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  • Writer's pictureNicole Salter

When Mask Irritation Gets Physical

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

Mask, gloves, soap, scrubs...our new reality is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Many of us find wearing a mask all day inconvenient, even irritating: the slipping, the glasses fogging, the difficulty communicating, and, of course, the need to express deep and meaningful emotions with nothing but your eyes and brows, like some kind of high-paid supermodel.

And then there's the physical skin irritation you might be facing as a result of wearing a mask for prolonged periods. Here we'll break down what mask-related skin irritation is, and what to do about it. If it gets to be too much, just click the picture below and play this awesome song by Todrick Hall that seems to sum up our days nicely. My kids enjoy twerking to it, which we did outside a retirement home during dinner hour a few weeks back. Our impromptu performance while waiting for the bus was proof that being cooped up can make you go a little funny, but it was a hit!

Mask Acne or "Maskne" (also Folliculitis)

Warmer weather means we'll be sweating inside our masks more. Normally when your face sweats it's not exactly super pleasant, but at least it quickly air dries - not so when you're wearing a mask, which can trap oil, bacteria and dead skin cells on your skin and allow them to build up in the moist environment. As we all know, oil, dirt, sweat, makeup and dead skin are fertile ground for acne.

If you are saying "Don't be ridiculous, Nicole, I am a lady; I don't sweat, I barely perspire", are you aware that even regular breathing can trap excess humidity close to your skin and cause (or exacerbate) breakouts? So, what should you do about the skin situations you thought you had left behind around the same time as braces and those quirky hats Blossom used to wear?

Teenager with braces
Metal mouth can be preferable to mask acne

Tips to Combat Maskne

  • -Follow a regular skin care routine that includes gently cleansing your face in the morning and at night. For quick spritzes on a makeup-free face, I love putting my toner in the fridge and getting a cooling, all-natural refresh midday.

  • -Don't use soap every time you wash your face. Warm water is the least irritating way to cleanse, because it doesn't contain drying detergents, alcohol or chemicals that can irritate and over-dry skin and stimulate even more oil production.

  • -Take a break from makeup and let your pores breathe. Come on, nobody can see you under the mask anyway!

  • -Do use a moisturizer before putting your mask on to help prevent chafing and irritation

  • -Wash fabric masks after one use and throw disposable masks out at the end of the day

  • -Take mask breaks when you can distance!! Yes, people more than 6 feet away may still give you cut eye, but they are probably just marveling at the exposed face of another beautiful human. Mask breaks give your face much needed fresh air.

  • -On a day where you can go mask-free, do a weekly home facial including a different kind of mask - a skin loving facial mask. If your skin is already irritated, inflamed, or abraded, opt for a very gentle store-bought or DIY natural mask; for blackheads and oily skin, we simply haven't found a better balancing mask than pure Dead Sea facial mud.

Contact Dermatitis and Rosacea

Taking it up a notch, you may actually be allergic or intolerant to the material in your mask. This can cause a very noticeable itchy or painful rash, even blisters, on the skin that comes into contact with your mask. Here's what you can do.

If You Suspect a Mask Allergy...

  • -See a dermatologist for a virtual visit to confirm your diagnosis. You will be able to send photos of your rash via their secure site, or arrange a Zoom-type video call for a real time virtual examination.

  • -Use a mask made from natural fibres like cotton.

  • -Seal your skin with a hypoallergenic cream, applying thickly where your mask comes into direct contact with the skin

  • -Wear a different type of mask each day if possible to ensure that the same contact points are not always being hit

  • -For irritation behind the ears, wrap the ear loops around a headband or visor rather than your ears

Mask, gloves, soap, scrubs...our routine has gotten more rigorous than in days past, but you, and your beautiful face, will get through this. Stay safe, happy and soothed!

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