Our new normal of having to wear face masks has brought on a new skincare concern. While we adjust to the important (and in some places mandatory) need to wear a face mask during the current global health crisis, we also have to change how we treat the skin under our masks.
How Will Wearing a Mask Impact My Skin?
Unfortunately—as many essential workers and medical professionals have discovered—wearing masks can wreak havoc on your skin. Whether you’ve sewn your own mask or bought a new one, covering your nose and mouth for long periods can result in some unfortunate side effects: chafing, irritation, redness, and even bruising or breakouts in some cases.
Here are some expert-level tips for taking care of your skin while wearing a protective face mask.
Choose a Cotton Face Mask
Unless you’re a healthcare or essential worker on the front lines, the CDC recommends wearing face coverings made from cloth. Face masks made from tightly woven cotton are soft, breathable, and less likely to rub against your skin and cause rashes and irritation than synthetic fabric. For added protection, look for masks with an internal pocket into which a filter (like a trimmed coffee filter) can be slipped in.
Wash Your Face (And Your Mask) Often
A properly fitting face mask will come in direct contact with your skin, creating the perfect environment for sweat, dirt, and oil to accumulate. That’s why you must wash your face with a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser before putting on your mask. If you’re using a reusable cloth face mask, wash it regularly, as it will absorb your skin’s natural oils. Since fabric softeners and scented detergents can be irritating, consider skipping them when laundering.
Protect Your Skin from Friction
If your mask is rubbing your skin raw, consider using an ointment or salve to protect sensitive areas from the friction and chafing. Vaseline or Aquaphor will work well. For those who need to wear N95 masks, keep hydrocolloid bandages handy. They protect—and prevent—cuts and abrasions from these tight-fitting masks and help heal wounds.
Boost your Skincare Routine
Face masks create a warm, humid environment that can affect sebum production, resulting in clogged pores and breakouts. To prevent acne around your nose, mouth, and chin, try minimizing the amount of makeup you wear underneath your mask—especially foundation and concealer. The makeup above the mask, of course, can be worn as usual.
While you don’t need to avoid makeup altogether, it is best to use breathable makeup with a water-based foundation to prevent pores from clogging beneath the mask.
Continue washing your face twice a day with gentle, hydrating cleansers and moisturize regularly during this time. Consider your moisturizer as a protective seal over the surface of the skin, which locks in hydration.