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June 15, 2020

Top Medical Doctors Weigh In on Face Mask-Related Irritation and How to Help Your Skin Recover

Covid-19 has created a world where face masks have become a necessity, but these masks can often irritate the skin. Beautytap interviews top medical doctors  on how to deal with mask-related skin irritations and what you can do to help your skin recover.


 

As businesses resume operations and we all begin to venture outdoors into public areas more frequently, safety remains front and center. Along with using hand sanitizer and diligently cleansing our hands for at least 20 seconds per CDC guidelines, masks are recommended. In some counties, masks are even required to be worn outdoors at all times, and of course, you won’t be able to enter a store or place of business without one. As a result, many doctors are treating patients with a variety of skin woes due to tight-fitting, abrasive masks.

 

 

Portrait of young woman with mask on her face
Along with using hand sanitizer and diligently cleansing our hands per CDC guidelines, masks are recommended. (istock/puckons)

 

Pain Points

 

At some point in time, everyone has had a friction-related skin problem. Be it blisters from ill-fitting shoes or scratched-up skin from a T-shirt tag, the painful results can cause discomfort and even potential scarring. For some doctors who routinely wore masks for short periods of time while treating patients or caring for others before COVID-19, the all-day mask has become part of their uniform.

 

 

A young girl with a problem skin. Photo before and after treatment for acne and Demodecosis.
Wearing an N95 respirator, surgical mask, or even cloth mask for hours on end often results in “irritant dermatitis or acne mechanica (istock/dimid_86)

 

Wearing an N95 respirator, surgical mask, or even cloth mask for hours on end often results in “irritant dermatitis or acne mechanica” according to Dr. Tess Mauricio, a Stanford-educated, board-certified dermatologist. Even Mauricio herself has experienced the unpleasant signs of mask-induced skin irritation. “Humidity, friction, and lack of oxygen compromise the skin’s barrier function, resulting in whiteheads, blackheads, and clogs,” she explained. For those individuals with cystic acne, eczema, or rosacea, masks only exacerbate the problem.

 

 

Picture of dermatologist Dr. Tess

Stanford Educated Dermatologist, Dr. Tess Mauricio

 

 

Dr. Kay Durairaj, a board-certified facial cosmetic surgeon, reports that the number of patients seeking her help because of acne as a result of wearing masks is at an all-time high. “You’d think that the humidity trapped beneath the mask would have a hydrating effect, but it doesn’t. The skin is actually more dehydrated,” she says, “plus people aren’t drinking enough water because they’re keeping their masks on throughout the day.” She’s also seen an influx of patients with periorbital dermatitis, which looks like acne but is actually a rash.

 

 

Portrait of dermatologist

Board Certified Facial Cosmetic Surgeon Dr. Kay Durairaj

 

 

Relief to the Rescue

 

When skin is already stressed, switching to a low pH cleanser or one with mild exfoliating properties can prevent pores from clogging. Dr. Mauricio recommends that individuals use a non-stripping face wash with salicylic or glycolic acid to gently exfoliate the skin but only once a day. “My advice to many patients right now,” she says, “is to get back to basics and don’t try to compensate at day’s end by overwashing.”

 

Restoring the skin’s natural barrier function is key, so use a moisturizer that is designed for your specific skin type. Products containing sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid) and ceramides help the skin retain moisture and fight irritation. For spot treating, she suggests applying hydrocolloid patches over open break-outs to protect them from further irritation. These dots help to absorb moisture and flatten the blemishes.

 

Proper care of masks is also essential. Durairaj says it’s imperative to frequently wash masks with an unscented soap and allow them to air dry instead of leaving them in your car or handbag. It’s an extra step in your nightly routine, but wearing a damp or dirty mask day after day will only make matters worse.

 

One of the top hydration recommendations by Beauty Advisors (aestheticians, makeup artists, facialists, and beauty professionals) is the Dr. Jart Water Drop Hydration Moisturizer. 

 

 

Dr. Jart water drop hydration moisturizer
Dr. Jart Water Drop Hydration Moisturizer helps skin maintain the proper moisture throughout the day

 

 

 

 

Tracy Ann Teel is a full-time freelance writer and the owner of Finesse Writing and Editing LLC. She’s a tutorial writer for San Francisco Globe’s beauty platform, FierceLeague.com, covering everything from skin and hair care to makeup and nail art. She writes for skincare companies, dermatologists, and cosmetic surgeons, and proudly taught at her MFA alma mater, the University of California Irvine, as a member of their adjunct faculty in English. She’s been a textbook reviewer for Prentice Hall, been recognized three consecutive years in the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and has written professionally for 30+ years. Her poetry chapbook Such Dust was published by Finishing Line Press, and her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Pearl, Kaleidoscope, and Lake Arrowhead Life.

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COMMENTS 51

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tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Thanks for commenting on my article. Feel free to send me a message if you need help picking products here on Beautytap.

jcphoenix1


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BEST MASK EVERRRR! Ok so I have to wear readers and having my glasses fog up while I am trying to get anything anywhere is by far the most annoying thing. Well, not with this mask here. It fits beautifully. I don't feel like I am suffocating, which is a plus to live life these days. It is light weight, and holds snug on the bridge of your nose. Love Love that it hugs all around the mouth and chin. HIGH-ly recommended for any adult. This mask does not pull on the ears either, I mean that right there... Read more

mygirlcam


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Great article Tracy! I have been getting a lot of questions from people about what will help them repair their skin since having to wear a mask everyday. I'm definitely sharing this information, thanks!

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Happy to help, pretty lady! Share away! 💋

justcallmejenny


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The struggle is real! So many people, myself included have been battling "maskne." This article is extremely helpful to explain what is really going on under our masks. I will be passing this along to clients!

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Thanks, Jenny. Since it looks like we'll all be wearing masks for the foreseeable future, feel free to share the article widely.

lorriepbeauty


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Thank you for this useful information! I call this issue, "mask-acne" and now that I have been educated, it also may be "mask-rash"! Now, I want to get a mist spray with hyaluronic acid and mist my face when I feel the need.

arielle45


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This is such a relevant and useful article, thank you for posting it!

lindsayobe


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Very helpful and relevant information! I think we are all going to have to continue to learn how to manage the irritation from wearing a mask for hours at a time can cause. My acne prone skin is not happy with having fabric on it...but my skin will recover!

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

I agree with you, Lindsay. I think the masks will be with us for far longer than we know. Even wearing them for just a short amount of time has given my "mature" skin breakouts along the jawline.

beautybyjuana


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Being a Hair stylist in these times has definitely made me more aware of how to take care of my skin and reading this article has made me look at my products to help my skin more. Will be trying these recommendations ASAP!

theskingenie


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

This is becoming a more and more important issue as the requirements to wear masks for long periods of time continues.

yourstrulymariaa


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Great article ! I will definitely be sharing this with my clients.

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