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Wearing a mask is essential and the right thing to do in order to stop the spread of Covid-19. However, long hours of wearing the mask can be quite a pain, literally! It is not uncommon to suffer from various skin issues that sprout up from wearing the mask. These include but are not limited to itching, rashes and acne.
Fortunately, there are some effective ways to fight these skin issues caused by the mask. Resolving them will help us continue with our efforts to contain this deadly virus till we get back to normalcy.
What are the skin problems caused by wearing the mask and what causes them?
Rash and inflammation
Repetitive friction due to the rubbing of the mask against the skin can cause rashes, redness and inflammation. People with the sensitive skin type tend to develop skin irritation due to the allergic reaction of the skin to the fabric of the mask. Those with rosacea and contact dermatitis are very prone to skin flares caused by wearing the mask continuously.
Wearing a mask for long periods leads to dust and dirt settling on the outsides of the mask. Because the mask covers the mouth and nose, it constantly redirects the air we exhale back onto our face. This leads to moisture accumulation and increased natural oil production. Dead skin cells, sweat, dirt and moisture mix up and clog the pores.
The result? ‘Mask-ne’ – the newly coined term for acne caused by mask-wearing. Maskne is extremely common among frontline workers and others who have high-risk occupations where it is crucial to wear a mask the whole time.
Masks are ineffective if they don’t fit snugly on the face. Loose masks allow for germs to escape and don’t serve the purpose well. On the other hand, tight-fitting masks can cause soreness, especially around the ears.
Most masks have elastic bands that loop around the ears to fit well. Long periods of wearing these masks can make the skin around the ears sore and cause redness and itching.
How to deal with skin issues caused by wearing masks
Some simple tricks can make a whole lot of difference to the inconveniences and skin troubles you face from mask wearing. A lot of these are tips you can even otherwise add to your skin care regimen for better skin health.
- Gently cleanse and exfoliate your face regularly
Dirt, sweat and oil deposits on the skin provide the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria to fester and infect the skin. This is why regular cleansing becomes essential to keep the skin clear and free from maskne.
Use a gentle cleanser that is free from alcohol, harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances. Go for an organic cleanser with natural ingredients that are mild on the skin. Make it a routine to cleanse your face every time you take off your mask after getting back home from work.
Exfoliate your skin every two days to gently remove all the dead cells that the skin sheds. Look for ingredients like AHA’s (alpha-hydroxy acids like lactic acid, fruit acids, glycolic acid) or BHA’s (beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid) for mild exfoliation.
Cleansing and exfoliating helps get rid of the excess oil, dead cells and dirt. They keep the pores open and free to breathe thereby preventing irritation and inflammation.
- Keep your face moisturized
Moisturizing your face helps maintain the skin’s moisture barrier. This barrier plays a big role in protecting the skin from harmful pathogens. It is best to moisturize right after cleansing your skin to seal in the moisture.
Choose a moisturizer depending on your skin type and the type of weather conditions you live in. If you have oily skin or you live in a humid climate, use a gel-based moisturizer as it is light and non-greasy. Use lotions if you have combination skin and a heavy cream if you have sensitive or dry skin or if you live in a cold, dry climate.
- Use skincare products that don’t irritate the skin
Your skin is taxed quite heavily while wearing a mask. Do everything you can to lessen the burden. Use skin care products that are mild and soothing for the skin. Go for natural, organic ingredients that enhance the skin’s microbiome.
Conversely, using products with alcohol is a big no-no, especially when it comes to skincare for sensitive skin. Avoid scented creams and lotions and say goodbye to parabens. Steer clear of harsh products like retinoid or chemical peels, especially if your skin is not well-suited to them already.
- Avoid makeup or use only non-comedogenic makeup
Especially when mixed with moisture and excess natural oil, makeup leaves deposits that can clog the pores. Either use non pore-clogging makeup or simply skip it altogether wherever possible.
- Make sure your mask is of the right fit and type
For a mask to be effective, it should contain a minimum of 2 layers of fabric. Go for a mask with an inner layer made of a fabric that is soft and breathable like cotton. Avoid fabrics such as rayon, polyester and nylon, especially in the inner layer.
Use a mask with a string-tie instead of one that has an elastic band that loops around the ears. Alternatively, use a clip that connects the loops behind the head to relieve the ears.
- Change/ wash your mask regularly
If you’re using a cloth mask, wash it regularly to get rid of dirt and germs that are bound to get trapped in it upon regular usage. A simple hand or machine wash will do. Use a mild, non-scented detergent to wash it.
- Take a break every few hours
Whenever you can, try to get outdoors or in a safe environment where you have a safe physical distance from people. It could be in your personal office or even your car.
Wash your hands well and take off your mask to let your skin breathe freely for about 10-15 minutes. If you can, wash your face to get rid of sweat, oil and dirt. This will give your skin immense relief and give it a literal breather.