It’s no secret that face masks help to slow the spread of coronavirus. In conjunction with social distancing, face masks can prevent asymptomatic carriers from infecting at-risk people, according to Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How long will people have to wear these face masks though? Some health experts suggest that people should wear them for the next year and a half.
While face masks can help keep you and others around you safe, the increased friction, heat, and humidity can cause irritation. According to Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, fabric that rubs against the skin is a recipe for irritation. People who have to keep face masks on for full workdays are most susceptible to skin irritation, especially if they have underlying skin conditions like rosacea, acne, or dermatitis.
Why Does Skin Irritation Occur?
Cloth face masks have the potential to harbor bacteria and fungi, which is why they need to be washed routinely. Masks constantly rub the skin, and this friction can lead to breakouts or rashes. The sweat, oil, and trapped breath under the mask create a moist environment, which is a recipe for irritation. Additionally, wearing makeup and other lotions can also increase the risk of irritation. To properly clean masks, throw them in the washing machine or hand-wash them with hot water and soap. After the masks dry, health experts recommend ironing them to provide an extra layer of defense against germs.
People are stuck in a bit of a catch-22. Wearing the masks helps protect them from coronavirus infection, but it also increases skin irritation. Not wearing the masks helps the skin breathe and be healthy, but increases the risk of viral transmission. In order to avoid breakouts or irritation, employ the following tips when wearing protective face coverings.
Consider The Fabric:
Whether you opt for a bandana, homemade mask (click here for instructions), surgical mask, or a piece of flannel, the fabric you choose can affect the skin. Dermatologists recommend that people should avoid synthetic materials at all costs. It is more beneficial to stick with 100% cotton fabric. Also, keep in mind that breathable fabrics are less efficient at filtering air, so create multiple layers with cotton fabric to protect yourself.
Keep The Skin Clean:
If you wash your masks regularly, you should also wash your face. Less is more when it comes to keeping the face cleansed. Harsh exfoliators, strong soaps, and certain toners can irritate the skin. Instead, calm the skin and provide nourishment by using a gentle soap followed by a healthy moisturizer. Finally, skip the foundation and concealer during this time because the increased humidity under the mask can clog the pores and lead to more breakouts. Allow your skin to breathe under the mask as much as possible.
Wash Your Face Before You Put On The Mask:
The added pressure on your pores can increase the risk of folliculitis, which is a condition that occurs when hair follicles become infected or inflamed. The common result is red or pus-filled bumps around the hair follicle. Always wash your face before you put on the face mask, so that you start out with a clean environment. This rule applies for people who wear them all day. If you are a man, leave a small amount of stubble to reduce the risk of ingrown hairs.
Use Moisturizer To Create A Skin Barrier:
If you want to decrease the amount of friction between your face and the mask, dermatologists advise that people apply moisturizer before you put the mask on. The friction causes the top layer of your skin to release water, which dries it out. You may not notice it at first, but you’ll eventually see dry or cracked skin that can result in redness. Opt for an oil-free moisturizer and apply it once every two hours to dampen the skin. Non-comedogenic products are also beneficial because they don’t clog pores. Since your hands can also dry out as a result of frequent hand washing, you may want to read this article to help keep your hands moisturized.
Finally, we have to reiterate that you should launder your masks on a regular basis.