While an important tool in our fight to curb COVID-19, face masks won't be friends with everyone's skin.
Prolonged wearing of masks may cause adverse skin reactions such as acne and contact dermatitis, even if you don't normally suffer from such conditions.
Masks increase temperature, moisture and friction thus making the skin more susceptible to irritation.
Although it's difficult to give prescriptive advice, as everyone's skin is different, there are some simple things everyone can do to prevent mask-induced skin problems.
Who can expect to see changes in their skin?
Those who are prone to acne will likely see their condition deteriorate but even those who don't normally have breakouts will likely get pimples.
This is because sebum (oil) secretion on the face is increased when the temperature rises. When your breath is trapped under a mask it certainly gets hot and humid and make the skin more likely to get irritated.
Some people may also notice redness and dryness where the mask touches their skin, which will most commonly be contact dermatitis. You may be more likely to get this condition if you have sensitive skin or eczema.
Unfortunately if you have pre-existing skin conditions like rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis your skin will almost definitely be aggravated by prolonged mask wearing.
Keep skin care simple
Dermatologists suggest that even if you don't normally suffer from acne, masks create a hotbed for pimples.
Dermatologists say it all the time, people commonly use far too many products on their skin (serums, oils, day and night creams, exfoliators, masks, peels, makeup .... the list goes on).
Following such a complex regimen is harsh on your skin, at the best of times. Add a mask into the mix and your skin may call out for help.
It is recommended to use a very mild skin cleanser or simply washing the face with tepid water. Toners should be avoided as they dry out the skin. Moisturise with a serum before putting on your mask and after taking it off.
A good hydrating serum will provide a barrier between the mask and your skin and prevent friction.
If possible also skip the makeup, as it's more likely to clog your pores under a mask.
Wear the correct mask
Find the best fitting mask you can, not too tight so that it causes deep indentations (which can lead to pressure urticaria rashes or hives), but not too loose so that it slides around your face causing friction.
Don't forget to take mask breaks where possible. As a guideline, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a 15-minute break every four hours.
How the mask feels on the inside really matters.
Some masks can be really irritating, it's like the difference between an itchy woollen jumper and a cashmere jumper ... to some it won't make a difference but for others it will cause problems.
What mask material?
Cotton material on the inside is best as it is more breathable and synthetics are more likely to irritate your skin.
If using a cloth mask, please ensure it is washed regularly in hot water.
Allergic reactions are rare
There are very few chemicals used in masks so any reaction is most likely just an irritation rather than an allergy.
However, some masks include a glue strip along the nose and cheek area which can cause a reaction for some people.
Also, the metal wire that allows you to mould a mask to your face may be made out of nickel (a common contact allergen) so some people may consider attaching a fabric layer to the inside of the mask or finding one without wire.
What to do if you break out
Mask-related acne, occurs when pores become clogged by dirt, sweat or some makeups.
The best things you can do to treat it are:
- Try products with Salicylic acid, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) or Azelaic acid
- Avoid greasy, heavy, skin-care products, so go easy on moisturisers, particularly creams, which may cause breakouts (comedogenic).
- Avoid pore-clogging makeup (mineral-based may be better)
We recommend keeping the skin clean with tepid water, exfoliated with one of our gentle peels and keep the face well hydrated with one of our vitamin or targeted serums, none of which contain any pore-clogging ingredients.
Skin care for all ages and skin conditions.
The Skinlabs Direct Team