While many medical professionals already wear protective masks every day, wearing a face mask out in public has suddenly become a part of everyday life for all of us. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about some of the changes people are seeing in their skin as a result of wearing masks. The most common complaints I’m hearing about are increased breakouts around the areas of mask as well as sensitivity and irritation of the skin.
Face masks may be necessary for now, but blemishes and irritated skin aren’t.
Wearing a mask can lead to a type of acne called acne mechanica. The only difference between acne mechanica and regular acne is the cause; while regular breakouts tend to be hormonally-driven, acne mechanica is caused by friction (a physical disruption to the skin).
When something is constantly rubbing up against your skin, the combination of friction, heat, and pressure can be a trigger for breakouts. In addition to friction, a mask that covers your mouth can cause breakouts because of the moist environment it creates. Your breath traps moisture and heat, which stimulates oil flow. This combo of oil, heat, and moisture is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Another reason protective face masks can cause breakouts is the pressure they exert on your pores.
You may notice that, after removing a mask, you have indents in your skin from where it was pressing up against your face. These indents could actually be changing the shape of your pores, causing a buildup of oil. Wearing a protective face mask creates a perfect environment for breakouts to thrive.
The friction responsible for acne mechanica is also the culprit behind most irritation caused by protective face masks. In fact, red, bumpy, rashy skin is a common precursor to acne mechanica.
All of these are also signs of inflammation, which can wake up your skin’s pigment cells and cause lingering pigmentation long after the erythema (redness) has subsided. To avoid this, it’s best to address irritation right away.
So how can you keep your protective face mask from clogging your pores and causing irritation?
The goal should be to create a healthy environment in your skin where bacteria won’t thrive. This comes down to reducing oil production and using products with non-drying, antimicrobial properties.
Properly cleansing your face before bed is always important. When you’ve spent all day wearing a face covering that traps heat, sweat, oil, and bacteria, it’s especially necessary. It’s tough to properly clean your face throughout the day, so it’s important to use your nighttime routine as an opportunity to really reset your skin.
If you’re worried about acne as a result of wearing a face mask, the most important thing you can do is be diligent about your skincare routine. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to stay on top of the problem than it is to try to fix it once things have gotten out of hand.
Implement a good night routine!
Start by cleansing your skin with a Biotic Mangosteen cleanser which contains ingredients like salicylic acid that is antimicrobial. After cleansing, I recommend using an enzyme mask (Cranglow Milkzyme) twice a week and daily use of Glylac exfoliating pads (you can choose to use it all over, or just in the area of the mask).
Salicylic acid is unique in that it has the ability to cut through oil and really get into your pore lining. Remember that face masks trap oil in your pores by exerting pressure on them and creating indentations in the skin (which can change the shape of pores). Lactic acid will be able to really get into your pores to clear out this build-up of oil so it doesn’t turn into a full-on breakout without causing any irritation.
I also suggest using the Epidermal repair serum every night. As you all probably know, that is my number one selling products because of its efficacy.
Epidermal repair serum has the ability to completely restore your skin complexion, while its calming and anti-inflammatory properties will heal your skin and prevent you from getting new breakouts. This serum is so amazing that you will see the difference on your skin within just days of using it.
Don’t forget about SPF.
Even if you work indoors, you should be wearing sunscreen 365 days a year to protect your skin from UV damage. Unfortunately, sunscreens are notorious for causing problems when it comes to acne and clogged pores. If you’re already struggling to keep your skin clear while wearing a protective face mask, you may want to opt for a mineral sunscreen powder instead of a traditional lotion- or cream-based sunscreen.
Mineral powders are easy to touch up during the day, especially if you’re wiping the skin down with an antibacterial toner. They also sit on top of the skin instead of settling into pores, which is why they’re far less likely to cause blemishes. An added bonus? Powders will absorb excess oil sitting on the skin.
Wear a clean mask every day.
If you’re wearing a bandana, scarf, or reusable cloth mask when you go out, be sure to wash it regularly. Not only is this the best practice for good hygiene, but it will also prevent oil and dirt from being reintroduced onto the skin.
When the skin is irritated and sensitive, the last thing you want to do is aggravate it even more. Be cautious when it comes to using exfoliating acids. The purpose of these is to slough dead cells off the surface of your skin, which a face mask is already doing by manually rubbing back and forth. Adding in even more exfoliation could be too much. Listen to your skin and pull back if it seems like too much.
Don’t over exfoliate.
I also recommend staying away from face scrubs and sonic cleansing brushes when your skin is irritated. Physical exfoliation is already harder on the skin than chemical exfoliation, and in this case, adding even more friction into the equation by scrubbing your face certainly won’t do you any favors.
To focus on rebuilding and protecting your skin’s protective moisture barrier, use a healing moisturizer with reparative ingredients. Manuka Infused Lipid creme and Stem Cell Infusion serum can help you rebuild and heal the skin.
Avoid any moisturizers with high percentages of essential oils or any kind of synthetic fragrance. Both of these are notorious for irritating the skin and can break your moisture barrier down over time.
Whether you wear a mask on the job or just started wearing one in public to help do your part, I hope you find these tips helpful! Stay safe and always love your skin.