If Your Face Mask Hurts Your Ears, Try These Genius Hacks to Prevent Irritation

Discover the clever products putting an end to the pain.

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Part of what helped to slow the spread of coronavirus during the COVID-19 pandemic was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendation to wear a mask in public. While face masks aren't 100% effective at preventing you from catching coronavirus, they will reduce the risk of passing it on if you're sick or catching it from someone else who's got the virus.

After the CDC released the mask guidelines in 2020, different types of face masks made from various materials started popping up. While you would see people sporting everything from bandanas to scarves in public, most variations played on the traditional mask structure with cloth covering the mouth and nose, and elastic loops that go behind your ears.

Unfortunately, these elastic loops might do more than keep your mask securely in place; they can be prone to causing irritation on the backs of your ears. In fact, it was such a common issue among health care workers that they started using clever hacks—like incorporating ear elastics into elaborate hairstyles—to prevent behind-the-ear irritation. And this ingenuity goes beyond hairdos; it also led to the creation of plenty of clever products specifically designed to deter this painful side effect.

Below are five quirky products that will make wearing a face mask just a little more comfortable when it's necessary to wear one.

1. Face Mask Strap Clip


Plastic "ear savers" are one of the most popular ways to prevent behind-the-ear irritation. Simply wrap the mask's elastic straps around the clip, rather than your ears, to immediately relieve pressure. This double-sided clip has four hook levels to account for different head sizes while ensuring your mask properly hugs your face. It earned raved reviews from shoppers who said it made wearing a mask more comfortable.

Available at etsy.com, $3

2. Headband With Buttons

Scrub Cap with buttons

Strategically-placed buttons on either side of this knit headband create an alternative place to hook mask elastics rather than the ears. It's made with an extra stretchy Lycra and cotton blend that hugs the head without adding extra pressure, making it a comfy pick for all-day wear. Deemed an "ear saver" by one shopper, it's also machine-washable and available in lots of color options, from bright fuchsia to navy blue.

Available at etsy.com, $12

3. Face Mask Baseball Cap

Scrub Cap with buttons

You'll practically forget you're wearing a mask when sporting this baseball cap. It features buttons on both sides of the head to hold your mask in place without cutting into the skin. The unisex hat, available in a variety of colors, also has a metal slide adjuster on the back to ensure a perfect fit (the mask is sold separately).

Available at etsy.com, $24

4. Scrub Cap With Buttons

Scrub Cap with buttons

These upgraded scrub caps are a favorite with health care workers on Etsy thanks to buttons sewn onto either side of the cap. Available in a variety of fabrics, they feature adjustable ties at the back of the head to ensure the cap fits appropriately. Plus, they're a great way to protect your hair from pulling or yanking when wearing an N95 mask.

Available at etsy.com, $25

5. A Non-Elastic Mask


Another great way to prevent ear irritation is to avoid the elastic ear loops altogether. These feature two sets of ties to ensure a close fit without anything rubbing against your ears, a nose wire, and a filter pocket.

Available at etsy.com, $9.50

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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