For months now, many of us wear a facemask for at least part of the day. That’s a good thing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wearing masks in public can help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Yet, facemasks can be tough on sensitive skin. Here are common skin problems caused by wearing a mask — and how to prevent and treat them.
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Common Skin Problems Caused by Wearing a Facemask
Masks trap heat and moisture — as well as bacteria — between the fabric and your face. Long-term use of a facemask can cause new skin problems or make existing problems worse. These skin problems include:
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How to Prevent Skin Problems While Wearing a Facemask
Your face needs a little extra TLC when you’re wearing a mask. Here are some tips to help keep your skin comfortable and healthy:
- Use a gentle cleanser. Skip the harsh products and choose a mild, fragrance-free cleanser.
- Moisturize. A good moisturizer adds a protective barrier to your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a moisturizer that contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or dimethicone. And choose one that’s fragrance-free and oil-free.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen. Your skin can get sunburned while covered by a mask. Use a mineral-based sunscreen containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
- Protect your lips. Your lips can become chapped behind the mask, so apply a dab of petroleum jelly before you mask up.
- Take a makeup break. Makeup under a mask leads to clogged pores and breakouts, so nix the foundation and blush. (No one sees it behind a mask, anyway.)
- Avoid masks made from synthetic fabrics. They are more likely to hold in heat and moisture, irritating your skin. Cotton is a good choice, especially if you have acne or oily skin.
- Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water every time you remove your mask.
- Wash your cloth mask after every use. Otherwise, bacteria can build up and cause more skin problems. Use hot water and fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry soap.
Treating Skin Problems Caused by Wearing a Facemask
You can treat many mask-related skin problems at home with simple over-the-counter products.
- Use ointment at night. Apply petroleum jelly to chapped, raw skin before you go to bed. It will protect the skin and allow it to heal.
- Wash your face regularly. To get breakouts under control, it’s important to keep your skin free of bacteria. Use a gentle cleanser as soon as possible after removing your mask. Wash again before bed and in the morning.
- Give your ears a break. If your ears are sore or raw, try alternating different styles of masks to relieve pressure.
- Find a mask that fits. Your mask should fit snugly around your nose and chin. If your mask doesn’t fit properly, you’re likely to adjust it often which increases the risk of transferring bacteria to your face. The mask can also irritate your skin as it slides around.
- Go easy with skin care treatments. Skip the peels, scrubs, and at-home light devices for now. Even aftershave can be an irritant.
- Use a no-sting barrier spray. This product is available in drugstores and online. It forms a breathable coating on the skin and can help protect your face from mask irritation.
Make an Appointment with a Dermatologist
If home treatments aren’t working, it’s time to see a skin doctor, or dermatologist. With UPMC telemedicine, our video conference, telephone, or email options allow you to see a dermatologist without leaving home.
UPMC, Helpful Tips to Protect Your Skin While Wearing a Mask Link
Centers for Disease Control, How to Wear Masks Link
Centers for Disease Control, Considerations for Wearing Masks Link
American Academy of Dermatology, 9 Ways to Prevent Face-Mask Skin Problems Link
American Academy of Dermatology, Face Mask Skin Problems, DIY Treatment Link
The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and non-surgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is the most comprehensive dermatologic laser facility in the region. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.