Masks that don’t hurt your ears. Really.
UPDATE (Nov 2020): A lot of changes and new knowledge have come to light since this blog was written. Some of this content is still accurate, but some of it may have become obsolete. Please read the more recent mask-related blogs for up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mask-related issues.
Last week, I wrote an article that tried to sum up several popular methods for relieving ear pain from face mask elastics.
Every method, from ties to S-hooks to Princess Leia space buns, have their pros and cons. I discussed these at length, so I won’t go over that again. Today is all about my current favourite way to save our ears from the menace of mask elastics: the adjustable strap with Velcro closures.
What are Ear Rescue straps?
Ear Rescue straps are basically soft flat fabric bands which can be fastened behind your head at any height that works best for you, depending on the shape of your head and your personal preferences. The top of the mask uses these, and the bottom half uses a soft flat underwear-grade elastic designed to go right against skin. As far as I can tell, no one else seems to be offering this dual system at this time.
The two-strap system: the adjustable upper strap
I chose to use a goodly length of hook-and-loop tape (aka Velcro) to fasten the upper straps, because this means they 1) are easy to do up, even for people with joint and/or dexterity issues, 2) are size-adjustable, and 3) don’t lose tension and slip like tied knots, even after long wear.
These adjustable Velcro-closed top straps do most of the work of holding the mask in place. Once you fasten them at the right height for you (you may need to experiment to find the sweet spot on yourself), they’re remarkably secure.
We tested ours for several hours of wear, during which we really gave them a workout (in Kitty’s case, including repeatedly putting on and taking off a high-necked top with the mask still on). They stayed firmly in place, and more importantly, our ears were still perfectly comfortable at the end of the day.
The elastic lower strap (and why I didn’t use a second adjustable Velcro strap)
The lower part of the mask has a one-piece elastic strap that can either rest on or under your hair, roughly at the base of your head or nape of your neck. I specifically chose to use very soft underwear/lingerie-grade elastic which is intended for direct skin contact.
Incidentally, I did test a second Velcro-fastened set of straps for the lower part of the mask, but rejected the idea for a couple of reasons. First, the back of the neck is a high-mobility area on your body, and having a non-stretch strap on it felt pretty restrictive. This can result in digging-in, neck and shoulder tension, or even headaches.
Second, Velcro can feel quite scratchy on sensitive skin for people who have short or no hair, or who prefer to have the lower strap under their hair. It drove me crazy in under ten minutes, so I ditched the idea right there. I happen to know I have a hide like a rhinoceros, so if it bothers me, it’s going to irritate almost everyone else.
Anyway, you don’t even NEED an tight or adjustable strap to hold the lower part of the mask in place — in fact, you hardly need anything at all. The customized fit of the upper strap held the mask so securely that in my testing, the lower elastic served as more of a back-up than an actual necessity.
How to get Ear Rescue straps on your mask
You can upgrade your masks to have Ear Rescue straps (instead of the standard elastic ear loops or ties) by selecting the “Ear Rescue” option in the “Strap Style” drop-down box when you order your masks on the website.
You should be able to add this option on to the “Put on a good Face,” Ziggurat, and Anteater mask styles. We’re not currently offering it for Accordion masks, because the straight-across-the-top cut of this mask style doesn’t play nicely with the angle at which the upper straps need to be attached.
We use enough Velcro so you can adjust the fit by a couple of inches, which is a lot in terms of head sizes. But if you feel like you are the proud owner of a very small or very large head, you can always contact us, and we’ll walk you through the custom measurement process.
We truly hope that this new project/product brings some relief to those of you who continue to protect others and the community by wearing your masks. Learning that some of you stuck it out with face masks even when they caused chafing, bruising, and pain shone a tiny light into my shrivelled misanthropic soul. Perhaps the human species is worth saving after all…