Thanks to my glasses, I still struggle with face masks more than a year into wearing them regularly. Since I have a condition that prevents me from using contacts, I have no choice but to wear my glasses every day — and when paired with a face mask, they almost always end up fogging up and eventually impairing my vision (which is, ironically, worsening the condition my glasses are designed to help with). However, though this issue has been plaguing me for months on end, I’ve failed to do anything about it — partially because I’m lazy, and partially because I’m not sure what I can even do. Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending indoor mask use once again for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in areas with high transmission rates, I decided it was probably time to figure out my foggy glasses problem instead of continuing to ignore it. We spoke to ophthalmologists and eye surgeons to learn more about why our glasses fog up when we wear face masks and rounded up products based on their advice on shopping for face masks and face mask accessories that eliminate the fogging issue.
SKIP AHEAD Recommendations for glasses wearers
Why do face masks fog up glasses?
Simply put, our glasses have a proclivity for fogging up when we wear masks because of our warm, humid breath. “The humid air goes up and has no place to circulate so it stays within the space enclosed by the glasses,” explained Yuna Rapoport, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist and founder of Manhattan Eye. During workout sessions when there is extra humidity in the air, this problem is even more pronounced, she said.
Masks that don’t fit properly make fogging conditions especially bad, explained Ron Pelton, MD, PhD, an oculofacial plastic surgeon who focuses on the surgery around the eyes and face. “Most of us don’t like wearing a mask and we wear them fairly loosely. This allows your breath and its moisture to be directed upwards toward your glasses,” said Pelton, the current president of the Colorado Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. “The moisture condenses and accumulates on the glass just like the steam from the shower does on your mirror.” Pelton also noted that glasses tend to fog more frequently in the colder months, when the temperature of your lenses is much cooler than your warm breath.
The experts we spoke to noted that the material the mask is made of has no bearing on its anti-fogging abilities. “The idea behind all of this is how to best create a seal to prevent humid air from going up underneath the glasses,” Rapoport said. All of the doctors did note, however, that regardless of which face mask you choose to wear, it’s important to make sure that you are paying attention to the CDC’s face mask recommendations.
Mask recommendations for glasses wearers
Rapoport recommended this silk anti-fog face mask from Etsy, noting that it’s designed to sit underneath glasses to “help prevent fogging.” It comes in numerous colors and prints, and you can also choose to add a nose wire for an added fee.
All of the experts we consulted mentioned that masks with wired nose pieces are great for people who wear glasses. “It is bendable and flexible enough to allow you to manipulate fitting your facial curves, avoiding air escaping up into the space behind your glasses,” explained Amy Steinway, OD, FAAO, assistant chief of primary care at University Eye Center and an assistant clinical professor at SUNY College of Optometry. This cotton cloth mask from WITHMOONS is equipped with a nose wire and features three layers for maximum protection plus cotton ear loops for a form-fitting but comfortable fit.
Steinway personally uses the Sportsmask from Under Armour, and she said that she likes that it’s more “form-fitting” since it’s offered in multiple sizes. “It [creates] less fog with the thinner portion closest to the eyes,” she added.
Steinway is also a fan of the face masks from 32 Degrees, which she said produce “less fog” than many of the others on the market. The three-layer masks are made from a blend of 85 percent polyester and 15 percent spandex for breathability, moisture removal and an improved fit. “The polyester/spandex is a little more breathable and also contours to the face nicely to prevent fog,” Steinway explained. The brand says the mask also has UPF 50+ protection against both UV-A and UV-B rays.
This three-layer, machine-washable mask from Etsy is designed with several of the features experts recommended for glasses wearers, including a nose wire and an extended fit well above the nose. It also comes in several sizes for adults and kids alike, and you can choose from 70 different patterns and colors.
Mask accessory recommendations for glasses wearers
Many of the experts we spoke to recommended foam bridge pads to use as a barrier between your mask and your lenses. “Foam around the nose will help to prevent warm air from escaping,” explained Andrea Tooley, MD, an oculoplastic surgeon and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. These nose bridge pads come in a pack of 100 and have a self-adhesive design, so you can just stick them inside your favorite masks.
All of the doctors we spoke to noted that anti-fog spray is effective against warm breath. (Pelton even said his team uses them on surgical cameras.) This kit features both a portable 5-milliliter bottle of anti-fog drops and a microfiber cloth to gently clean your lenses. Tooley advised to just make sure that whichever anti-fog spray you buy “won’t damage any protective coating you may have on your glasses lenses.”
You don’t necessarily have to buy a mask with a metal nose piece built into it. If you want to keep using the masks you already own, Lisa Thanjan, MD, MPD, a public health physician on the Virginia Department of Health’s Covid-19 Health Information Team, noted that you can also add a nose wire to “help prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask.” These aluminum nose bridge strips come in a pack of 100 and are designed to conform to any mask and face.
Thanjan noted that mask braces — which are worn over a face mask to “improve the fit by helping to reduce air leakage,” according to the CDC — can be a good option for people who wear glasses. This one from Fix The Mask comes in three sizes — Small, Medium and Large — the brand has a size guide you can use to figure out which one will work best for you.
If you want to avoid tightening the ear loops on your mask to the point of discomfort, Pelton recommended using a piece of double-sided tape to attach the nose area of your mask to your face. This will allow you “to get a tight seal without over-tightening the elastic,” he said. Alternatively, he suggested using a strip of tape “over the top edge of the mask.”
Masks for glasses wearers: What to look for
Since our breath is what causes our glasses to get foggy, experts we spoke to also said that a tight-fitting mask is ideal for anyone sporting spectacles. In particular, they said features that can contribute to a better fit include:
- Foam nose bridge pads that block your breath from reaching your lenses
- Something to pinch the nose into place, like a nose wire
- A design that sits underneath the glasses so the air remains trapped (versus one that has a gap between where the mask ends and your glasses begin)
- A tight fit
Other tips to avoid foggy glasses while wearing a mask
Several of the experts we spoke to noted that an easy way to prevent fogging while wearing a mask is by avoiding glasses altogether with either contact lenses or, if you have the time and money to invest in it, LASIK eye surgery. However, if you want to keep wearing your glasses, there are a few other things you can try:
- Clean your lenses with soap. “[A] trick that underwater divers all know is to put a bit of soap on your glasses and gently rinse [them] off to stop fogging,” Pelton said. “This leaves behind a thin film that keeps condensation from forming on the lenses.” Thanjan also highlighted a study published in the “Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England,” in which theatre staff who washed their glasses with soapy water were able to prevent the lenses from “misting.”
- Pull your mask up higher on your nose. Wearing your mask a bit higher than usual “will allow your glasses to better seal your mask around your nose and prevent fogging,” Tooley explained.