We know this is not the spring accessory report you were hoping for, but this is the one we’ve got. Face masks are now required by the CDC in some states and most of us are doing whatever we can to protect our health and our communities by wearing them.
Earlier this month, we shared this DIY for making a mask at home. However, the foreign experience of wearing a mask for hours at a time — or much longer, if you’re a healthcare worker — could potentially take a toll on your face and skin. We’re taking a closer look at mask-related skincare issues with a few facialists and doctors that we trust. Whether you are a nurse who has already been wearing a mask days on end or are quarantined at home and just exploring mask use for the first time, we hope that these skincare tips will help you to avoid any of the issues becoming common during this pandemic.
According to the Washington Post, “mask wearing can worsen existing primary skin diseases, such as seborrheic dermatitis, or red scaly skin, rosacea, or red patches and visible blood vessels, eczema, an itchy inflammation, and perioral dermatitis, an acnelike redness around the mouth.”
For doctors and nurses, the friction and pressure of wearing a face mask for days at a time can cause issues ranging from mild irritation to actual tissue damage. Avoiding any potential open wounds is key right now and we’ve learned a few things that may help.
It’s likely that many of us will be wearing face masks in public for months to come and we’ve been thinking about the effect that could have on the health of our skin. Whether you’re in healthcare yourself or someone who will only wear a face mask for an hour or two at a time, at the grocery store or in other public places, take a few notes from the info we’ve gathered for you below.
How To Protect Your Skin While Wearing A Face Mask
Avoiding skin injury from the mask itself | Constant mask use can cause injury to the skin. According to medical journal, Wound Management and Prevention, “Loss of facial skin integrity creates a portal for penetration of pathogens, including the coronavirus itself, as well as other hospital-acquired bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.” The editors of of the journal recommend that medical professionals apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly every thirty minutes to the skin under the mask, after a very thorough washing of the hands. They also recommend using a new mask each time, which sounds somewhat disruptive and, frankly, close to impossible considering the reported shortages of personal protective equipment in general. However, we’re happy that reports like this are at least being produced to show the seriousness of the matter.
Dr. Nancy Samolitis, Co-founder and Medical Director at FACILE told us the following, “Yes, we have been seeing quite a bit of this in dermatology offices and telemedicine especially in front line workers who must wear tight N95 masks for hours at a time. In particular, the area on the nasal bridge that must be pinched tightly can develop friction rashes leading to chronic skin irritation and discoloration.”
Dr. Samolitis recommends applying a skin protecting barrier, zinc oxide, or even a moleskin bandage strip in the area of the skin where the mask is coming in contact.
On the topic of long-term mask wear, West Hollywood facialist, Matthew Miller also shared this, “If long term mask wear is causing imprints and irritation on the skin, start to apply a balm on the areas the face mask is leaving irritation. My favorite is Sheald Recovery Balm by iS Clinical. If you’re in a bind, you can use Aquaphor. Silver Gel from your local pharmacy will also help reduce irritation and heal the skin.”
Be as Gentle as possible with your skin | Dermatologists and other skincare professionals from around the globe are recommending all manner of gentle skincare tips for mask wearers. Washing your face is key, but use a gentle, non-stripping cleanser with warm water that’s not too hot.
Courtney of Courtney Chiusano Skincare shared with us that keeping skincare regimens very simple while wearing a mask daily was key: “Avoid active or agitating ingredients like glycolic, retinol and Vitamin C during the day when wearing a mask. If you remove your mask at the end of the day and your skin is irritated, skip exfoliation all together. Use healing, protective ingredients like a milky or oil based cleanser and a cream to create a protective barrier.”
Treatments to soothe skin | Courtney (who we previously deemed the ‘redness whisperer’) also recommends a healing mask once a week to help repair the skin. “For dry skin, I love the 5Yina Divine sheet masks, for sensitive skin try the ISUN soothing relief balm, and if you are experiencing acne, try the GoldfadenMD facial detox mask.
Courtney also recommends another top 2019-2020 skincare trend: the ice roller! Says Courtney, “Pop it in the freezer and give your skin a nice rolling at the end of the day to take down inflammation.”
Avoiding clogged pores + breakouts | Another skincare issue related to face masks may be less serious than skin injury, but nonetheless something to keep in mind. For the acne prone, wearing a face mask for hours at a time can cause skin issues to flare up.
Santa Monica facialist, Molly Stanton cautioned us to opt our of heavy makeup while wearing a mask. “The pores may become clogged from increased sweat and oil due to the humidity, leading to inflammation, rashes, and breakouts.”
To care for skin, Molly recommended that we “maintain a simple clean skincare routine morning and night, don’t over wash or exfoliate, and apply some serious moisture to the skin once the mask is off. For those who struggle with acne it might be wise to ease off of traditional treatments that contain salicylic acid or retinoids as those work by drying or exfoliating the skin which might be too aggravating to the skin with the constant use of face masks.”
West Hollywood facialist, Matthew Miller urges acne prone mask wearers to turn to lighter weight hydration and to tone back any exfoliation to just 2-3x a week.
Still looking for the right face mask? We support Citizens of Humanity and Christy Dawn who are creating cotton masks right here in L.A.