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What Is a Face Mask Bracket?

face mask bracket

 Hugo Lin / Verywell

Key Takeaways

  • Face mask brackets go under masks to keep the fabric from resting directly on skin.
  • Wearers say brackets allow for enhanced comfort, acne prevention, and maintaining makeup.
  • Experts say there are no studies exploring whether or not brackets affect the efficacy of a mask.

Face masks are here to stay—at least for now—and tools are emerging to make the experience more comfortable. A device that can be worn under masks, known as a face mask bracket, is growing in popularity. Brackets are increasingly hailed for making mask-wearing more comfortable, but experts are questioning the safety of these unstudied add-ons.

A face mask brackets keeps a mask from resting directly on top of the mouth and skin. Essentially, it serves as a barrier between your mask and your skin. Some say the bracket helps prevent acne caused by prolonged mask-wearing. Others say it can prevent lipstick from smudging while wearing a mask.

A search on the web for "face mask brackets" turns up dozens of videos, from teachers explaining how they use the brackets for a full day of teaching to YouTubers using the tool as a hack for keeping makeup in place.

But there isn't enough research around face mask brackets to determine if they're truly safe. Experts are still unsure if adding a bracket reduces the efficacy of a face mask.

What This Means For You

Wearing a face mask bracket may make mask-wearing more comfortable, but it could also make your mask less effective. Doctors suggest being cautious with the new product until more research is done.

How Does a Face Mask Bracket Work?

Also known as mask braces or mask extenders, these devices include a narrow top that rests over the nose and a wide bottom that fits against the chin. The cross-shaped middle area covers the nose and mouth. Open-air vents between the T-shape keep a cloth mask from touching your mouth as you breathe. The brackets are typically made of silicone and have hooks that attach to the inside of a face mask to keep it in place. 

Experts Aren't Ready to Recommend Brackets

Though a face mask bracket may make you feel more comfortable, experts say there’s no evidence that they’re safe to use. In fact, there's a chance they could cause a mask to fit less snugly against your face, allowing airborne particles in.

“A bracket may make a face mask easier to wear, but the issue is that it may reduce fit and decrease effectiveness,” Amesh Adalja, MD, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University with the Center for Global Health, tells Verywell. He adds the bracket could make mask-wearing less safe than wearing a mask alone if it alters the fit.

During interviews, many medical professionals refused to share recommendations surrounding the product because they didn’t know what they were, the devices hadn’t been studied, or both.

“There is no data and I would err on the side of caution and likely not use them,” Krutika Kuppalli, MD, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, tells Verywell.

William Schaffner, MD, professor of infectious disease at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells Verywell he is just becoming aware of the device’s popularity. He says it's a relatively new product that’s emerged since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Schaffner says some people have expressed issues about face masks making them feel constricted or claustrophobic. For those individuals, he says a face mask bracket may be a welcome addition.

Finding the Most Comfortable Option

If you're looking for a more comfortable-fitting face mask, but don’t want to risk trying a face mask bracket, there are other options. People experiencing acne or irritation from their masks may be better off with fitted masks. An N95 or KN95 only rests on the skin at the sealed edges of the mask, providing a safe and more comfortable option. However, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says these types of masks should be reserved for frontline workers, they may be difficult to come by.

While they don't touch your face at all, the CDC advises against face shields, explaining they are primarily used for eye protection. A study published on September 1 in Physics of Fluids found people wearing face shields may have a higher chance of COVID-19 exposure compared to people wearing cloth masks or surgical masks because fluid can move around the visor.

No matter what kind of facial covering you wear, experts say masks are no substitution for other safety practices, like social distancing.

"Even the very best masks have some degree of leakage," Siddhartha Verma, PhD, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement. "It's still important to maintain physical distance while wearing them to mitigate transmission."

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Considerations for wearing masks. August 7, 2020.

  2. Verma S, Dhanak M, Frankenfield J. Visualizing droplet dispersal for face shields and masks with exhalation valves. Physics of Fluids. 2020:32(9). doi:10.1063/5.0022968