Face masks protect us from COVID-19 and reduce the spread of the virus. They are an essential component of public health recommendations. But face masks can also be hard on your skin, causing such problems as chafing, rashes, peeling, itchiness, and acne. There’s even a new term for these mask-related skin problems: “maskne.”
What can you do to protect your skin when you need to wear a mask? Here are some tips.
To be effective, a face mask must fit snugly and have a fine enough weave to block virus particles. But it should also be comfortable. If you need to wear an N95 mask for work, take the time to adjust the fit for both function and comfort. The rest of us should choose a mask made of tightly woven cotton, which is less likely to retain heat and irritate your skin than masks made of synthetic fabric. Cotton wicks oil and moisture away from your skin, which can help counter acne breakouts.
Silk is another good option if skin irritation, rather than acne, is a problem. Silk is gentle on the skin and has water-repellent properties that may help block the tiny moisture droplets in the air that are the main means of virus transmission.
Avoid masks made of synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, nylon, or rayon.
Wash and moisturize your face before you put your mask on and after you take it off. Use a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser and a moisturizer appropriate for your skin type.
Apply the moisturizer after you’ve thoroughly rinsed your face and patted it dry, while your skin is still slightly damp.
Consider using medical-grade skin care products, such as those from ZO Skin Health, for the extra care and protection your skin needs in this unusual time.
And don’t forget to wash your fabric mask after every use. Washing removes trapped virus particles, as well as oil and dirt that can clog pores and irritate your skin. Use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent, whether you wash your mask by hand or machine.
If your mask is irritating your skin, use an ointment to reduce friction and help your skin heal. Aquaphor or Vaseline are two reliable options (though not good choices for an area with acne). Hydrocolloid bandages are excellent for more severe chafing, and can be a savior for medical workers who must wear tight-fitting N95 masks for hours at a stretch.
If you experience chafing from elastic straps behind your ears, try a mask that ties behind your head. Switching between different types of masks from day to day can give your skin a break and allow it to heal. If that’s not an option, you might wear a cap or headband with buttons attached for the ear straps.
Makeup is more likely to clog pores and cause acne under a mask than it would under normal conditions. So if oily skin and acne are problems for you, skip or minimize the makeup you wear under your mask. If you’re not ready to give up makeup entirely, avoid products like foundation and concealer that tend to clog pores.
For areas above your mask, such as your eyes and eyebrows, makeup shouldn’t be an issue.
Montante Plastic Surgery & Aesthetics offers a full range of cosmetic treatments in Richmond, VA, including plastic surgery, non-surgical procedures, and a line of medical-grade skin products. Contact our practice today at (804) 325-4795 or send an online request to schedule a consultation.