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The importance of wearing face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon, but deciding what type of mask, and whether or not you double-mask, aren’t the only questions to consider. How you care for your skin, and the type of material touching your face, can be the difference between a healthy complexion and redness, irritation, dryness, acne, and even contact dermatitis, says board-certified dermatologist Elyse Love, MD.
“When we’re breathing normally, usually that breath goes out into the air, but what happens is it actually just sits on the surface of the skin,” the New York City-based derm explains. “It then becomes a moist environment which allows bacteria to overgrow and leads to clogged pores, similar to what happens with sweat.” Those clogged pores can show up in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, and cystic breakouts, Dr. Love says, and they primarily pop up on the bottom half of your face. Nicknamed ‘maskne’, it’s not to be confused with red, painful breakouts caused by hormonal acne on the jawline, Dr. Love points out, but the tips below might still be helpful.
What’s more, some other skin conditions can be exacerbated because of face masks, like dryness (especially in colder areas), rosacea, and eczema. “If the material that the mask is made out of is irritating can definitely trigger whatever your underlying condition is,” Dr. Love says.
We all know that wearing a mask is a non-negotiable around others right now, so we consulted Dr. Love on what products to use and what actions to take to help prevent face masks from wreaking havoc on your skin.
Cleanse & Treat Pores Properly
If breakouts or clogged pores are your issue, Dr. Love recommends using a cleansing product with benzoyl peroxide in the morning which can be helpful due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. “The one that I like for maskne is the Cerave wash just because it also has ceramides and other ingredients that are soothing so that you won't overdry your skin,” she says.
Then, in the evening, Dr. Love advises using something that will exfoliate the skin, like a glycolic acid solution of some kind, gentle retinol (she likes the Obagi Clinical Retinol Cream), or an exfoliating wash. “Toners are especially great at night if you want to make sure you’ve gotten everything cleansed off of the skin,” she says. Her favorite is the VMV Hypoallergenics toner. “You also don’t want to overdo it at night because it’s really important to focus on nourishing the skin barrier,” she says.
Think about the fabric that's coming in contact with your skin, you don’t want anything rough or irritating...
Trade Oils For Nourishing Actives When Wearing A Mask
Dr. Love recommends only oil-free, non-comedogenic products—from moisturizer to makeup—as much as possible to avoid further clogging the pores under your mask. It’s simply too heavy when covering the delicate skin of the face. This applies to anyone experiencing dryness, irritation, or breakouts, but note that you still want to use hydrating products.
“The combination that I really like is Vichy Mineral 89, which is a hyaluronic acid but it also has anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients, and then combining that with LaRoche Posay Double Repair which is a super hydrating moisturizer that's oil-free and also has this prebiotic technology so it's looking at nourishing the skin barrier.” When it comes to keeping skin happy under a mask, less is more. Stick to using active ingredients at night rather than in the morning and, even then, avoid layering on too many to avoid skin irritation that might be exacerbated by a mask.
In short, skip oils and makeup and load up on lightweight hydraters, anti-inflammatory ingredients, and products with prebiotic and probiotic technology instead.
Switch Up Your Mask
Dr. Love suggests thinking of maskne as the same as workout-induced breakouts. “Obviously if you're wearing the same workout gear every single day and every time you workout, you're more likely to get a breakout than if you're wearing a new outfit or showering immediately after,” she says. The same thinking should apply to masks. “You want to make sure you're using a new, clean mask every time and washing your face immediately after wearing one,” she says. Wash your reusable mask with a fragrance-free and dye-free detergent every time, she adds, then allow it to fully dry before using.
For those suffering from irritation, eczema, or what could be contact dermatitis—which can include an itchy rash, dry or scaly skin, bumps, blisters, swelling, or burning—it could be your mask that’s causing the problem. Many components of face coverings can irritate the skin, it turns out. “Think about the fabric that's coming in contact with your skin, you don’t want anything rough or irritating or anything super warm,” Dr. Love adds. She prefers disposable masks or reusable ones in fabrics like lightweight cotton or silk. (Our team loves the StyleGuise Silk Mask pictured above.) If you’re suffering from contact dermatitis, a natural-fiber mask such as cotton is also recommended. This is also where layering can come in handy to protect the skin, just make sure you’re following the CDC’s guidelines.
Feature image courtesy of @thestyleguise.