The common teenage problem with acne may be complicated by the requirement to wear cloth masks to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Social media pundits have deemed this problem “mask-ne.”
The American Academy of Dermotology suggests the following tips to prevent skin problems related to face masks.
• Cleanse and moisturize your face daily. Gentle skin care can prevent skin problems. When washing your face, use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser and follow these steps: Use a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser that does not contain alcohol. Wet your face with lukewarm water and use your fingertips to apply cleanser. Using a washcloth, mesh sponge, or anything other than your fingertips can irritate your skin. Resist the temptation to scrub your skin because scrubbing irritates the skin. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a soft towel. Apply moisturizer if your skin is dry or itchy. Be gentle when applying any cream around your eyes so you do not pull too hard on this delicate skin. Limit washing to twice a day and after sweating. Wash your face once in the morning and once at night, as well as after sweating heavily. Perspiration, especially when wearing a hat or helmet, irritates the skin. Wash your skin as soon as possible after sweating.
• Protect your lips by applying petroleum jelly. Dry skin and chapped lips are common face-mask skin problems. You can prevent chapped lips by applying petroleum jelly to your lips: after washing your face; before you put on your mask; and, before bed. To prevent breakouts, take care to apply the petroleum jelly only to your lips.
• Skip the makeup when wearing a mask. Beneath a mask, makeup is more likely to clog your pores and lead to breakouts. If makeup is necessary, use only products labeled “non-comedogenic” or “oil free.”
• Avoid trying new skin care products that can irritate your skin. Wearing a mask for even a short time can make your skin more sensitive. To reduce skin problems, avoid trying harsh products, such as a chemical peel, exfoliant or retinoid.
• Wear the right mask. To reduce skin problems, look for masks that offer: a snug, but comfortable fit; soft, natural and breathable fabric, such as cotton; fabric on the inside that feels soft if you have sensitive skin; cotton material inside if you have acne or oily skin. Wearing a mask that offers a snug but comfortable fit helps to protect you and others from the coronavirus. You want a snug fit across your nose, on the sides, and under your chin. A snug, comfortable fit also reduces skin problems. If the mask feels too tight or slides around on your face, it can irritate your skin. You’re also more likely to adjust a poorly fitting mask. When you touch your mask, you can transfer germs to your mask and your face. The fabric is also important. Avoid synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester and rayon. These are more likely to irritate your skin and cause breakouts.
• Take a 15-minute mask break every four hours. Health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic have found that this helps save their skin. Of course, only remove your mask when it’s safe to do so and after washing your hands. Safe places to remove your mask include: Outdoors, when you can stay at least six feet away from people; inside your car when you’re alone; and at home.
• Wash your cloth masks after each use. Washing it also removes oils and skin cells that collect inside the mask, which could lead to a skin problem. You can wash a cloth mask in a washing machine or by hand. Both ways remove germs and other particles. Just be sure to: Follow the washing instructions on each mask; wash the masks in hot water unless the instructions say otherwise; use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent. After washing your mask, check its shape. If a mask no longer fits snugly (and comfortably), it is less protective.
• If you are under the care of a dermatologist, continue to follow your doctor’s instructions for face care. “The American Academy of Dermatology supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to wear a cloth face covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. A growing body of evidence has shown that masks play a vital role in reducing the spread of COVID-19. The AAD encourages people to wear face masks in public, practice social distancing and frequently wash your hands to help protect yourself, your family and your community,” stated AAD President Dr. Bruce H. Thiers.