Wearing a face mask when you head out and about to do your food shop, objectively speaking, a good idea.
We know that they make a difference in reducing the spread of coronavirus. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, you could soon be fined for not wearing a face mask in shops – so stick one on.
But there’s one downside to face masks, and that’s the impact they can have on our skin.
Many wearers report redness, irritation, and breakouts – all of which have been dubbed maskne (mask plus acne, get it?) – while wearing face coverings.
Don’t let that put you off wearing your snazzy patterned mask, and don’t fret – there are simple solutions to tackle maskne, prevent it happening, and treating mask-induced redness, irritation, or blemishes if they do rear their heads.
Why does maskne happen?
Oh, a whole bunch of reasons. Fun.
First off, it can be due to simple irritation and friction. Think about it: you’ve suddenly got a bit of fabric sitting on your face for long periods of time. It might be a touch scratchy, which can cause microabrasions and redness.
Then you’ve got the increased sweat and oil that you keep on your face tucked under your mask. You’ll have noticed that you might feel a touch hot with your mask on, and can’t do your usual blotting or wiping. That sweat, dirt, and oil can sit and collect on the skin, sparking breakouts.
You should be washing your mask in between wears, but if you miss it out of your laundry load you’re also adding bacteria to your face, which again can trigger spots and redness.
Ellie Child, a beauty expert for Cosmetify, explains: ‘A lot of medical staff have reported that they are suffering from breakouts, redness and irritability around their mouths due to constantly wearing a mask at work. Essentially, the lack of air circulation combined with the tightness and friction from the mask can in some instances cause minor abrasions and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
‘Combine this with the sweat and oil that the mask can also trap and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.’
When do I need to wear a face mask?
It’s recommended that you wear a face covering whenever you’re in ‘an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you don’t normally meet.
It’s now mandatory to wear face masks in shops, on public transport, and in hospitals.
How to tackle maskne
Buy the right mask
If you know your skin is a touch sensitive, have a think about the fabric of your chosen face coverings – and make sure your mask fits you well so it doesn’t constantly rub or press into the skin.
Lucy Xu, skin specialist and Founder of the London Premier Laser Skin Clinics, says: ‘When choosing a mask, I would spend a little bit more to ensure that it is a good fit, large enough to cover the face, offers the right type of fabric which is breathable, soft on the skin and non-irritating.
‘Opt for natural fabrics such as cotton or washable silk as these types of fabric will reduce the friction of the mask on your face which should help to prevent any irritation from rubbing.’
Keep your masks clean
You need to be washing your reusable fabric masks between each use – so make sure you buy a proper stash so you’re not constantly waiting for the washing machine to finish its cycle.
‘I would advise buying a couple which will allow you to rotate the mask every day so that you are wearing a clean mask each day while the other is in the wash,’ says Lucy. ‘This will not only prevent you from catching Covid-19 but of course will keep your skin clean and free of any unwanted bacteria.
‘Keeping your mask clean is imperative for ensuring that you are keeping your skin clean and free from any harmful bacteria that could cause you to breakout.
‘Furthermore, the air from breathing in a confined space will build up underneath the mask and will begin to suffocate the skin, this mixed with sweating and long periods of wearing the mask will act as a breeding ground for bacteria leading to potential breakouts and congestion, so it’s super important to ensure that you remove your mask when you aren’t wearing it to allow the skin to breathe and to get some air into the mask.
‘I would also advise machine wash your mask after every use on a hot setting with good detergent.’
Ditch the heavy makeup
Under your mask, anyway.
It’s not like anyone can see the bottom of your face when you’re masked up, so there’s no need to introduce dirt and grime to your skin in the form of smeared on foundation and bronzer.
You can always master your eye makeup and focus on that rather than wasting your foundation.
Wash your face when you get home
After your shopping trip, you should already be removing your mask, bunging it in the wash, and washing your hands. You might as well make time to wash your face, too, to get rid of all the sweat and oil that’s built up while you’ve been out and about.
Use a gentle cleanser than moisturise afterwards to nourish the skin after mask time.
Keep your skin moisturised
Dry skin is more prone to irritation, which can lead to soreness and red blotches.
Now might be the time to invest in a more heavy-duty moisturiser, both for wearing under your mask and loading up on after you’ve removed it.
‘Anything with hyaluronic acid is also a bonus as maintaining moisture levels within the skin is key in preventing the skin from drying out,’ adds Ellie.
Up your skincare
You don’t need to go too hard on the products, but lockdown is a great time to figure out a consistent skincare routine that works for you – and helps to counteract the effects of wearing a mask.
‘If your skin is prone to inflammation and breakouts then you may want to invest a little more time and money into your skincare to ensure that whilst we have to wear masks you are looking after its morning and night to ensure that it is regenerating for each day,’ says Lucy. ‘I would advise if you don’t already, double cleansing each evening before bed to ensure that your skin is clean after wearing the mask, you can use a cleansing balm, milk or oil but just ensure you double cleanse using warm water and a muslin cloth to remove any unwanted bacteria from all areas of the face and neck.
‘I would also start to use face masks [the skincare kind] more regularly, perhaps a few times a week, these will work to draw out any impurities and bacteria which has surfaced onto your skin from wearing the mask and will work deep into the epidermis. A clay mask is best for acne-prone skin.’
Only wear the mask when you need to
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying: don’t sit at home with your mask on all day. It’s not necessary and only increases your likelihood of developing skin-related issues brought on by your face covering.
Take your mask off when it’s safe and you’re not around other people to give your skin a break and some fresh air.
Lucy advises: ‘Only wear the mask when you need, so getting on and off public transport and also if you are in any highly congested areas.
‘Other than that, ensure you are removing your mask as much as possible to allow your skin to breathe and to ensure your mask doesn’t become too sweaty.
‘Once you take the mask off put it in a safe place away from anywhere it could gather bacteria, perhaps pop it in a material pouch or draw string bag for safety.’
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