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Woman Wearing Protective Facial Mask During COVID-19 Crisis

Masks and Your Skin

While most medical personnel are accustomed to wearing masks during routine work, most of the general public is relatively new to this experience.  This blog provides some helpful pointers to help minimize skin irritation, dermatitis, and acne from mask-use.  Like any article of clothing, masks can cause rashes when they come into direct contact with the skin. The delicate skin of your face is more sensitive than most areas of skin, so if you have any tendency towards rashes or irritation from clothing, you will want to select your mask carefully.  If addition, if you are prone to facial acne, the mask may precipitate an acne flare.

Helpful pointers:

  • Please refer to the CDC website for instructions related to DIY Masks and general mask use.
  • Select a fabric that is soft and non-irritating, preferably without dyes. When choosing a fabric mask keep in mind that the mask should be made of a tightly-woven fabric to minimize risk of viral particles travelling through the mask.
  • If your mask is washable, use a detergent that is free of dyes and fragrance to wash the mask prior to first use and between uses.
  • Select a mask that fits properly in order to avoid chafing along the bridge of your nose, lateral cheeks and chin.  You will want a snug fit at the edges to prevent viral particles from entering, but for comfort, ideally would like the mask to have a slightly cupped shape that allows some air space between the mask and the air from your mouth and nose.
  • If despite careful selection of your mask you still develop irritation, try gentle skin care to help heal the skin. Use skin cleansers designed for sensitive or eczema-prone skin, and moisturize regularly.  If you find that wearing the mask after moisturizing feels sticky or uncomfortable, then you may prefer to moisturize at bedtime when you are not wearing your mask and also in the morning at least several minutes prior to putting the mask on.  In most cases, heavier creams or ointments will be most effective. Hydrocortisone cream should only be used in cases that fail to respond to aggressive moisturization.
  • If you are prone to acne, the occlusion from the mask may aggravate acne on the covered portion of your face. Limit moisturizers to lighter, non-comedogenic moisturizers and avoid wearing make-up under the mask.  You may consider over-the-counter acne treatments such as adapalene (Differin) topical or benzoyl peroxide wash, following the instructions on the packaging.  However, keep in mind that these products will likely contribute to skin irritation, so use these cautiously.  Additionally, benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabric.  If you do not fully rinse away the benzoyl peroxide face wash, it could bleach or discolor your mask.

We encourage you to follow national and local guidelines regarding use of masks or face coverings to help keep you and the people around you safe from COVID-19.  All of us at Massachusetts Dermatology Associates wish you and your loved ones health and safety.

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