How to treat your skin when wearing a face mask

Image by Polina Tankilevitch via Canva

Face masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Wearing a face mask is one of the ways we can help curb the spread of Covid-19. It prevents droplets (like saliva or mucus) from spreading to other people, and it also means we are less likely to touch our face when out. That said – bear in mind face masks need to cover both your nose and your mouth for them to be effective. Whether your face mask is made from paper or cloth, if you wear it for a prolonged period, it can cause some skin issues.

Why do face masks cause skin issues?

If you are using a cloth face mask, it depends on what type of material it is. Cotton (tightly woven, preferably) is more breathable and comfortable for the skin. Synthetic materials, less so. While paper masks need to be disposed of, cloth masks need to be washed regularly to keep them clean.
For a face mask to fit properly, it needs to hug the skin and cover both nose and the mouth. This means very little air gets out or in from behind it. In turn, it creates a warm and damp environment which can affect the skin and can disrupt the moisture barrier. Likewise, over time, the pressure from the mask can create chaffing or rash. Oil and sweat can build up, clog the pores, and result in congestion or breakouts.

How to treat your skin during this period?

Image by Anna Shvets via Canva

Use a gentle, pH friendly cleanser. Yes, that one again. But it is important to avoid aggravating your skin further, and a cleanser with too high pH will do just that. Also, if possible, cleanse your face after you come home.

Avoiding makeup is a no brainer. Alternatively, do your eye makeup, but avoid wearing makeup (like foundation) under the mask.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Yes, we’ve established your skin needs hydration even if it is oily. Opt for lighter hydrating layers because you still need to keep your moisture barrier balanced to avoid over-production of oil and dehydration. Look for skin-replenishing ingredients like ceramides, Natural Moisturising factors (NMF), Urea, and Hyaluronic acid. Products with anti-inflammatory ingredients can also help (green tea extract, licorice extract, Centella Asiatica, Azelaic acid, and Niacinamide) to calm the skin.

If your skin is dry, to begin with, you might need more heavy-duty moisturisers or even ointments. La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume or Aquaphor can do the trick. Apply liberally at night.

If you started to break out, try a cleanser with Salicylic or Mandelic acid to treat and prevent breakouts. Likewise, spot treat and again, don’t forget to hydrate the skin.

If your skin is out of sorts at the moment, it is okay to give actives a rest for a while. Your face won’t fall off.

Roberta Striga