May 29, 2020
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Ever since COVID19 became an everyday word, wearing a mask became the new normal. Almost simultaneously, dermatologists have seen a rise in skin problems among mask wearers. This stems from long hours wearing masks, whether cloth, surgical or respirators, that cause skin irritation. Acne breakouts, eczema and rosacea flareups and cheilitis are just among the few problems mask wearers have to deal with. Friction from the masks can cause disruption of the normal skin barrier, making it prone to infection and inflammation. These masks also are a physical barrier that trap in sweat, moisture, oil, and dirt inside which further damages the skin.
Experts’ best advice boils down to two things — avoid wearing anything that will irritate your skin and to only use gentle fragrance-free products that will keep hydration in. Dr. Dray , a well-known dermatologist with over thousands of subscribers on Youtube, shares her tips to avoid acne and irritation in a video featuring our own masks — according to her, it is best to keep your routine simple and clean.
Now is not the time to change things in your skincare — stick what you have now and these MUST DO’s to help your skin heal.
It is essential to wash your face before and after wearing a mask to get rid of the gunk that has been trapped in there all day. But more importantly, cleansers must be gentle and hydrating. Stay away from fragrance, cleansers with strong acids and the usual no-no’s (Parabens, Phthalates, SLS, PABA, et cetera) to avoid more irritation. Read up what skin care ingredients to avoid here.
The amount of friction, dirt and moist that occurs under the mask further breaks down the skin barrier. Just like your cleansers, your moisturizer should be gentle and free of harmful chemicals.
These creams are very thick in consistency and occlusive to help keep in moisture within the skin and maintain the skin barrier’s integrity. These are often marketed as balms and ointments, and are helpful for eczema breakouts, chaffing and friction burns from the masks. For lip or perioral care, switch out your scented and minty lip balms with petroleum for less irritation.
Sun protection is always a staple in your skin care routine. Dr. Dray recommends using sunscreen with zinc oxide (sunscreens for babies have this) because of its calming component while still having SPF.
CUT BACK ON WEARING MAKEUP
Makeup cuts down the shelf life of your masks by trapping in more dirt in that moist space. It can also clog pores and trigger overlying skin issues resulting into breakouts.
Aside from these, it is important to replace your masks often. These masks can be a breeding ground of dirt, oil and bacteria if not cleaned often. If you cannot keep wearing disposable masks, cotton cloth masks are preferred among all other materials. These can be (and should be) washed often using gentle free hypoallergenic detergent. These are commonly free from fragrances and harmful chemicals that are the common culprits of irritation.
These are a few of the holy grails of skin care that you must not miss especially during COVID season. Taking care of one’s skin is just as important as taking care of our immune system. The skin is our first barrier of defense after all.
Paula Lim is a licensed physician from the Philippines and currently based in California to pursue further studies. Research and content writing have always fascinated her and continues to pursue this on top of her medical career.
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