You may have heard of — or may have had — “maskne,” an outbreak of facial acne that arises from prolonged mask-wearing. The moisture generated by your warm breath or sweat, combined with friction and pressure from the mask contacting your skin, creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria that naturally live on facial skin. Before you know it, your face has sprouted a little crop of pimples, zits, spots. Whatever you call them, they were the scourge of your adolescence, and now they’ve returned with a vengeance. Here are a few suggestions to help prevent a breakout and help clear up your skin if they do appear.
Wash your face — but not too often. Many dermatologists and cosmetologists recommend washing your face no more than twice a day, to keep the skin from drying out. Use a gentle, soap-free, nomcomedogenic cleanser morning and evening, with a good moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated and supple throughout the day. This article will help you find one that works for you. For a quick refresher between washings, just splash your face with cool water and pat dry without rubbing.
Use barrier materials under mask pressure points. Let’s face it, most masks weren’t intended to be used for more than a few hours at a time, and with the constant, shift-long pressure of the mask and ear loops, you’ve probably developed tender or abraded spots on your face and behind your ears. A good moisturizer will help reduce abrasion, and memory foam nose bridge pads will give the skin on your nose a welcome break. The flexible foam also creates a tight seal over your nose that prevents eyeglass-fogging. For other pressure points, try cutting pieces of sticky-back foam from the craft store to attach to your mask and behind your ears.
You can also find tons of clever “ear-saver” hacks on the internet. These no-sew ear savers from a Canadian nurse are both creative and practical. But if you are the craftsy type, you can turn a few fabric scraps and a couple of buttons into cute ear savers, as this nurse demonstrates. And if you’re on the job and your ears are screaming for relief, here are some quick tricks using paper clips and rubber bands nabbed from a nearby desk.
Nix the makeup under your mask. Face makeup like foundation not only stains the inside of your mask, it can clog your pores and lead to comedone formation. It’s also a good idea to avoid skin treatments containing salicylic acid or retinoids, as those preparations can be more irritating when worn all day under a mask. Besides, no one can see your makeup under the mask anyway!
Don’t pick the pimples! That may sound like the echo of your mother’s voice, and we all know not do to it, but sometimes it can be irresistible to squeeze the zit to hasten its departure. But modern science has given us “pimple patches,” which we wish we’d had in high school. You simply apply a patch to each blemish at bedtime, and voilà! next morning you peel off the patch and the pimple fluid along with it.
And if you wear ordinary cloth masks when off duty, be sure to wash them in a nonirritating detergent and rinse thoroughly to avoid leaving soap residue that can irritate your skin.
Hopefully, constant mask-wearing and its attendant discomforts will soon be a distant memory. But until then, be kind to your skin. It will love you for it.