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How can wearing a face mask to combat COVID-19 cause bad skin?

Face masks are now mandatory when going into public spaces across the UK.

The case for wearing them to combat COVID-19 is simple: I wear one to protect you, and you wear one to protect me.

The scientific evidence gathered since the start of the global pandemic supports using masks.

Recent studies suggest they could save lives by cutting down the chances of both transmitting and catching coronavirus. There are also some studies which suggest masks may reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection if people contract the disease by reducing the viral load to which they are exposed.

For those good reasons, people are now wearing face masks almost every day.

However, there can be a few issues. Steaming up glasses and being unable to see well is one. The development of skin problems from wearing them is another.

‘Mask acne’ sees the breaking out of pimples and spots in areas where there has been direct contact between the mask and the skin or areas which have been protected by it.

It looks different to regular acne because instead of sore red spots, there are whiteheads.

Why does ‘mask acne’ occur?

Our skin can suffer micro-tears because of the way the mask material rubs against it constantly.

Then, bacteria, oil, and dirt can get under the skin’s surface and clog up the pores.

The masks to combat COVID-19 also limit air flow which would normally take away dead skin cells from the top of the skin.

Instead, these cells sit on the surface because they have nowhere to go.

Masks also trap moisture which encourages the growth of whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.

What can you do to avoid this?

  • Wash your cloth mask after every use to prevent bacteria building up.
  • Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser or soap to get rid of dead skin and bacteria.
  • Line your mask with a soft material like cotton or silk.
  • Get the right mask size – not too tight and not too loose. It must cover your nose and mouth.
  • Avoid heavy make-up and pore-blocking moisturisers.

What if you already suffer from real acne, eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea?

Acne is caused by skin glands producing too much sebum, or oil. That clogs pores and leads to painful pustules and red bumps under the skin.

Most will purchase over the counter topical skin creams which can kill the bacteria that cause the pustules or prescription-strength creams and tablets from doctors. If acne scars and leaves uneven skin, there are treatments which can improve that including dermal fillers which stimulate the production of collagen.

If you have acne, it’s vital that your mask is kept clean, you don’t block the pores of skin under it with heavy make-up and avoid scrubbing your face too hard when you wash it.

Eczema is made worse by heat, so find a mask which allows the skin to breathe and try one which sits slightly away from the skin to cut down on rubbing. Antihistamines can also help with the symptoms.

For psoriasis and rosacea, protect your skin from the mask during the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent it drying out by using a fragrance-free moisturiser. Cut down on spicy foods and alcohol and manage stress which can also be a major trigger for break outs.

The best advice is to find the right skin care line for you and it will be likely you would need a product line that is  bit stronger than one you can purchase over the counter. These are called “cosmeceuticals”

What are cosmeceuticals?

Cosmeceuticals are products that have both cosmetic and therapeutic (medical or drug-like) effects, and are intended to have a beneficial effect on skin health and beauty. Like cosmetics, they are applied topically as creams or lotions but contain active ingredients that have an effect on skin cell function.












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