Does wearing face masks and facial coverings reduce face-touching behaviour among individuals?

Bottom Line:

This study found that when individuals wear face masks, their face-touching behaviours are reduced overall, which may help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in public areas.


Chen, Y-J. et al. Comparison of Face-Touching Behaviors Before and During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic. JAMA Network Open (2020).

Date Published:

29 July 2020


According to the World Health Organization, the most effective ways of reducing the spread of COVID-19 include social distancing, frequent hand washing, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth. Wearing face coverings while in public is recommended to prevent droplets of the virus from spreading between individuals, however there is little scientific evidence to support this recommendation. This study was done to determine if wearing masks influenced face-touching behaviour among the general population in multiple countries across the world including China, Japan, South Korea, Western Europe, and the United States. Researchers used videos of public spaces to observe how face-touching behaviours changed from before the COVID-19 pandemic, to during the pandemic, when individuals were wearing masks. People were only included in the study if they were wearing their masks as recommended (i.e. covering both the nose and mouth). Face-touching behaviours were defined as touching the face with hands, cell phones, or other items, as well as eating. This study found that face-touching behaviours were reduced during the pandemic, especially in China and South Korea. Since contaminating the face with your hands might be one of the main ways individuals are infected with SARS-CoV-2, wearing a facial covering may help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by reducing face-touching behaviours.

Summary by: Caroline Gregory