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Accessibility

9 face masks that are easy to use, even with dexterity issues

If you find yourself fumbling to don your face mask, check out these brands and tips.

Person with one arm applying face mask to face. Credit: Getty Images / Tempura

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At first, face masks felt like one more thing I needed to fumble with. As an above-elbow amputee, I was struggling to adjust some of the masks I’d bought, and even worse, grappling to put them on. I’d loop it onto one ear, and it would fall off as I was trying to secure it around my other. Finding accessible solutions for something so essential in today’s world was a priority. Maybe one of your hands is occupied, you have dexterity issues, or perhaps, like myself, you simply don’t have two hands.

Whatever your struggle is with mask-donning, below you’ll find some tips and product recommendations that will allow you to up your mask game to the one-hand-friendly level. Keep reading for tips on finding cloth masks, mask accessories, and disposable masks that are perfect for those with disabilities or dexterity issues.

As a reminder, the current CDC mask recommendations call for layered, tightly fitting masks.

Easy mask adjustment is key

Unfortunately a lot of adjustable masks are a challenge to adjust with one hand, making an inclusive-minded adjustment option innately (and ironically) non-inclusive. The nosepiece can “migrate” if it’s not sewn in properly, or it could run the entire length of the mask, becoming rumpled when you stuff it in your pocket. When that happens it can be trying to straighten out the metal using just one hand. When it comes to adjusting the size of the ear loops, most masks rely on one of two mechanisms: ties or adjustable beads.

Ties are a pain because tying things often requires two hands. Adaptations exist, but if I can avoid it, I like to. So if you’re looking for a more accessible solution, I suggest skipping the ties altogether. The masks with the adjustable beads can be extremely difficult to pull on, and if you’re using one hand you’ll probably be using your teeth to pull the loop through the bead. I personally don’t enjoy sacrificing my two front teeth on an adjustable ear loop. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few products that are winners in the one hand-friendly mask category.

Related: Your kid's face mask isn't cutting it. Upgrade to one of these now.

Accessible cloth masks

1. The easy-adjust bead

Colorful silk face mask.
Credit: Gentleman Mercenary

Gentleman Mercenary is backed by a great cause.

I hadn’t found a mask built with the intention of providing accessibility to more users until the day I ran into Gentleman Mercenary, owned and operated by Law & Order: SVU’s own Diane Neal (aka A.D.A. Casey Novak). No longer defending the people on television, Neal has taken up this project with all profits going toward a foundation to aid victims of stalking and domestic violence—a mask built with intention on many levels. It’s built with a sewn-in nose piece you can pinch or widen using just two fingers to ensure a secure fit.

The ear loops, however, are my favorite part regarding accessible adjustment qualities. Made of a soft polyester with a rounded bead for comfort, it’s very easy to slide the bead up or down. I like to hold the top (or the base depending which way you want to move the bead) of the strap with my teeth or between my knees while seated. Then I slide the bead up or down to adjust the length. It allows you to smoothly adjust the loop without needing a visit from the tooth fairy. Since the CDC recommends multiple layers of tightly woven breathable fabric (regarding fabric masks), these make for a good option seeing as each mask is lined with breathable Kona cotton.

Get masks at Gentleman Mercenary from $45

2. The comfortable conforming ear loop

Two people and one child wearing colorful face masks.
Credit: masQd

These face masks from masQd are perfect for long term use and are easy on the ears.

If you’re still not a fan of needing to use your teeth to adjust your mask, you can go for an option with stretchier ear loops that start out smaller but can be stretched larger. The frequent issue with these masks is that they’ll often put pressure behind your ears if you require a wider ear loop. But that isn’t the case with Masqd because the ear loops are extremely soft and stretchy. Since they’re so soft, they won’t hurt your ears if you need a wider ear loop fit. Take it from someone who has big ears. For anyone wanting something more basic, you’ll find more neutrals here. Bonus: their end of season sale is on right now!

Get masks at Masqd from $1

3. Perfect-for-layering mask

Purple and neon green knit face masks.
Credit: ILSYMM

These knit masks are breathable and comfortable.

Since the CDC recommends layering finely woven fabric for more protection, you might want to double up if you’re choosing to go with a thinner mask or one without adjustable features that allow a more secure fit. However if you’re looking to lessen the amount of things you’ll need to fumble with throughout the day, or you've found that layering masks with one hand can become a tangly mess, I suggest choosing two masks with thin straps.

I love the ILYSM masks because the ear loops are thin, yet made of a very soft recycled knit. You can conjoin the loops from each using the hooks on either side of a mask chain. Like this, they’ll stay together when removing them and you won’t need to detangle or worry about one ear loop or the other constantly coming loose. Also, the discreet logo on these serves as a directional pointer to make sure you’re not needing to rotate your doubled masks to make sure they’re facing the right way.

Get the knit face mask at ILYSM for $20

Mask Chains

At first I thought mask chains were just another cash grab born out of the pandemic. But they’re actually so useful. A mask chain is especially great when you’re in a situation where you’re constantly taking your mask on and off. For me this is when I’m in places such as an outdoor mall, putting it on to go inside stores and off when outside. It keeps my mask within reach without me needing to pull it in and out of a pocket or bag.

4. Maisonette Mask Chains

Colorful sequin face mask with turquoise plastic chain.
Credit: Pretty Connected

Accessorize your face mask with a convenient chain.

I love these because they have large hooks that are easy to open if you have trouble with your hands. The choices here are endless. They range from very simple to very colorful. Get the Maisonette Mask Chains at maisonette.com from $12 ###5. Smitn Bebe Cocomolo Mask Chain
Colorful face mask accessories.
Credit: Smitn Bebe

These mask accessories are accessible and stylish for all.

The huge plastic lobster hooks here are great if you struggle with hand strength. Get the Smitn Bebe Cocomolo Mask Chain at smitnbebe.com for $15 ###6. Heather Marie & Co Mask “Chains”
People wearing face masks with embroidered cloth chains.
Credit: Heather Marie & Co

Need a face mask chain that's lightweight? Heather Marie & Co offers adorable ones.

These are great for anyone who might have sensory issues and want something softer than beads or chains. You get to choose which clasp works best for you. If you struggle with hooks, there’s an alligator clip option. Get the Heather Marie & Co Mask Chains at Etsy for $12 ##Disposable masks The bonus with disposable masks is that the straps are often thinner which makes them easier to loop over your ear with one hand. The downside is that they often need to be unfolded or, worse, excavated from their individual plastic wrappings. My main tips with disposable masks are as follows: * Go for ones that are not individually wrapped. * Or, if you like the individually wrapped ones, go for something that has a groove or perforation in the packaging so you can tear it open easily. Since the packaging details aren’t usually included in product descriptions, I’m including a couple one hand-friendly individually wrapped options below. * Avoid anything that requires you to tie it behind your head. The CDC recommends using these types of ties vs. ear loops for improved protection. But the CDC also encourages layering a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask for better protection. I find this much more accessible if you’re using only one hand. The ILYSM masks mentioned above are a good cloth mask to use in this combo since the straps are thinner. Note that you can hook them together using the mask chain method. ###7. Disposable Face Protective Face Masks - Unicorn Star Pattern
Colorful individually packaged face masks.
Credit: Tomorotec

These face masks are easily disposable.

These masks come individually wrapped but the groove in the wrappers helps you open them with ease using your teeth (sorry dentists). Get the Disposable Face Protective Face Masks at Amazon for $18 ###8. Disposable Face Masks in 10 Colors (100 Pack)
On left, assorted colorful masks. On right, two people wearing black and white face masks.
Credit: HIWUP

HIWUP offers face masks in a variety of colors.

These all come unwrapped and ready to grab and go. Use a mask chain to link two together and double up! Get the Disposable Face Masks at Amazon for $13 ###9. Individually Wrapped KN95 Masks (50 pack) These come individually wrapped in plastic casings you can open using one hand and no teeth (let them eat cake instead). I hold down the plastic wrapper on a table with my thumb and use my index and middle fingers to lift up the flap. Get the Individually Wrapped KN95 Masks at Amazon for $40

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