Wearing a mask is a proven way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, so it has become a part of our "new normal" to don one when going into public spaces or if we are gathering with a small group of people outside of our own households. While this protection is important to control the pandemic, regular mask use may also be tough on skin. Dermatologist Kate Viola, M.D., shares these tips so you can love the chin you’re in and prevent breakouts.
Clean your mask
Washing your mask daily helps to remove the oil, sweat, germs and dead skin cells that can create a problem for your skin. Unless the manufacturer recommends otherwise, use hot water and a fragrance-free laundry detergent.
No time for laundry? Consider wearing a disposable mask. Remember, throw away masks are intended for one-time use.
- Tip: Look for masks made of, or lined with, a soft, natural, breathable fiber, like cotton. Stay away from synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester or rayon because they more likely to irritate your skin and cause breakouts.
Clean your face
Wash and moisturize your face every morning and every night. Gentle skin care, using a mild, fragrance-free cleanser will safely help to prevent skin problems.
Forget about harsh products like exfoliants or using chemical peels. Now is the time to baby your face, and that includes using a daily moisturizer.
“Applying moisturizer adds a protective layer that can reduce dryness associated with wearing a mask,” says Dr. Viola. “You’ll receive the most benefit from your moisturizer if you apply it right after you wash your face, allowing it to lock in moisture.”
- Tip: To avoid moisturizer-related breakouts, select one formulated for your skin type. If your skin is oily or prone to breakouts, opt for a gel moisturizer. For normal or combination skin, a lotion is recommended. If your skin tends to be dry, use a cream. If your skin is dry or sensitive, you can also protect your skin by moisturizing before you put your mask on and after you take it off.
Clean your hands
Frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water reduces the spread of coronavirus—and, yes, protects your face. Always wash your hands before putting on your mask.
Whether you choose a washable or tossable mask, be sure it offers a snug, comfortable fit across your nose, on the sides and under your chin. A proper fit reduces skin irritation and makes it less likely you will transfer dirt and germs to your face as a result of fussing with your mask throughout the day.
If masks hurt or create sores behind your ears, try different types such of ties and ears loops to find the mask best suited and most comfortable for you. Headbands that come with buttons also provide a sturdy attachment for your mask and are readily available.
- Tip: Use a gentle, moisturizing hand soap, followed by a hand lotion, to protect the skin on your hands.
If you have a chronic skin condition, such as acne or rosacea, be sure to keep up with the treatment plan from your dermatologist. Skipping the use of foundation is also recommended to avoid making skin problems worse, especially under your mask. If makeup is a must, choose an oil-free mineral-based product.
If your condition does worsen, talk with your dermatologist about options to help keep it under control.
Dr. Kate Viola is a dermatologist specializing in general dermatology, as well as cosmetic and surgical procedures. She is the medical director for Henry Ford Allegiance Dermatology in Jackson.