2020 has seen us change lots of
things about how we approach our health — we’re all washing our hands more,
practising social distancing, and being extra careful to stay healthy and well.
If you’ve been regularly wearing a
face mask when you’re out of the house, then you’ll be all too aware of the
fact that your skincare might need a bit of a change also.
Face masks, whether the surgical or
fabric variety, can wreak havoc on our skin. One of the most common issues
we’ve seen in our patients is “maskne”, or breakouts under and around the
masked area. Other common problems are irritation, dry skin, redness, contact
dermatitis, and the worsening of existing skin conditions.
Why is my skin reacting this way?
A lot is going on under your mask.
There’s an increase in humidity and carbon dioxide, pressure and friction from
the mask and its straps, as well as trapped sweat and dirt which can clog the
These factors culminate and can
wreak havoc on your skin.
What can I do about it?
Wearing a mask, especially for
prolonged periods, can be uncomfortable — but there are steps you can take to
help treat and prevent mask-related skin issues.
Often when we experience acne, we
reach for harsh products to help banish oil — but this can make things worse.
A mild cleanser that contains
salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide gel or azelaic acid may help. Depending on
your skin, it might be worth skipping the toner as this can lead to dryness.
Don’t skip moisturiser, but do
reach for a less greasy formula. Try a lighter product, and always use
For severe acne, your pharmacist
may recommend some over-the-counter products, or even suggest a visit to your
GP for a prescription.
This condition often shows up as cracked, dry, itchy, red, or blistered skin.
Mask wearers usually see mild redness and dryness, particularly where the mask
touches the skin.
Try switching the brand of your
mask. If you prefer fabrics masks, try a softer fabric that’s less likely to
rub against your skin. If this doesn’t help or isn’t’ an option for you, apply
two layers of tissue or gauze between your skin and the mask, making sure that
the mask still fits correctly.
A greasy formula can make acne worse,
but if your skin is dry, you may wish to apply a richer moisturiser in the evening before you go to bed.
If your symptoms are particularly
severe, your pharmacist may recommend a low strength topical steroid cream or
Itchy or dry skin
Keep your skincare simple to avoid
irritation. Use a mild, fragrance-free skin cleanser in the morning and the evening, and avoid
toners as these can dry out the skin.
After cleansing, use a fragrance-free moisturiser. You may wish to choose a less greasy
solution, particularly if you have acne-prone skin. It’s essential to use SPF
daily, and a moisturising sunscreen formula can be used in place of a regular
You may wish to consider using
anti-aging skincare, particularly formulas that contain glycolic acids and
retinoids as these can be quite irritating to the skin.
Be careful of how you’re putting on and
removing your mask.
Before you apply your mask, be sure
to thoroughly wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser.
Don’t make your mask too tight, as
this will increase the friction of your skin. It should be tight enough that
you don’t have to readjust it constantly, but loose enough that it’s not
If your mask is rubbing on your
face, try applying moisturiser half an hour before you put your mask on, or use
a light, silicone-based barrier cream.
Where possible, try and give your
skin a five-minute break every few hours.
Familiarise yourself with how to remove your mask properly (and dispose of it, if it’s a surgical mask).
Cloth masks should be washed at the end of each day that you wear them.
Wash your hands or use sanitiser
after removing your mask, and apply moisturiser to your face, especially at