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How to Keep the Inside of Your Face Mask From Smelling Like Hot Garbage

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerJune 5, 2020

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When wearing face masks in public became a part of our new normal during the current COVID-19 pandemic, people sprung into action to make it more bearable to walk around with a face covering. Brands developed masks that looked more like accessories than medical supplies, and the Internet was ripe with hacks for how to create a comfortable one of your own. But while we’ve managed to check the boxes for “style” and “comfort,” there’s still one problem left to solve: WTF are you supposed to do about how bad it smells under there?

According to Amy Galper, former founder of the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, it’s actually an easy problem to fix—all you need are a few drops of essential oil. Grab your favorite scent and dab a few drops onto the fabric, et voila—you’ll be sniffing that all day instead of your own hot breath.

What’s more? Giving your mask the essential oil treatment offers many more benefits than simply masking the scent of your bad breath. “A dab of an essential oil on your mask can greatly affect your mood,” says Galper. “Scent can powerfully affect our state of mind, and certainly these wild uncertain days are causing everyone a lot of stress.” Science has widely linked scent to emotions thanks to the way our olfactory systems works biologically (when you sniff something, it has to go through the emotional parts of our brain before the fragrance is processed), which is why essential oils can be so effective as mood boosters or stress relievers.

Kendra Mark, co-founder of natureofthings and a healer with a degree in Healing Sciences, says that many of the molecules that make up essential oils have antibacterial and antiseptic properties, which let’s be clear, shouldn’t be used for disinfecting purposes, but can keep odor-causing bacteria at bay. That’s why she opts for eucalyptus. “Eucalyptus has antibacterial properties and can be supportive in eliminating bacteria on the face,” says Mark. “I recommend using just a small amount, one to two drops, diluted in warm water. There are many other amazing essential oils like Helichrysum, Rose, and Lemongrass. Each has its own unique properties to impart but most essential oils are at least antibacterial.”

In addition, be sure you’re still practicing good health habits and washing your mask regularly.

Feel free to choose your favorite essential oil to keep your mask smelling sweet, or look to those that’ll help boost your mood. “A dab of lavender, geranium, or sweet orange can do wonders for keeping us calm and our mood uplifted,” says Galper, who’s also a fan of grapefruit, mandarin, and bergamot for similar reasons. If you want something with calming, clearing properties, try rosemary, white pine, or hemlock spruce.

To keep the scent from being too overwhelming, Dara Weiss, founder candle brand L’or de Seraphine, says she recommends applying a diluted amount to the outside edges of the mask instead of right in front of her nose and mouth. “Keep in mind that a little bit goes a very long way with essential oils—there is no need to douse your mask,” she says. “How often I reapply depends on the blend and strength, but typically it should last you through the day. If you’re really not smelling the fragrance midway through the day it doesn’t hurt to add a bit more. But again, remember a little goes a long way!”

One thing you can be sure of? No matter what scent you choose, it will definitely smell better than the scent of hot summer breath.

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