How to protect your skin while wearing a mask
The Government has announced that we should all be wearing masks in enclosed public spaces.
That sounds eminently reasonable, given how far saliva droplets can spread simply through talking. But in the course of being a responsible citizen, you may find that your skin suffers.
We’ve all seen those pictures on social media shared by healthcare professionals after taking off personal protective equipment (PPE), only to reveal red, bruised, angry skin.
A lightweight face mask is obviously not as cumbersome as a full-on as the plastic shields many are having to don in the NHS and in care homes, but wearing one for long periods of time can still cause skin damage.
Mercifully, there are lots you can do to keep skin healthy while you protect yourself and others.
Create a barrier
Apply a protective barrier cream to go between your skin and the mask. It’ll help to reduce irritation and sores caused by continually applied pressure.
GP and aesthetic doctor, Dr Raj Arora recommends something like Cavilon Barrier Film – an alcohol-free, hypoallergenic topical cream.
Be kind to your skin
Leave out any ultra-aggressive skincare ingredients like retinol or exfoliating acids from your regime at the moment. These can leave the skin even more prone to breaking down under continued pressure.
Use the classics
That old tub of Vaseline is about to come in handy. Protective paraffin-based ointments can help to protect sore areas of skin.
Dr Arora says it’s important to drink at least two litres of fluid is crucial to ensuring the skin’s barrier is healthy and able to protect against bacteria and irritants.
As well as hydrating from within, she also says that using something like Foreo’s UFO 2 and Farm to Face masking collection can help calm and hydrate skin.
Consistency is key
If you’ve got sensitive skin, you really want to be following a regular skin routine, Dr Arora says.
‘After removing the mask, gently wash the face with a calming cleanser such as Sensicalm from Alumier. Moisturise using a ceramide based moisturiser. Follow up with any barrier creams/ointments to any particularly sensitive or sore areas.’
You’ve got to keep skin scrupulously cleansed and hydrated and that may mean applying moisturiser and serum more than once or twice a day.
Load up on vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for collagen production. Collagen encourages the renewal of cells and can help repair wounds on the skin – so if you’re finding that you’ve got bruises or scrapes from your mask, make sure you’re eating your five portions of fruit and veg.
You could also give a vitamin C-rich serum a go. Why not check out Glossier’s The Super Duo (£38) – two action-packed serums designed to hydrate and brighten skin with hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, vitamin C and magnesium?
And slather on the vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can help to nourish skin and protect against free radical damage (which is responsible for wrinkles and aging). You can eat your share by having a handful of almonds a day.
But applying vitamin E-rich creams and oils can also soothe angry skin.
Try facetheory’s Organic Jojoba Oil (£11.99) or Charlotte’s Magic Cream (£75) from Charlotte Tilbury.
On those areas that are particularly prone to getting sore, it might be worth sticking a thin piece of sterile gauze. That provides an additional barrier in sensitive areas like the bridge of the nose but you want to make sure that you’re using thin material so that there’s no gap between the skin and mask.
Dr Arora advises trying something such as Duoderm extra thin or soft silicone tape.
Beware of makeup
Lockdown will have provided many of us with a break from heavy makeup rituals but if you’re heading back out to work or just fancy a pick-me-up on your daily outings, you may want to return to your foundation, highlighter and bronzer.
But Dr Arora warns that wearing heavy makeup underneath masks can contribute to clogging pores.
‘Due to the humidity under the mask, there will be excess sebum production and multiplying skin bacteria which can result in acne. I would recommend staying make-up free if possible.
‘If you feel the need to wear foundation/concealer then my recommendations for makeup would be to use a mineralised foundation/powder such as Bare Minerals Blemish Rescue powder. Mineralised makeup is oil-free and provides a gentle approach to the skin.’
Keep it clean
To prevent backouts from PPE, she says it’s essential to use a new ask where possible. But given that masks are non-recyclable, if you decide to make your own out of fabric, stick them in a 60’C wash to kill any nasties and spray plastic or fabric masks with an alcohol-based disinfectant in between wears.
After you’ve removed your mask, use a gentle toner to remove any extra residue and then Dr Arora recommends ‘using a ceramide based cream moisturiser to help prevent irritation and soothe acne-prone or sensitive skin’.
‘You could also use a blue light device in areas that are prone to breakouts to help reduce the acne-causing bacteria on the skin.’
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