Those who are wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, are experiencing skin problems, from breakouts, dermatitis to even blisters around the mouth region. Here, a leading skin expert explains exactly how to combat this dilemma.
We’re living in the age of the coronavirus, and wearing a face mask has become quite common in Australia.
In countries around the world, it’s even become mandatory to wear one out in public.
But despite the good intentions of wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s presenting another problem – uncomfortable skin issues.
From rashes, to chafing and breakouts, people are reporting uncomfortable side effects of keeping their nose and mouth covered for a prolonged period of time.
Even a recent study published in the Journal of Wound Care from the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom found prolonged usage of medical masks can cause inflammation and pressure ulcers, which can lead to pain and infection.
Renowned Beauty Scientist Michelle Wong, explained the dilemma – and all the skin issues that can occur from wearing a face mask – in a vlog she posted on YouTube.
The most common issue with looser fitting masks such as a surgical mask, is skin irritation.
“This includes dryness, itching and redness. This is called irritant contact dermatitis and this happens because of the extra heat from the mask, the fact that your breath and sweat are making it very moist and humid under the mask, plus there’s the friction of the mask rubbing against your skin,” Wong explains in the video.
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Another problem is acne, or what she refers to as “acne mechanica”.
“You can also get acne from the material rubbing against your skin and physically blocking your pores.”
Acne mechanica is triggered by excess heat, pressure, friction or rubbing of the skin.
Respirators such as N95 masks pose further skin issues, as the material is a lot harder and they fit more tightly against the skin.
“This means you can end up with hives and pressure sores, raw skin and blisters,” Wong says. The added components of the mask such as the adhesives, rubber straps and free formaldehyde (a chemical which has been confirmed to be present in certain types of N95 masks and is linked to causing contact dermatitis, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat) can all “case irritant and allergic reactions.”
So, how can you avoid these skin problem while still wearing your face mask?
In her video, Wong draws from two dermatologists, Dr Anjali Kahto and Dr Papri Sarkar, to share the best tips on how to combat this dilemma.
9 tricks to avoid #isoskin problems from wearing a face mask
1. Avoid wearing makeup
“The extra pressure and friction from the mask can mean that you can get spots and acne even if you don’t normally react to these products.”
2. Try a moisturiser or barrier cream
“You can also use a moisturiser or barrier cream like zinc oxide or dimethicone-based 3M Cavilon under the mask especially around the spots where the mask rubs and causes pressure,” she continues. “This is generally on your nose, the sides of your face and under your chin.”
But she warns those wearing respirators, especially healthcare workers, should be extra careful and avoid applying these products right before putting on the mask “as it can affect the quality of the seal”.
3. Add extra protection to affected areas
“You can also use protective dressings like hydrocolloid bandages and skin tapes on areas where the mask rubs or if you have a wound.”
4. Relieve pressure every 1-2 hours
“Dr Anjali Mahto recommends relieving pressure every 1-2 hours where possible.”
5. Store your mask in a tupperware container
“Dr Papri Sarkar recommends that if you’re planning to reuse a mask, you can store it in a Tupperware container.”
Wong demonstrates the handy hack for reusing masks, which doesn’t require her to touch the mask when taking it on and off, thus eliminating the risk of cross-contamination.
“Put a Tupperware container over your mask, take of the straps from behind your ears, and they you can store the mask in the Tupperware container,” Wong explains. “When you reapply it, put the Tupperware container on your face and put the straps back on.”
6. Practice good hygiene
“It’s also a good idea to wash your hands before you put on a mask and after you take it off.”
That means washing your hands with clean water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds.
7. Use a gentle face cleanser
“it’s a good idea to use a mild soap-free facial cleanser or make-up remover wipes right after you’ve taken off the mask.”
Dr Anjali Mahto recommends using lukewarm water to wash your face. Not water that’s too hot or too cold because that can cause irritation.
You should also pat your face dry with a towel rather than rubbing.
8. Treating acne
According to Wong, the best ingredients to treat acne are benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, azelaic acid, sulfur and retinoids.
However, if you have sensitive skin that Is easily irritated by benzoyl peroxide, Wong says Dr Papri recommends applying benzoyl peroxide for only 20 to 30 minutes before washing it off to reduce irritation and dryness.
Exfoliants and retoinds should also be avoided if your skin is already irritated.
9. Use a good moisturiser
Ingredients to look out for in moisturisers, which are great for barrier repair and gentle on the skin include glycerine, ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.
And if you do develop a rash, “a few dermatologists also recommend trying some over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream,” Wong says. “You can use a thin layer twice a day for a week or two and this will reduce itching, redness and inflammation.”
More essential coronavirus reading:
Read up on what the government lockdown means for you, understand why Aussie doctors are up arms, be aware of the ‘hidden symptom’ of COVID-19 carriers, prepare yourself for the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, get your sweat on at home with these free online workouts before reviving your over-washed hands with this DIY balm, and then console yourself with these unexpected joys.