Masks: Keeping Your Skin Healthy While Wearing PPE
Wearing masks whenever you are away from home and around others helps protect you, your family, and your community from the increased spread of Covid 19. But what is wearing a mask doing to your skin?
If you’ve noticed acne flare-ups, rashes, peeling skin, irritation, or drier than usual facial skin after wearing a mask, you’re not alone.
The Evidence on Masks and Skin
The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported a study of 542 front-line health workers. 97% of them reported negative impact to their skin from Covid prevention measures with 83% suffering skin problems on their face. The range of symptoms included tenderness, itching, dryness, tightness, peeling skin, redness, fissures and lacerations.
Many wearing masks report an increase in acne, whether or not they previously had trouble with acne. There is actually a specific condition known as acne mechanica. Football players often get this under the area where their helmet rubs against their skin. An acne mechanica breakout is caused by friction, rubbing, squeezing or stretching of the skin. Over the last several months, it’s been cleverly dubbed “maskne.”
How Masks Can Cause Skin Trouble – and How to Prevent It
The environment under your mask also alters the natural microbiome of the skin. It can cause bacteria to proliferate, and it can open pores so that sweat, oil, makeup, skin treatments and bacteria are able to penetrate your skin more easily.
Because of the warm humid conditions under your mask, the active intensity of any skin product can also increase. It’s like wrapping your face under a hot towel at a spa. This can potentially increase your sensitivity to new products, or skin products that have a stripping, exfoliating or tightening effect. Such products can be more irritating than helpful when worn under a mask, so it’s better to save them for another time.
Do, however, keep your face clean and use a moisturizer before putting on your mask as an added barrier of protection for your skin. Use a moisturizer after you take your mask off, too, if you sense any dryness or tightening.
Here are More Tips to Protect Your Skin While Wearing a Mask
- Even if you aren’t going out much, now isn’t the time to skimp on washing your face or your skincare routine. Skin cleansing is important when you are wearing a mask to remove old dirt, bacteria, makeup, and oils. Also, keep on top of your skin treatments, medicine, and wellness routine to stave off a flare-up.
- Be careful with makeup, as it can smudge or wipe off on and inside the mask. Wearing makeup will make your mask dirtier. If you must wear a mask for long periods each day, it may be better to forego makeup altogether or stick to just a bit of eye makeup.
- Medical experts recommended washing cloth masks after each use. This not only reduces bacteria that may collect on the mask both inside and out, but it will also remove residual oils, dead skin, and makeup that can cause problems for your skin.
- Washing your mask means that the soap or detergent you use should be gentle, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free, as the freshly laundered mask will be in constant contact with your skin.
- For Covid safety, you’ll need at least a double layer mask, preferably triple layer. Look for masks that offer an interior layer made of soft, breathable cotton. This will keep your skin cooler and help absorb moisture away from your face.
- Your mask should fit snugly around your face in order for it to work, but avoid masks that are too tight. If you have skin trouble behind your ears, or if ear loops irritate or hurt your ears, you can find masks that have old fashioned tie strings or an elastic band that goes around the back of your head.
- Another tip is to buy masks of different shapes and styles, alternating them each day so that you can better prevent dermatitis or friction marks that might come up along the pressure points where the mask’s edges and ties touch your skin (the bridge of your nose, under your chin, or behind your ears).
Stay Safe and Beautiful!
In addition to the tips above, we hope you’ll be extra kind to your skin and your spirits during this time. Treat yourself to a few new masks to help you maintain an ample and clean supply. Splurge and try fun patterns and beautiful colors that smile back at you in the mirror. We’re all in this together!
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.