While taking walks in Chevy Chase and Georgetown these days, I see most people wearing a face covering. It is reassuring, as wearing a mask is critical to keeping your family, friends, co-workers and yourself safe from coronavirus. With long-term wear, however, masks can sometimes cause or exacerbate painful and troubling skin conditions. In the past few months, we have seen a significant increase in:
- “Mask-ne,” or an acne breakout in the area under and around the mask,
- Dry, itchy skin in the same areas on the face,
- Redness and pain behind the ears, from the mask straps.
Since there is no question wearing a mask is the right thing to do, here are some tips on how you can manage these conditions while continuing to keep yourself covered.
START CLEAN – washing your face
Masks retain dirt and oil on the skin, so cleaning your face (and your mask) properly before you put one on is even more important.
- If you suffer from acne, use a non-comedogenic cleanser (one formulated so as not to cause blocked pores) twice a day. Also, use a gel moisturizer and oil-free make-up.
- Stop using make-up entirely until your skin heals, if you can.
- For irritated or dry skin use a gentle cleanser.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT SKIN PRODUCTS – moisturize and mitigate irritation
- Choose products that are fragrance-free.
- Look for moisturizers containing ceramides, hyaluronic acid or dimethicone.
- For acne, use a gel, non-comedogenic moisturizer.
- If you must wear make-up and you have acne, use oil-free, mineral-based products.
- If your skin is dry or irritated, stop using retinoids, glycolic acids, salicylic masks, peels and scrubs.
- If your ears are telling you they need a break, try moisturizing behind them to ease redness and discomfort from the mask straps.
MASK TYPES AND ROUTINE – Not all masks are alike
What a mask is made of and how you wear it has an impact on your skin.
- Wear a mask made of natural breathable cotton fabric. Avoid synthetic nylon, polyester or rayon that can irritate and cause breakouts.
- Make sure your mask is snug at the edges, but not too tight on your face. A mask that moves around a lot can abrade your skin surface and exacerbate inflammation. Plus, it is more likely you’ll touch your face to adjust it.
- Rotate wearing different strap types and ear loops in order to cause less irritation behind the ears.
- Purchase masks with long straps, or strap extenders, that wrap about the back of your head so that the strap does not rest on sensitive skin behind the ears.
- Take a mask break for 15 minutes every 4 hours when you are in a safe environment such as alone in your car or outdoors six feet away from people.
CARE FOR YOUR MASK, TOO
It is important to regularly clean your mask, so that it is as inoffensive to your skin as it can be.
- Wash a cloth mask daily in hot, soapy water, and rinse well, unless otherwise specified.
- When washing cloth masks, use fragrance-free, hypoallergenic soap or mild laundry detergent and skip the fabric softener.
- If you do not hang your mask to dry, avoid scented dryer sheets as these frequently cause itchy, inflamed skin.
- If you are using a disposable surgical-type mask, how often you should start a new one depends on how much you use it, if you wear makeup and your specific skin condition. If it is visibly dirty, it is time for a new one.
For DIY help, our online store contains products that will allow you to care for your face during this unique time (mohs-md.square.site). If your mask-related skin problem does not resolve after a few weeks, prescription medication may help. Call our office to make an appointment.