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Amanda Robalin - Physician's Assistant

In a pre-COVID world, few people could have imagined that the global population would become daily long-term mask wearers. Over a year into this pandemic, face masks have become a large part of our everyday lives. For many, our newest accessory comes with a host of unpleasant side effects that can leave our skin in a less-than-ideal state. Whether this manifests as an acne breakout, irritated rash or chafing behind the ears, a few easy changes can make all the difference in keeping your lower face happy and bright.

Consider Fabric and Fit:

While N-95 masks are crucial for front-line healthcare workers, they tend to put pressure on our skin that can lead to frustrating rashes and damage. Cotton masks are softer on the skin than standard surgical masks and tend to result in less irritation. If you’re super sensitive, silk masks are another excellent option. Your mask should be somewhat snug, though not so tight as to leave a deep imprint on your face after an hour or so. Look for adjustable ear loops that allow for loosening or tightening as needed to avoid uncomfortable friction behind your ears, and aim for a secure (no-slip!) fit at the bridge of your nose as well as underneath your chin.

Clean Your Mask Frequently:

Cloth masks naturally collect dirt, oil, dead skin cells and bacteria from our skin each time we wear them. If they aren’t cleaned regularly, that piece of fabric is likely to contribute to acne breakouts, which can be more difficult to clear with constant occlusion and moisture under your mask. When using a cloth mask, aim to wash it with gentle, hypoallergenic detergent after each use. If budget allows, keep a few masks in rotation so you’re never left in a pinch.

Adjust Your Skincare Routine Depending On Your Skin’s Needs:

Many skin care products that are super beneficial under normal circumstances can seriously aggravate an already compromised skin barrier. Retinoids and exfoliants(both chemical acids and physical scrubs) can easily worsen skin in a vulnerable state. While we’re masked up, consider pulling back on the frequency of use of these products, or avoiding them altogether if your skin is irritated.

Stick With Eye Makeup:

The lower half of your face isn‘t in the limelight these days, so why not let it breathe a bit? Wearing makeup under a mask is an invitation for clogged pores and breakouts thanks to the warm, moist environment your breath and the cloth create. Swipe some mascara on and call it a day. Your skin will thank you.

Moisturize Like Your Face Depends On It:

One of the most important aspects of keeping skin happy and healthy under a mask is frequent moisturizing. Hydration is key for keeping your face balanced and calm and is the best defense against irritation and chafing. Look for moisturizers that contain ceramides, glycerin and/or dimethicone to prevent excessive dryness. If an angry patch of skin does arise, treat it gently with Vaseline or Aquaphor healing ointment twice daily until healed.




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