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Set Up Face ID to Work With a Face Mask

Face ID can now work with a face mask in place.
Face ID can work with a face mask in place. It just requires retraining and setting up an alternate appearance.

In the course of a few months, most of us have become accustomed to wearing face masks when we’re outside of our homes or businesses. If you own an iPhone X or 11, one thing is probably driving you slightly crazy about having to wear a mask — Face ID doesn’t recognize you. Trevor Tan, a reporter with the Straits Times of Singapore, outlined a simple method of setting up Face ID so it works with or without a mask, and I’m happy to say that it works!

The method was apparently developed by researchers at Tencent Xuanwu Lab, and it’s quite ingenious: it retrains Face ID by holding a folded mask in place touching the tip of the nose on one side of the face, then the other.


1) Launch Settings, then go to Face ID & Passcode. Tap “Reset Face ID“, then fold the face mask in half and hold it to one side of your face, just touching the tip of your nose. Remember the process you went through in setting up Face ID when you got your iPhone X or 11? You’ll go through that “head rotation” learning process again, only holding the mask in place on one side of your face as in the photo below:

Holding the folded face mask in place prior to the first part of training Face ID
Holding the folded face mask in place prior to the first part of training Face ID.

Hopefully, these photos aren’t too traumatic to our readers — I haven’t been able to get a haircut and I’ve also given up shaving…

You will probably get a “part of your face is obscured” message from Face ID during this process — that’s normal, but it will let you finish scanning your face.


2) Now switch the face mask to the other side of your face, once again making sure that the mask only obscures the tip of your nose. You’ll go through the “head rotation” training process one more time.

At this point, your iPhone is set up to recognize your face when you are wearing a face mask.

Tap Set Up an Alternate Appearance, then have Face ID learn your face without a face mask. Also note the Reset Face ID button that starts the training process.
Tap Set Up an Alternate Appearance, then have Face ID learn your face without a face mask. Also note the Reset Face ID button that starts the training process.

3) Tap the “Set Up an Alternate Appearance” button (see image above), and go through the process again — without wearing the face mask. When you’re done, Face ID should recognize your face with or without the face mask.

This works, although it sometimes takes me two or three tries to get Face ID to recognize my masked face. At least it’s better than tapping in a passcode or worse — taking off my face mask to get Face ID to work!

If you find that it isn’t recognizing your masked face, go through the process again. Tan reported that it took him six tries to get things working properly — it only took me two times.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve is the publisher of Apple World Today, a website providing news, reviews and how-tos for the world of Apple, as well as an author on The Rocket Yard. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist.
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8 Comments

    • Face Id is not a retinal scan. It uses infrared to map 30,000 points on your face – creating a 3D depth-map of sorts. So presumably, having half of your face completely covered does not present enough data for the phone to authenticate.

  • Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the tip. It took a few tries, but I finally got it to work. Actually had to do it in a reverse order, doing the face mask training as the alternate appearance, but it worked.
    Very helpful, stay safe.

  • Why limit the number of alternative appearances in the first place? My outdoor appearance with hat & sunglasses; CPAP appearance; normal appearance; and now mask appearance force difficult choices. Not to mention if I want to let my wife have access.