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How to Keep Your Mask From Fogging up Your Glasses

Glasses fogging up

Anna Lukina / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Foggy lenses occur when our breaths land on the surface of our glasses and trigger condensation.
  • To prevent this, use adjustable nose wires, tighten ear loops, and wash lenses with soap.
  • Look for snug masks with a cone-like shape and no gaps to limit fogging.

As office spaces open back up, many people who wear glasses may experience a pesky side effect of wearing face masks while they work: foggy lenses.

According to Natalie Chai, OD, an optometrist practicing in Canada, temperature discrepancies between our lenses, breath, and environments trigger this lens fog.

“Fogging happens when the air that we breathe out, which contains water molecules, gets forced upwards from a poorly fitted mask onto the lenses of our glasses,” Chai tells Verywell. “The process of condensation occurs when the air we breathe out is warmer than the temperature of our lenses. In the context of external temperatures, the air indoors is much warmer and holds more moisture than the outdoor air. So when you walk into a warm building from a cold winter day, the warm and humid indoor air contacts the cool lenses of your glasses, and it cools and contracts causing condensation, which we see as 'fogging.'”

How to Avoid Foggy Frames

Experts have engineered numerous remedies and products to alleviate this issue, with some yielding better results than others. Here are their best tips, tools, and masks to prevent lens fog.

Adjust Your Mask's Nose Wire

Sealing the top of your mask with a nose wire is one of the most effective techniques for blocking warm air from seeping through.

“Masks that create some amount of suction around the nose and mouth can limit fogging,” Harbir Sian, OD, an optometrist in Canada, and owner of Highstreet Eyecare and Clarity Eyecare, tells Verywell. “Masks with wires in the trim help keep the mask more secure over the nose and reduce the amount of air that rises up towards the glasses.”

Most surgical masks are equipped with built-in nose wires, making it easy to pinch them into place for a better fit. However, you can easily make a DIY version for any mask using pipe cleaners, paper clips, or jewelry wires and securing them along the bridge of your nose with fabric glue.

Wash Glasses With Soap

Researchers found that washing your lenses with soap leaves a trace amount of soap molecules that limits fogging. Since soap is a surfactant, it reduces the surface tension of water, which blocks condensation.

“At the end of each day, soak your glasses in warm water with the original blue Dawn dish soap, or go to Amazon and purchase an ultrasonic cleaner," Candria Krywko, OD, an optometrist and owner of Eyes on Hayden in Arizona, tells Verywell. "My favorite is the Magnasonic Professional Ultrasonic Cleaner."

Pick a fragrance-free soap, then leave your glasses out to air dry. If you need to put on your glasses right away, don't dry them with a tissue—this can leave tiny fragments of lint on your lenses. Instead, opt for a microfiber cloth and gently pat try.

Use Anti-Fog Products

There are numerous anti-fog products on the market, including wipes, sprays, balms, and drops. They coat your lenses with a thin layer of film that counteracts condensation.

“Anti-fog wipes are my preference because they also help to clean your lenses: by wiping your lenses, they transfer the chemicals that prevent condensation. In addition, they are typically made specifically for glasses lenses,” Chai says. “This treatment is only good for a range of temperature changes, but not for the extreme ones. Anti-fog lenses can help, but I know from my personal experience of having anti-fog lenses that they still fog up.”

However, make sure to check the product's ingredients because certain additives, such as alcohol, can damage lenses.

“There are some products that claim they can be used for other surfaces—you may want to stay away from those because the chemicals used may be a bit harsh,” she says. “It is possible that the ingredients may contribute to the breakdown of some of the coatings on the glasses and even cause some scratches.

Krywko tested out some of these commercial remedies long before COVID-19. These are her preferred fog-blockers:

Apply Skin-Safe Tape

Surgeons typically seal the top of their masks with skin-safe tape or adhesive bandages to block airflow.

“This is a good option, however, it depends on whether or not the individual has sensitive skin,” Chai says. “You want to make sure the tape is medical grade because then you know that it doesn't contain latex, is porous enough to provide some amount of breathability, and can contain zinc oxide to help prevent infections.”

Make sure to avoid household tapes, such as duct tape, since they can irritate your skin. You can also opt for double-sided tape that secures your mask to your cheeks and nose from the inside. 

Change the Positioning of Your Glasses and Mask

Pulling your mask up and drawing your glasses down can also block air particles from funneling upwards. When pulling up your mask, make sure it still covers your chin. Otherwise, size up. 

I've learned to do this personally myself,” Chai says. “I position my glasses on top of my mask so that the nose pads almost make a seal. You need to pull your mask up a bit so that it would fit under the nose pads. It's not 100%, but it does help.”

Be wary of this technique if you wear progressive lenses or have a strong prescription. It may impact your vision.

“If you are looking off what we call the 'optical center' of the glasses, you may notice a bit of distortion in vision or increased blurriness if the glasses are positioned too drastically away," Chai says. "The stronger a person's prescription is, the margin of error becomes less and less, which means even the slightest change could be significant."

Tighten Your Mask

Any gaps protruding from the sides of your mask open another channel for air to leak through.

If your mask has adjustable ear loops, tighten them so that there are no openings on the sides. Otherwise, you can invest in a mask extender, which connects the ear loops at the back of your head. This technique provides relief for your ears so they don’t carry the full weight of your mask. 

Use Tissues

One DIY trick Sian recommends is to use a tissue as a buffer.

“Put a tissue under the top part of the mask,” he says. “This will help catch more air and moisture.” 

To do this properly, fold a tissue in half and place the straight edge along the bridge of your nose. Keep a steady supply of tissues on hand so you can change them when they become damp.

What This Means For You

There are many methods to prevent foggy lenses. The tighter your mask is, the less chance air will escape. Look for masks with an adjustable nose wire, ear straps, and moisture-absorbing material.

What to Look For in a Mask

According to Krywko, there are a few key qualities you should look for in a mask:

  • A close seal at the bridge of your nose and a close fit along the upper cheeks
  • A tight fit because loose masks will lead to more fogging
  • An adjustable bridge or clamp for the nose
  • Adjustable straps for proper fit behind the ears
  • Full coverage of your chin, which prevents the need for repositioning when speaking
  • A straight-fold across the nose and cheeks to allow your glasses to rest evenly

While light cotton or silks masks may allow for less fogging, they are not dense enough to block COVID-19.

“In my opinion, the best mask is one that has nose wire to contour the nose bridge better for seal. It also functions to keep your mask up so it doesn't keep slipping down," Chai says. "Working in the healthcare field, I will always wear the medical-grade masks because I know for a fact that the ply and the way the fibers are made have the most effective in preventing the transfer of air. Some cloth materials, unfortunately, do not meet that standard."

Sometimes, the best way to prevent misting is to combine different techniques with fog- masks. With this in mind, here are a few of Verywell’s best picks.

Public Goods KN95 Mask

Public Goods Mask

Courtesy of Public Goods

A KN95 mask mimics the cone-like shape of the traditional N95 mask and is ideal for keeping warm air from escaping. This one from Public Goods comes in a pack of 10 and sports a tight seal that you can easily mold to your face. It is equipped with five layers and a mechanical filter that offers 95% protection from dangerous germs.

Hanes Adult Face Mask

Hanes Face Mask

Courtesy of Hanes

This Hanes face mask comes equipped with all the fog-blocking essentials: elastic ear bands, an adjustable nose clip, and moisture-trapping fabric. The mask also adjusts to surrounding temperatures to prevent misting. It comes in an adult large and an adult small.

Honeywell Masks With Replaceable Inserts

Honeywell Face Mask

Courtesy of Honeywell

This reusable mask from Honeywell boasts a hard outer shell that allows for flexible breathing space and fewer gaps. A hidden pocket lets you change the interior filters with each use, which also restricts moisture and fogging. To make the most of this mask, tighten its adjustable ear loops and nose clip.

Bilio Face Mask

Bilio Face Mask

Courtesy of Bilio

Bilio face masks are designed with glasses-wearers in mind. They sport a strong adjustable nose clamp that reinforces the mask and locks in air. The mask comes in an array of different colors and sizes, catering to anyone.

Under Armour UA Sportsmask

Under Armour Sports Mask

Courtesy of Under Armour

Designed specifically for athletes, this Under Armour mask is ideal for absorbing moisture before it escapes. It is designed to sit up and away from the face, directing your breaths forwards as opposed to upwards. Plus, it's lightweight and lined with polyurethane layers that easily absorb sweat. 

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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