This article originally appeared in the October 5th, 2020 edition of *HuffPost*
Written by Courtney Leiva
This plastic product is affordable and claims to help you breathe easier in a coronavirus face mask. Here’s what experts say.
While wearing a face mask is absolutely non-negotiable to prevent the spread of COVID-19 nowadays, we’ve all heard a great deal about how our go-to facial coverings can be uncomfortable to breathe in and cause frustrating breakouts.
And while skin care brands like Tata Harper and Dr. Barbara Sturm are now releasing maskne sets to alleviate mask-inflicted breakouts, 3D mask brackets have become an increasingly popular solution to minimize friction and ― more or less important, depending on who you are ― keeping your lipstick intact.
The product is increasingly prevalent on Amazon these days. Bracket prices typically fall underneath a $20 price point for packs of five or 10. Typically made of silicone, the brackets are three-dimensional cages that are worn underneath masks, keeping the mask’s fabric away from your skin and providing a more comfortable experience for mask wearers.
However, while mask brackets seem like a must-have product to invest in, there are some important factors to keep in mind before immediately adding one to your shopping cart.
To bring these considerations to your attention, we tapped five board-certified dermatologists to weigh in on all the pros and cons attached to mask brackets. Read on below to see if mask brackets are actually worth your money.
Mask brackets can prevent friction
Friction between your face mask and your skin, according to dermatologist Dr. Adam Mamelak, can spell out trouble for your skin by triggering inflammation and irritation.
“Many of today’s skin problems and makeup mishaps come from mask-wearing,” Mamelak said. “Friction (along with the oil, humidity, sweat and dirt that masks can trap on the skin surface) can lead to irritation, breakouts and [makeup smudging].”
Mask-wearing is still a must, but Mamelak explained that mask brackets can be helpful in decreasing friction, as they have few points of contact with the skin and also decrease points of contact between your mask and your skin.
“By tenting the mask above the skin, but still providing essential protection, mask brackets prevent lipstick smears, maskne and mask-induced eczema,” he said.
Mask brackets make it easier to breathe in your mask
Board-certified dermatologist Beth Goldstein explained to HuffPost that the tenting effect of mask brackets prevents the mask from being sucked into the mouth and nose, creating a fairly more reasonable experience while wearing a mask.
Board-certified dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil agrees, explaining that this makes mask brackets suitable for physical outdoor activities, as they prevent masks from cutting off your airflow while running, jogging or bike riding.
“Mask brackets are definitely useful,” Mudgil told HuffPost. “They are great for exercise, as they prevent your mask from getting sucked into your mouth when you inhale.”
But beware, the plastic brackets can irritate skin
While mask brackets offer practicality to users, dermatologist Dr. Ife J Rodney said there are some flaws to keep in mind, the plastic material being No. 1.
“Instead of a cloth mask rubbing against your skin, you now have the plastic or silicone [touching your skin,] which can be just as, if not more, irritating,” Rodney explained. “The firm material pressing onto the skin may trap sweat and oil onto the skin, triggering acne (maskne) flares, and leading to skin breakdown.”
At the same time, it’s worth mentioning that unlike standard face masks, the bracket only makes contact with your skin along the edges of the bracket, Rodney adds. However, if you are sensitive to plastic and silicone materials, it’s best to consult your dermatologist before using a mask bracket.
Mask brackets have sizing issues
Sizing is another concern, as the frame of the bracket apparently tends to run on the smaller size, making fit a bit tricky, Goldstein said.
And though mask brackets are available in kids and adult sizes, Goldstein added that no matter what size bracket you choose, it should never interfere with the seal of your mask.
“Whatever bracket you chose should be well within that range in order to allow for a proper fit of the mask over the bracket,” she explained.
“With talking and long-term wear, the brackets in the mask seems to shift (some find using double sided tape to secure the bracket in place can be helpful),” she added.
This shift, according to dermatologist Dr. Marie Hayag, can also negatively affect the protection of the mask worn over it.
“The brackets push the mask off your face, which could potentially render the mask ineffective,” Hayag explained. “A mask’s purpose is to prevent respiratory droplets from escaping, which in turn protects those around us from being exposed to pathogens if we are sick.”
In a nutshell …
While mask brackets aim to alleviate makeup smudges and comfort issues associated with traditional face masks, Goldstein said these products are best suited for improving breathing quality, not your skin.
“Ideally these are for those who find wearing a mask claustrophobic or difficult,” she explained.