To protect our most vulnerable populations, most of us are wearing masks right now. While each of us needs to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID, that does not mean that wearing a mask is comfortable.
Mask-generated irritation, redness, and breakouts are a reality for many of us right now. Fortunately, there are ways to care for your skin (and limit discomfort) while staying safe.
Masks Wreak Havoc on Skin
Whether it’s irritation on the top of the nose, dryness along the cheeks, or breakouts on the chin, masks can create skincare difficulties we thought we outgrew years ago. And it’s easy to see why: masks need to be tight-fitting to stay in place and provide optimal protection. The tradeoff, however, is that facial coverings make it difficult to breathe. They also decrease air circulation in the areas where the fabric touches your skin.
Finally, masks put extra pressure under the chin, beneath the eyes, and along the bridge of the nose, creating areas that are particularly susceptible to rubbing and irritation. If you have very sensitive or scar-prone skin, these issues can be even more pronounced.
3 Steps to Caring for Your Skin Under a Mask
If you’re wearing a mask for 8-12 hours a day right now, these tips can help keep your skin healthy despite it all:
1. First things first – focus on fit
To avoid unnecessary irritation, make sure your mask isn’t tighter than it needs to be. It should fit snugly across your face and fully cover your nose and mouth. There should be a minimum of gaps between your skin and the mask. If you want more detail on how to put on, take off, and wear a mask properly, check out the CDC’s guidelines on the topic.
2. Cleanse the skin daily
There’s no pretty way to put this: wearing a mask means we’re breathing our own bacteria all day, so it’s no wonder mask breakouts are a thing. In fact, they’re so common, they’ve even got a nickname: maskne.
Otherwise known as acne mechanica, maskne is a breakout that results from excessive friction and rubbing in a given area. Over time, this friction pushes bacteria into micro-tears in the skin, leading to inflammation that creates acne.
Generally, you’ll notice maskne breakouts in the area where the mask touches your skin – your chin, cheeks, and the bridge of your nose. To limit breakouts and irritation, be sure to cleanse your face each night.
We recommend using a gentle cleanser like this one or this one. Infused with charcoal to draw out oil and impurities, these formulas are effective enough to get rid of pore-clogging gunk without damaging your skin even further. You can also try one of our dew puffs, made from konjac root and designed to exfoliate, balance skin’s pH, and brighten the complexion. If your breakouts are severe, you’ll benefit from a weekly deep cleansing. Patchology’s Smartmud sheet mask is a gentle option. We also love their cult-favorite “Breakout Box.”
3. Protect the area
To help the skin heal, apply a rich facial cream twice daily. This creates a barrier between the mask and your skin and helps prevent ongoing damage. We recommend our Daily Vitamins Cream.
This product contains a cosmetic grade mineral oil, which creates a barrier, locking in moisture. Thanks to its natural antibacterial properties, it also helps minimize bacterial concentration on the face and under the mask, and stop breakouts before they start.
Protecting Your Skin and Your Health
While there may be no end in sight for our mask-wearing days, that doesn’t mean you have to live with irritation, breakouts, and painful sores. Simple things, like making sure your mask fits and adopting a proper cleansing and moisturizing routine, can help protect your skin and make wearing your mask a little less uncomfortable.
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