During the Covid-19 pandemic, wearing a mask is the best way to prevent spread of the virus. Health care professionals are used to wearing masks for certain procedures or for specific patient interactions. But now, with the entire world facing Covid-19, Healthcare workers have to wear masks for extended periods of time, including when we are out in public places like while grocery shopping or any situation where maintaining social distancing is difficult. Even those who are not health care providers are now required to wear a mask while at work and running errands
Extended use of a tight mask may cause skin damage
As more places begin to open up, and wearing masks become a routine, your skin may develop maskne a term used to describe acne in the area a mask is worn. It is a newly coined term for the Covid-19 face mask era.
Health care workers need to wear tight-fitting masks to prevent entry of virus particles. The border is more affected, so people get an oval red outline. Extended usage of masks can cause bruising, cuts, redness, irritation, pimples and post-inflammatory skin darkening. These areas get sensitive to touch as the skin barrier gets damaged and the sensory nerves become more sensitive due to inflammation. It even stings if you apply any cream or lotion.
How does a face mask cause skin irritation?
First, direct friction can lead to skin barrier disruption, irritation and inflammation. Second, masks can trap moisture, saliva, mucus, oil, dirt and sweat on the skin, leading to mild to moderate skin conditions like acne, eczema and rosacea. In addition to increasing acne, masks can worsen or trigger skin conditions causing facial redness and scaling.
Mask associated skin damage only in some people
Normally, the skin is in a state of equilibrium with the outside air. When the surrounding air becomes too dry or too humid, it may trigger skin problems in an individual who is already at risk of developing them.
Tips for Health care Providers in the Hospital
A barrier cream can be used which helps in reducing inflammation. It will create a barrier between skin and the moisture being produced. It will also block out everything created inside of the mask because of friction, rubbing or humidity.
Top 10 Expert Tips to prevent and treat mask associated skin problems:
Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth, but that it is not so tight that you are bruising your skin
Wash your face regularly with bland soap and water at least twice a day
Mask related tips:
- If you are not in healthcare, avoid wearing masks for a long time. Take your mask off when you do not need to wear it, such as while driving your own car or when at home
- Replace your mask as soon as it starts feeling wet.
- If you are going to be out for a long time, carry few extra masks with you. Store the used ones in a plastic bag until you can go home and wash them
- Wash cotton face masks by hand using soap and hot water.
Apply a thick layer of hypoallergenic moisturizer before you put a mask on and after you remove it. Avoid ointment-based moisturizers while wearing a mask because they will trap sweat and oil.
Apply emollient: Skin irritation with masks is most common along the bridge of nose and central cheeks, where the flexible nosepiece is secured into place. Use an emollient in the affected area to improve skin barrier function and provide lubrication for the junction of the mask with the skin.
- Moisturise your skin after cleansing to keep the skin hydrated, to prevent water loss and improve the barrier function of the skin. Apply an oil-free moisturizer to damp skin multiple times a day. It also reduces skin inflammation.
- Avoid physical scrubs or exfoliators which can further damage the skin surface if your skin is becoming dry or irritated as a result of wearing a mask.
- Consider using barrier creams or petrolatum jelly as an occlusive to cover up broken areas of skin overnight.
Use prescription medications: For more moderate to severe exacerations, there are prescription medications your dermatologist can prescribe via tele-consultation
Avoid wearing heavy make-up or foundation underneath the mask as it may spots or acne.
- The author of this article is Dr. Anish Desai (Director_Strategic Medical Affair_Adroit Biomed Ltd