2020 brought us the pandemic, lockdowns, and maskne. The dreaded skin irritations and various types of rashes experienced by mask-wearers became so common that a new term was coined to describe them.
With face coverings becoming the new normal, even people with perfect complexions started to notice that their skin was suffering. More than 18 months later, we’re all used to wearing masks. But many of us are still battling with the bad skin that comes with them.
Fortunately, there are measures you can take to prevent and treat skin complaints connected to wearing a mask. We’ve delved a little deeper into what you can do to keep your skin healthy.
Check Whether You’re Allergic To Your Mask
Disposable or single use masks are more likely to trigger an allergic reaction than their cloth counterparts. They might be convenient but are often treated with chemicals like formaldehyde, which are not healthy for your skin.
Masks made of synthetic materials are also more likely to set off rashes, due to the constant friction against the dermis. For best results in terms of skincare, choose a mask in a fabric that is soft and non-allergenic, such as cotton, bamboo material, linen, or even silk.
If you do have an allergy or sensitivity to certain materials, continuing to wear one of the same kinds won’t desensitize you, it will just make things worse.
Keep Your Masks Clean
This one is a no-brainer but can easily get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of a busy day. Disposable masks aren’t meant to get washed—another good reason to stick with the material kind. Facemasks can retain a lot of oils and residue, which can contribute to maskne as well.
When you’ve worn your mask for one day, you need to wash it, either in a machine or by hand, depending on the fabric type. Use the hottest water possible and make sure you rinse it out properly. Washing powder or softener residue can cause irritation too.
Make Sure Your Mask Fits Correctly
To be effective, a mask needs to fit your face quite snugly. That doesn’t mean you should have to hold your breath the entire day. But it’s important to avoid wide gaps between your skin and the borders of the mask.
It shouldn’t put uncomfortable pressure on any part of your face, but be careful not to go too far in the opposite direction. A mask that is loose can cause chafing from rubbing up and down on your skin. If you can, go for a mask with adjustable straps. This can also help with pain and irritation behind your ears.
Cleanse And Moisturize Daily – Before And After Wearing A Mask
When you’re wearing a mask for 8 hours a day, your skin needs a care routine that is gentle and soothing. There is no practical purpose for wearing lipstick or other similar makeup under your mask, and skipping those cosmetics will allow your skin to breathe.
Get into a routine of cleansing your face both before and after wearing your mask. Steer clear of heavily scented cleansers or soaps, and find a moisturizer that is light and hypoallergenic. It isn’t necessary to scrub your face, but it’s important that you clean it gently to soothe irritated skin, as well as to wash away the grime of the day.
We might not be aware of it, but our skin constantly generates oil and sheds dead cells, which causes irritation if you don’t wash often enough.
Protect Your Lips
Dry lips are a common problem, even without the added factor of a close-fitting mask. Instead of lipstick, opt for something like petroleum jelly, which softens the skin and prevents painful cracks and bleeding. You can do this before you don your mask as well as when you remove it at the end of the day.
If you apply petroleum jelly in the morning, you should only do so after you wash your face, as it can trap dirt underneath it.
Take Mask Breaks (if its safe to do so)
Wearing a mask is essential in many situations, but when you are by yourself or in your own home, taking it off will give your skin a welcome break. In certain professions, such as healthcare workers or other customer-facing roles, removing your mask is unfortunately much more difficult.
When your job demands a mask throughout the day, try to take short breaks if and when you can. It’s recommended that you remove your mask and let your skin breathe for about 15 minutes every 4 hours.
Be Mindful Of What Skin Products You Use
When your skin gets inflamed or irritated, some people experience the urge to attack the problem head-on with copious amounts of ointment, moisturizer or facemasks. If you are experiencing maskne or any kind of skin discomfort, a conservative approach is best. There are certain products more likely to irritate the skin even more, including those that contain salicylic acid, retinoid, and various kinds of aftershave.
This is especially applicable to those who wouldn’t normally use a lot of skin care products. Applying a new chemical compound to your skin isn’t advisable when it’s already under strain.
Keep Your Skin In Great Condition From The Inside
Nutrition and hydration play a major role in skincare. Make sure that you eat healthy foods that support your skin health, rather than harm it. Fatty foods, refined sugars, fast food, and food that’s high in salt can all cause bad skin aside from maskne.
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough nutrients or that your body isn’t actively benefiting from the food you eat, you can always consider a supplement. Vitamins, zinc, and NAD boosts your skin from the inside. Don’t forget to stay hydrated too, as dehydrated skin is dry and flaky, which makes it more susceptible to irritation.
When In Doubt, Call A Doctor
The vast majority of people wearing masks don’t suffer serious side effects. Some minor skin irritation, although annoying, isn’t an alarming sign if it remains under control. However, when rashes won’t go away or there is a sign of infection it might be time to seek medical advice. If raw skin gets infected there is a possibility of it becoming systemic, which often requires prescribed medication to heal properly.
Say Goodbye to Maskne
Life today is chaotic and the pandemic has made it even more so. While most things are beyond your control, avoiding the dreaded maskne is achievable if you spend a little time looking after your skin each day.
Lara Garcia is a freelance writer covering variety of topics in the health & wellness, mindfulness space. When she’s not writing, you can find her volunteering at her local animal shelter or at the dog park with her two rescues, Boris & Bogart.