May 21, 2022 My skin is worsened after wearing masks too frequently! What should I do?
Since the global outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic which is affecting Singapore as well, masks have become an essential must-have protective item to be worn on our faces. There are many types of masks in the market (e.g. N95, surgical and cloth-made masks, etc), and what they have in common is that it is meant to protect us against the virus from invading our body.
So despite feeling uncomfortable, we still have to wear masks whenever we go out for safety reasons.
When our face is covered with a mask for a long time, a few common skin problems may occur, including:
01. pimples and acne
02. skin irritation from sores and abrasions
03. exacerbation of sensitive skin problems (eg. eczema or rosacea)
Pimples and acne problems
The environmental humidity and temperature inside the mask tends to be higher, which makes mask-wearing stuffy and uncomfortable. In this environment, skin oil secretion can increase, where excessive oil may mix with the dead skin and debris on the skin causing the formation of clogged pores, blackheads and whiteheads, which can become inflamed pimples or acne. At the same time, acne-causing bacteria (P. acne), can also thrive in this type of environment.
Good skin can thus deteriorate into acne-prone skin, which is characterized by excessive oiliness, clogged pores, inflamed pimples, or even painful acne cysts. Can you imagine the kind of frustration in dealing with such acne issues?!
Skin irritation from sores and abrasions
Most of the masks on the market are one size fit all. Every individual’s face is of a different size and shape, so we have adapt to the limited sizes of the available masks. If you wear a mask that is not suitable for you for a long time (especially the N95 mask), the skin can be abraded by the pressure from the elastic ear loops, nose clips or the edges of the masks.
Abrasions, sores or skin breaks, due to prolonged mask-wearing, commonly appear on the cheekbones, nose bridge, and behind the ears. This can leave really unsightly lines and may make someone feel really self-conscious. Anxiety and stress levels are already high during this trying period of COVID-19 and having painful marks on your face can only serve to aggravate the situation.
Exacerbation of skin sensitivity problems (eg. eczema or rosacea)
Some people’s skin may be sensitive to a certain material in the mask, and under the stuffy environment or constant friction of wearing the mask for a long time, they can aggravate pre-existing sensitive skin issues like eczema or rosacea.
Eczema (or dermatitis) is a chronic skin inflammatory condition with itchiness as the predominant symptom, caused by a variety of internal and external factors. On the other hand, rosacea, is a chronic sensitive skin condition that mainly occurs in the central part of the face presenting with diffuse redness and red capillaries, which can be aggravated by heat and sun exposure.
For people suffering from these conditions, wearing the mask can be an uncomfortable and bothersome experience!
What can I do while wearing my mask then?
No matter what, masks still have to be worn to protect ourselves, but at the same time we can also do something proactively to minimise the associated impact of acne and other skin problems.
While wearing a mask, some people may think that since nobody else can see their faces anyway, they don’t think it is necessary to wash their face regularly. This can aggravate skin issues like pimples and acne as mentioned.
Thorough facial cleansing is absolutely essential! Every night before going to bed, make a conscious attempt to remove the remnants of oil, dirt and cosmetics on the face, with a proper facial cleanser and makeup remover (for those wearing makeup).
When you wear a mask for a long time, the covered areas may be prone to bacterial growth on the skin. Try to avoid putting on heavy makeup while wearing masks to reduce the chance of developing clogged pores. If it is really unavoidable, opt for light and thin powdery makeup instead.
Use skincare products that are suitable for your personal skin type. Remember to wait until the skincare products are completely absorbed before putting on the mask. In addition, try to choose lighter, water-based moisturizing products, and avoid using oily or comedogenic (clogged pores causing) skincare products.
In addition, when choosing a suitable skincare regimen, it is recommended that you consult your skincare doctor first.
He/she can recommend you to use certain effective skincare ingredients that contain anti-oxidants and for skin rejuvenation purposes for instance, to better repair and maintain your skin affected by mask-wearing.
The skin also needs to rest and “breathe” periodically. Provided that your surroundings are safe from risk of infection transmission (e.g. in an open and ventilated environment with no one else nearby, etc), one may consider taking off the mask every few hours to “air” and rest the skin.
So how do you deal with the skin problems mentioned above?
It is recommended to use effective topical skincare products to control excessive oil, remove clogged pores, and soothe painful and inflamed pimples. At One Face Clinic, patients will be prescribed acne skincare products with formulations specially developed to tackle this kind of pimples and acne problems.
If your acne problem is more serious (e.g. multiple painful and inflamed pimples or acne cysts), it is best that you consult a skincare doctor right away to customise the most suitable treatment plan for you, which can include oral medications. The sooner you get treated, the better is the outcome to prevent complications, such as acne scarring and marks.
Before wearing the mask, you may try applying moisturizer or petroleum jelly ointment on the areas of the face whereby there is constant pressure caused by the parts of the mask e.g. at the ear loop, along edges of the masks, etc. This may help to alleviate the irritation caused by the friction of the mask.
If the sores and abrasions are more serious (e.g. presence of broken skin, redness, itching, and stinging sensation, etc), it is recommended that you consult your doctor who may prescribe topical medicated creams with mild steroids or antibiotics according to the severity of skin symptoms in order to relieve them.
If your pre-existing eczema or rosacea is aggravated, it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your doctor as soon as possible to receive the most appropriate treatments respectively to relieve your troubling symptoms
In order to curb the transmission of COVID-19 infection, all of us have the social responsibility to wear masks and maintain personal hygiene.
Though prolonged mask-wearing may bring about the various troubling skin problems mentioned above, you need not feel frustrated or helpless because of them, as long as you proactively take good care of your skin regularly and find the right skincare doctor for treatments.
Dr David Ng C. H. has a deep passion and long career of more than 15 years in treating skin and aesthetics issues eg. pigmentation, acne and anti-ageing. This includes him having done over 30,000 aesthetics lasers and treatments for his patients.
He strongly believes in a holistic approach to treatments and achieving the best results for his patients. Apart from discussing skin aesthetics, he is an avid foodie and would travel near and far with his family to gratify his appetite on weekends.
Dr David Ng C H