The One Simple Way You've Been Wearing Your Face Mask Wrong

Luckily, fixing it will only take a second.

If you're going to wear a mask—and you absolutely should—it's worth taking an extra moment to make sure it's protecting you from coronavirus at maximum capacity. That's why The New York Times recently published a handy guide on the subject, full of simple tips that will make your mask-wearing safer. But surprisingly, one of these tips revealed that many of us have been wearing our masks wrong, putting us at unnecessary risk of transmission.

Quite simply, if your mask has pleats, the article says, the folded side should always be facing down. This is true for three reasons.

First, your mask may have a bendable metal rod on one side, and by facing the pleats down, you'll orient this rod so that it sits on top of your nose. This allows you to contour the top of the mask to better fit your face, keeping particles and droplets out. If yours is a standard medical mask, this means the blue side should always be facing out.

Second, even if your mask has no metal rod, properly oriented pleats help the mask fit tightly. Facing your pleats downward allows you to extend the mask to fit below your chin, which again keeps particles from drifting through gaps. The key with all masks is to have them fit as snugly to your face as possible, so that no aerosols are able to sneak through ill-fitting areas.

Third and finally, by putting your mask on upside down, you're more likely to need to adjust it while wearing it, and as The New York Times points out, you should avoid handling the fabric part of your mask at all costs. By only touching it once after washing your hands when you first put it on, you can limit your exposure and keep yourself as safe as possible. And to further ensure that your mask is doing its job, This Simple Trick Can Tell You How Effective Your Face Mask Is.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more