expand, we’ve discovered uses for face masks (of course), mask lanyards, filters and more as a means of moving safely through our new normal (albeit it’s still advised to avoid unnecessarily risky situations and to stay home if you can!). The latest product making an appearance are face brackets — silicone, bendable devices designed with the intent to make masks more comfortable for wearers by allowing for a bit of space between the mouth and face and the mask (without disrupting the barrier/function of the mask).

For folks who feel less comfortable existing with masks for various reasons, the idea behind these products make sense — if you have COPD, asthma, difficulty breathing or functioning with the correct layers of mask over your face (or if you’d like a chance to fend off maskne), these allow for a little more breathing room. And while there are concerns about how safe they can be for regular mask wearers (particularly when it comes to making sure the mask fit remains comfortable and the seal around the mouth and nose is in tact.)

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As Prevention’s Korin Miller reported, there are some issues that infectious disease experts raise about these accessories. Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease physician in Akron, OH said “Personally, I would not use this as I would be concerned about the integrity of the seal” and other experts said that the lack of research on masks and accessories that help or hinder them in the germ blocking purpose means that exercising caution as you introduce something new to your mask.

“Based on how they look, I don’t think they’re going to make a huge difference [in safety],” Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Prevention. “This just underscores the need to do research on what types of masks people should or shouldn’t be wearing. We have that for healthcare workers, but we don’t have that for the general public.”

Gabriela Andujar Vazquez, MD, Infectious Disease Physician and Associate Hospital Epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, told USA Today that these accessories shouldn’t be too much of an issue provided you’re already using a high quality mask (layers, baby!) that fits correctly.

“Whatever makes people more compliant in wearing masks,” Vazquez said. “If it makes people feel better and more comfortable, then I think it’s OK.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined some very solid mask-wearing best practices (going off the current research to make the best recommendations) and prioritize wearers properly wearing their masks and ensuring that their mask does the following:

  • Covers your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Fits snugly against the sides of your face

So are face brackets a potential option for you? Obviously the jury remains out, but if you think it might be a tool to help you or a loved one more consistently and safely wear a mask in the pandemic, they may be worth giving a try. Just, please, mind the seal and practice good mask hygiene!

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Before you go, check out our favorite kids face masks

kids face masks

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