As you continue to wear a face mask in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, you may notice some side effects such as breakouts, dryness, redness or other forms of irritation. This is due to the mask creating friction against your skin and restricting your airflow, which causes a build-up of humidity, sweat and bacteria.
Everyone’s skin may react differently to a mask but in general, some of the most common skin conditions that occur are dry skin, rashes/dermatitis, acne and/or rosacea.
Dry skin can occur underneath the mask or on pressure points where it lays on your face. In order to combat dry skin apply moisturizing creams free of alcohol, gels, retinoids, acids or exfoliants. Look for products that contain ceramides or glycerin to rehydrate the skin and replace moisture that has been lost.
If you are experiencing dry, flaky skin, start your skincare regimen with a gentle face cleanser such as CeraVe’s hydrating cleanser or Neutrogena ultra-gentle cleanser. Afterwards, gently pat your face dry before applying a moisturizing cream such as CeraVe moisturizing cream, Cetaphil nighttime moisturizer or CeraVe PM moisturizer.
Rashes typically occur due to irritation from the mask touching your skin, also known as contact dermatitis. Many of these rashes will resolve with the use of a gentle cleanser and a heavy moisturizer that will provide a barrier on your skin. However, it is possible to develop an allergic rash from the adhesives, rubbers or preservatives/chemicals used to make the masks.
If this is the case, your dermatologist may recommend using an over-the-counter (OTC) 1 percent hydrocortisone cream. This can be used on your face twice a day for up two weeks. If you begin to see an improvement in your rash, transition to using a regular daily moisturizer. However, if you do not see improvement in your skin, you should contact your dermatologist for further evaluation.
If you’re susceptible to breakouts, wearing a mask may result in an increase in your acne due to the obstruction of follicles and pores. The blockage can come from the mask itself or from an increase in humidity, sweat and oil that occurs underneath the mask. This blockage traps oil in your pores which creates acne such as whiteheads, blackheads or other inflammatory bumps.
To help prevent acne, your dermatologist may recommend using a face wash that contains OTC benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid such as the CeraVe or Neutrogena salicylic acid cleansers or the Belleza glycolic acid-salicylic acid 2/2 cleanser.
If you need to use cleansers during the day such as in-between work hours or during break times, you may be better suited for a gentle hydrating cleanser so you don’t over-strip your skin of moisture. Your dermatologist can help determine what regimen is best for your skin and see that you do not over-use your acne products.
Wearing a mask traps heat and increases the temperature of your skin causing sweat, irritation and flare-ups on rosacea-prone skin. Rosacea is characterized by redness, dilated blood vessels and red bumps or pimples that typically occur on the cheeks, nose and chin.
To help prevent rosacea flare-ups, try cooling off your skin by removing the mask whenever you are able and at a safe distance from others. It may also help to avoid triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods and harsh scrubs or irritating agents that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, as these can also exacerbate the areas of rosacea.
While certain skin conditions may require different products or prescription creams to help with irritation, the following general skincare routine can be practiced daily for anyone who needs to wear a mask:
- Start with a fragrance-free, gentle cleanser to keep the skin clean by removing any oil, dirt, bacteria or other potential irritants without over stripping the skin of necessary moisture. Also, be sure to wash your mask regularly or swap out disposable masks before placing them on your face.
- After you cleanse, apply a facial moisturizer containing silicon, zinc or petroleum jelly to help protect your skin and create a barrier from the pressure points of the mask. If you’re still feeling a bit dry throughout the day, a quick spritz of Avene Thermal Spring Water is a great choice for hydration on the go.
- Avoid applying makeup in areas covered by the mask as this can lead to additional irritation to the skin.
- Lastly, try taking a break from using scrubs or exfoliators as these can aggravate the impacted areas of skin that are under the mask.
For more information on how to protect your skin from the side effects of wearing a mask, please schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists online, or by calling your preferred location.