The regular use of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is important to protect the health and well-being of ourselves and those around us. Unfortunately, this can often lead to unwanted skin issues.
Even cloth masks, different from N95 medical masks, can cause your skin to react. The cloth, dyes, and detergents used to clean them can all affect your skin. Over the last month I've received a number of questions about what to do to avoid or prevent this and wanted to share here what I've been sharing with my clients.
It is important to remember that broken skin or skin with a compromised barrier is a portal for infection which can lead to redness, breakouts and more.
The enclosed area of the mask against our skin produces a microenvironment of warm moisture. This super-hydrates the stratum corneum, dilates pores, oil and sweat glands and disrupts your skin’s microbiome – all compromising skin barrier function. These factors also increase local inflammation.
Additional side effects may include:
- Folliculitis can occur due to the yeast and bacteria proliferation
- Chronic skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, heat rash, seborrheic and atopic dermatitis can also flare due to the disrupted microenvironment on the skin, as well as due to increased stress
- A possible risk of developing irritant and allergic contact dermatitis to mask material
- Chafing and irritation due to the mask edges continually rubbing in specific areas of the skin.
Here are 7 skincare tips to reduce the risk of irritation, a compromised skin barrier and breakouts:
- Wash your face before and after wearing a mask with a gentle non-stripping facial cleanser. This will help remove excess oil and dead skin cells from the surface of your skin to avoid clogged pores and acne breakouts. Epionce Lytic Gel cleanser or Isclinical Cleansing complex are two of my favorites for an anti-microbial effect and deep cleaning effect.
- Clean your mask with a soap free of dyes, scents, and harmful chemicals. I recommend using All-free Clear Detergent and an extra rinse cycle.
- If possible, remove or relieve the pressure from your mask every two hours.
- Use a ceramide based moisturizer or hydrator to create a protective barrier between the mask and your face to reduce friction. SkinBetter Science Hydration Boosting Cream, Epionce renewal calming cream or Medical barrier cream works great for this. When your skin becomes chafed or irritated, the top layer of your skin releases water. Your skin loses it’s natural moisture and becomes dry and cracked forming into red inflammation. For those that have an existing skin irritation or chafing, apply aquaphor or hydrocortisone cream over the irritations at bedtime to speed up healing. Another great option to reduce redness, calm inflammation, and boost hydration is to apply Epionce Enriched firming mask at bedtime and sleep in for enhanced results.
- For those that wear a mask for long periods of time, BODY GLIDE FACE BALM effectively protects the skin against chafing and ease skin discomforts. Another great trick is to apply Spidertech Face Protection Strips underneath your mask to prevent chafing and irritation.
- Avoid using a face mask made out of synthetic materials like polyester or nylon. These are more likely to make you sweat and cause irritation. Instead, use a tightly woven fabric of 100% cotton.
- For acne prone skin, avoid wearing make-up underneath your mask. This can lead to clogged pores and more breakouts if your skin can’t breathe.