Masks have become an inextricable part of our lives. We cannot imagine interacting with anyone without having one on. By now, the world has come to know that among the many ways by which the virus can spread, air travel by means of droplets — through coughing, sneezing or speaking — is the most common transmission channel. As such, masks become important. They act as the first line of defence against the virus.
But, it also happens that sometimes prolonged use of masks can cause the skin to breakout. It happens when the mask persistently rubs against the skin. Dr Kiran Godse, a consultant dermatologist at the Hiranandani Hospital Vashi, Navi Mumbai — a Fortis Network Hospital — says the time spent wearing reusable masks may result in a rash or an acne breakout called ‘maskne’.
“Using face masks may cause skin irritation and breakouts for many reasons — type of fabric and tightness over the face are a few examples; the material may cause excessive friction to the skin. Many are sensitive to fabrics and when paired with makeup, dirt and sweat, it is a recipe for acne. Irritation caused by wearing masks is likely to be a result of ‘contact dermatitis’ — an allergic reaction to cloth materials, the bacteria formed from not cleaning the mask well enough or re-usage of disposable masks. The use of a mask may lead to abrasions on the bridge of your nose, chin, cheeks, or also behind the ears,” he warns.
Dr Godse suggests a few tips to prevent or treat breakouts while safely using masks:
* Mask hygiene: Mask cleanliness must be the topmost priority, it should be washed (if re-usable) or be swapped for a new one after every use.
* If you experience skin irritation, use an antiseptic soap with warm water to clean your mask. Rinse it thoroughly and ensure it is completely dry before use; you may choose to dry-steam your mask in the washing machine.
* Skincare: Makeup may clog your pores and wearing makeup under a mask could increase the acne or breakouts; take a break from using any cosmetics for a while, or at least till you get it treated.
* Cleanse your skin regularly by washing your face every morning and at night with a mild face wash that will help unclog pores; it is best to then use an oil-free moisturizer in place of water-based moisturizer.
* Do not squeeze or break your pimples; this will further lead to inflammation and may also infect the area.
* Exfoliation is also important as it helps the skin cells’ turnover. Salicylic or glycolic acids present in exfoliates will help prevent acne. These are also available in the form of serums.
* Avoid using products with ‘petrolatum’, an ingredient used in cream and ointments (petroleum jelly).
* Before using and after removing your face mask, cleanse and then moisturize your face.
* Choose the right fabric: Know your skin type. The last problem you’d want to deal with is itchy skin and face. Fabric sensitivity varies from person to person and different fabrics come with different textures. Look for a soft and breathable material that is able to absorb moisture.
* Do not let go of the basic hygiene practices, washing your hands thoroughly before going out, or before wearing your mask, as well as immediately after returning home. If issues persist, and there is an infection scare, you must consult your doctor immediately.