How to Keep Your Glasses from Fogging Up When Wearing A Face Mask
Foggy glasses are a pain, but trust us—Covid-19 is much worse. Here's how to keep your glasses from fogging while wearing a face mask.
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Face masks save lives
Face coverings are a big part of society’s new normal—they’re vital in help slowing the spread of Covid-19. While they may feel inconvenient, uncomfortable, or even annoying when they continually fog your glasses, a face mask can quite literally save the lives of people around you. “Face masks help block the respiratory droplet spread of infection from the person wearing the mask, which can occur by simply speaking to someone at a close distance,” says Sunitha D. Posina, MD, a board-certified internist in Stony Brook, New York. “Studies have found that viral loads are high during the pre-symptomatic phase of the illness and thus wearing face masks can limit the spread from pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people.”
You might have difficulty picturing how these droplets disperse from a simple in-person conversation, especially if all you can think about is how the mask makes your glasses so foggy. This might help: The New England Journal of Medicine published a research letter in April 2020 in which researchers demonstrated with laser-lighting and video how someone speaking loudly with no mask releases well over 300 respiratory droplets, each of which could contain the virus and infect others. The number dropped to almost none when the speaker spoke in a lower tone and wore a face mask. (This is how to make your own face mask for coronavirus protection.)
So, how can you wear your face mask and eyeglasses successfully without fogging them up? First, you need to know what’s causing the fogginess in your lenses. (Also, this is what experts won’t tell you about wearing glasses.)
Face masks, eyeglasses, and fog
If you wear eyeglasses and have only recently grown accustomed to wearing a face mask (which is, fair to say, most of us), you’ve likely noticed your specs fog up while donning the protective gear. There’s a simple explanation for the phenomenon: Condensation. “When warm water vapor from our breath lands on the relatively colder lenses of glasses, the lower temperature of the glass lenses forces the water vapor to lose its energy and convert back into its liquid state of water from its gaseous state of water vapor,” says Deepali Kashyap, MD, with Galleria Women’s Health in Henderson, Nevada. “The tiny drops of liquid that are formed as a result settle on the lenses and we see it as fog. When we wear a mask, the breath dispersion does not follow a normal path and the warm moist breath typically finds itself escaping through the minor gaps between the mask and our nose, rising and landing on the lenses, fogging them.”
We asked our experts the steps you can take to prevent your glasses from fogging up when you’re wearing a face mask. Plus, they warn against using one alternative that could actually lead to further coronavirus spread.
Gently wash your lenses with a gentle liquid dish soap
If you find yourself struggling to de-fog your eyewear while wearing a protective face mask, Dr. Kashyap suggests first giving your glasses a good cleaning. “Dirt, smudges, and scratches give condensation more to cling to,” she explains. “Keeping lenses clean helps prevent fogging.” To clean your glasses simply, Kahyap recommends using gentle liquid dish soap, but avoid any soaps that are formulated for sensitive skin or have some type of lotion in it. “Use just a single drop on both sides of the lenses, rub it in with your fingers, and rinse off,” she says. Aside from making your glasses spic-and-span, the soap creates a thin film that acts as a barrier to prevent glasses from fogging up. (Check out the 36 everyday habits to protect your eyesight.)
Secure your mask to fit your mask
Unfortunately, most masks aren’t tailored to your individual face shape, which often leads to a gap between the nose and the mask that lends itself to fogging. “Your glasses should not be fogging up if you are actually wearing the mask properly, which many people do not,” explains Ashley Katsikos, OD, a dry eye specialist from the Golden Gate Eye Associates within the Pacific Vision Eye Institute in San Francisco. She recommends looking for a mask with a flat bendable wire that fits over the bridge of the nose that you can shape to fit your face. “You can use it to mold and get a tight seal around the bridge (or top) of your nose. If your glasses are fogging up that means that you did not get a tight enough seal around your nose, air is coming out. This also means that air (and other particles in the air) are able to come in through the tiny crevice where the mask meets the bridge of your nose.” If your mask does not have a bendable wire, you could use tape or even the top of your eyeglasses to secure the mask against the bridge of your nose. (Take the precautions and learn how to
disinfect your face mask.)
Use a tissue or anti-fog wipes
You may find some success with a good, old-fashioned tissue: Kashyap recommends folding it up and placing it between your mouth and the mask. How does this trick help? “It will absorb the warm, moist air (coming from your mouth) and prevent your lenses from fogging up,” she explains. Additionally, Dr. Posina recommends anti-fog wipes as a potentially helpful tool to prevent the clouding of lenses, or even an anti-fog coating. These products contain chemicals that prevent condensation of water, thus eliminating the ability for glasses to fog.
Just don’t spit on your glasses
If you’ve been around scuba divers or swimmers, you may notice them spitting into their masks before putting them on. This action, which varies in its degree of success, is meant to provide a film to prevent fogging. Should you follow their lead? Christina Madison, PharmD and a past president of the Nevada Public Health Association, says no. “Using saliva is not the best choice, especially if they are infectious and asymptomatic,” she says. “Just using warm soapy water is sufficient.” For her part, Dr. Kashyap agrees. “It is not a recommended method to keep lenses from fogging up,” she says. “At the minimum, it is an unhygienic habit and is not really effective either.”