With the Coronavirus outbreak many of us have to wear face masks for a good part of the day. Unfortunately, wearing a mask can cause skin problems. Already we’re seeing a spike of perioral dermatitis among medical professionals and manifestations of inflammatory skin conditions due to wearing masks for long hours. The source of problems is that moisture and vapor breathed out are trapped under the cover creating a perfect environment for pathogens and facilitating their growth. Prolonged mask wearing can cause redness, itching, breakouts and scaling in the middle and lower parts of the face. Cases of allergic dermatitis related to masks have also been reported. The best way to prevent skin irritation and mask dermatitis is to avoid wearing a mask for extended periods of time. Unless you are a health worker, wear a mask only when it is actually necessary. There is no need to put one on for a walk in the park or even on a street, basically anywhere in the open air. Wearing mask in your car is also unnecessary and can harm your skin.
What Are Masks Made of?
Medical masks are made of synthetic materials, such as polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene. Fabrics that cloth masks are made of are often treated with chemicals, such as formaldehyde, to keep the parasites away while shipping. Under normal circumstances no one could even imagine producing and wearing face masks on such large scale, so regular fabrics are not really adapted for wearing on your face close to your mouth and nose. If you are sewing your own mask or bought a cloth one online, wash it at 60°C before use. Medical masks are hydrophobic, i.e. they repel water protecting the wearer and people around them from micro droplets and aerosols. But this works both ways, making medical masks more occlusive and therefore more harmful for skin health. T-shirt fabric, often recommended for home-made cloth masks, is hydrophilic which means it lets moisture through and can’t protect the wearer and other people from micro droplets and aerosols with the same efficiency, especially when the mask is made of a single layer of cloth. Double-layering is better, and it can be a bit better for the wearer’s skin as well.
How to Prevent and Treat Maskne?
When you wear a mask, avoid using rich and thick emulsions and creams based on Vaseline, mineral oil and similar ingredients (you’ll be amazed how many luxury moisturisers contain these!) as they increase the already overly strong occlusion and can cause breakouts and irritation. The best choice is microbiome-friendly skincare which will help preserve the healthy balance of skin microflora. Use day creams with light texture (emulsions or even gels). If you have acne or rosacea, choose oil-free skincare with anti-inflammatory and calming effect. Green tea, centella asiatica, calendula officinalis, chamomile, red grape, aloe vera, algae, yacon (Polymnia sonchifolia) extracts are your friends helping maintain skin health. The bright side is we are all touching our faces less now, which is a plus as far as breakout prevention is concerned. Other things you can (and should) do to help your skin through the mask-wearing time are:
Wash your mask daily.
Keep it in a zip-locked bag when you’re not wearing it, not in your pocket!
Wash your face after wearing maks and re-apply your day cream afterwards.
Try to avoid stress! Your skin is so closely connected with nervous system, they’re basically twins, and any stress you are under affects your skin as well.
This last thing is particularly hard, but let us all do what we can to reduce negative emotions and believe in a brighter future when the pandemic is over.