Your skin and masks: advice to keep skin healthy while wearing masks

Tips to avoid skin irritation from wearing face masks

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we’re now wearing a face covering most of the day. During the hot and humid months, it can be irritating for your skin and even cause breakouts.

WECT spoke to some local experts to share some advice for those struggling with their skin while wearing a mask.

Dr. Megan Kaufman with Wilmington Health says when it comes to the material of a mask, cotton is best.

It’s important the mask is snug, yet comfortable for it to be effective yet harmless on your skin.

“Make sure fits securely to eliminate friction,” said Dr. Kaufman. “Wash daily with fragrance-free detergent.”

If the mask is too tight or slides around on your skin, it can be irritating. That will cause you to touch your face and mask more which can transfer germs to your mask and your face.

“Cloth would be the best option,” said Brandi Thomas, an esthetician at Seagrass Salon and Day Spa in Wilmington. “It’s a pain, but you need to wash them daily. You can wipe them with a rubbing alcohol swab or spray them just to disinfect them. And for the single use...I always recommend my clients or anyone honestly to throw the single use away after the end of the day.”

Many organizations recommend washing your face covering everyday to remove oils and skin cells that collect inside the mask.

For those experiencing breakouts on their skin because of the mask, Dr. Kaufman says it’s usually due to the mask occluding the oil glands.

“Not washing the mask daily, wearing make-up/heavy creams underneath the mask, sweating under the mask, not taking mask breaks, not washing face regularly, not following regular acne or rosacea treatment can lead to acne,” said Dr. Kaufman.

For those with dry skin, Thomas has some recommendations.

“You want to nourish that lipid barrier of your skin,” said Thomas. “You want to incorporate ingredients like fatty acids, aloe, oatmeal, honey...things that are going to calm it but keep repairing that barrier. As far as oily, you’ll want to use things like salicylic, benzoyl peroxide, certain retinols.”

Experts suggest taking off your mask for 15 minutes every four hours. To be safe, be sure to do this outdoors, inside your car, or at home.

Dr. Kaufman recommends washing your face every morning and night with a gentle cleanser.

She says choosing non-comedogenic moisturizers and using them morning and night to both sooth skin from friction and help create a barrier.

Dr. Kaufman says if you’re still experiencing issues, like persistent acne or irritation, you should consult a dermatologist.

“So there’s only so much we can do as humans to keep our skin clean,” said Thomas. “If you’re cleaning your face and you’re cleaning the mask, you’re going to hinder that bacteria from thriving in that environment.”

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