Masks play a vital role in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. However, these masks can also irritate your skin, clog pores, and cause flare-ups and breakouts. This reaction can be more than just a few pimples as patients are also reporting peeling skin, rashes, and raw skin as a result of wearing masks frequently. To help reduce your risk of developing mask-related skin problems, we recommend these steps to protect your skin.
How do face masks affect our skin?
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that everyone wear a mask while in public areas and caused many to notice the toll of wearing a face mask daily. However, even before the pandemic it was widely known from healthcare workers that the constant use of a face mask can cause skin irritation.
There are three main ways that your face mask can damage your skin, including:
- Rubbing – Masks can irritate your skin through friction leading to chafing and exposing raw skin, similar to a rug burn. The areas that are most commonly affected include the bridge of the nose and where the bands rub behind the ears. Over time, tight-fitting masks can cause the skin to break and become inflamed.
- Irritation – Aside from contact irritation, your mask may also absorb natural oils or debris from outside that can irritate your skin leading to skin sensitivity or dryness. Residue from detergents or fabric softeners may also cause inflammation or irritation as the skin on your face can be more sensitive to chemicals. Those with skin conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema may experience occasional flare-ups as a result of wearing face masks frequently.
- Clogged Pores – Facial mask also can limit the breathability of your pores increasing the risk of them becoming clogged and leading to breakouts. Masks can also create a perfect humid environment for bacteria to grow which can also contribute to breakouts and clogged pores.
What makes a good mask?
The CDC recommends that healthcare workers wear surgical masks and N95s, while the public wears cloth masks. The material of your mask affects how well it can protect you from the virus as well as how well you can breathe through it.
The best choice for your skin is a tightly woven natural fiber such as cotton as it is effective while still being gentle on your skin providing an excellent balance of protection and comfort. Your mask should fit snugly over your nose and mouth, but also comfortably.
Treating mask-related skin problems
If your skin is experiencing the effects of a face mask, here is what you can do for the most common problems.
Dryness and peelings can be the first signs of mask irritation. Over time your skin can become sensitive, red, and inflamed. Use a gentle cleanser to wash your face after each use and don’t forget to apply a moisturizer and/or ointment afterward to rehydrate and soothe your skin. Applying moisturizer or petroleum jelly before wearing your mask can also help to provide an extra layer against friction, chafing, and dryness.
If you begin to notice raw skin, breaks, or fissures, apply an over-the-counter ointment and dressing bandage to the area before putting your mask back on. This will help to prevent further skin damage. Remember to also apply the ointment at night or when you are not wearing the mask to protect and heal your skin.
Mild breakouts can often be treated with classic over-the-counter acne treatments, so most patients will be able to continue using their go-to products. Keep in mind that both prescription and over-the-counter acne remedies can be irritating to the skin due to frequent mask usage, even if you didn’t experience irritation in those areas before the pandemic. In these cases, you may need to use your treatment less frequently or adjust the amount used to help your skin.
If you are unable to find relief with these methods or if the symptoms worsen, please contact our office to schedule an appointment so that we can help you find the right treatment option for you.
Ways to prevent mask-related skin issues
As masks continue to be an essential part of our daily attire, here are some helpful tips to prevent skin problems from developing underneath your mask.
- Avoid wearing makeup beneath your mask as multiple layers of product can clog your pores or soil your mask leading to breakouts.
- Continue to follow your treatment plan if you have prior skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis unless otherwise advised by your dermatologist.
- Don’t start a new skincare routine unless otherwise instructed by your doctor as wearing a mask even for a short time can make your skin sensitive and react adversely to new products leading to irritation or breakouts.
- Regularly clean your cloth masks to prevent bacteria, dirt, and debris from building up on your mask. Keep a rotation of masks on hand and wash them after every use.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser daily and always apply a moisturizer formulated for your skin type after.