Skin Care for Daily Mask Wear
The world has changed, and so has our relationship to it. Nowadays, wearing a mask in public spaces is a common part of life for many people, even more so for the medical and essential workers among us who have to engage with many people all day long. For more and more people, wearing a mask for a prolonged period of time is becoming a necessity, even a job requirement.
No matter the mask quality or type, even the medical respirators were not constructed for such prolonged use. Anywhere the mask touches your skin can fall prey to friction and disrupt the skin’s natural barriers, leading to irritation and inflammation. Additionally, any oils, dirt, and sweat on your skin when you put on a mask then remain there all day, in an extremely moist and warm environment, resting on your face. This can lead to massive flare-ups of acne, rosacea, eczema, even hyperpigmentation.
In this article:
- Wash Thoughtfully Before & After Wearing
- Hydrate As Much As Possible
- Apply Light Sunscreen
- Continue Skin Maintenance Routines
- Avoid Makeup Under the Mask
- Fix Foggy Glasses with Micropore Tape
- Behind-the-Ear Woes?
- Always Lotion Post-Wear
Wash Thoughtfully Before & After Wearing
Of course, your mask should ideally be fresh and new, if not at least sanitized prior to wearing it. Some masks are reusable, and the CDC has a simple set of guidelines to follow for those who are washing and re-utilizing masks at home. Disposable masks should not be reused if at all possible, and if they must be, know that the efficacy of disposable masks decreases sharply with each wear, eventually becoming futile.
Along with your mask, it is important to clean not just your hands but your face prior to actual wearing. Utilize a gentle soap or cleanser to ensure no dirt is trapped against your poor pores all day long, and pat dry with a clean towel. Try to select a moisturizing soap if you have one available, as harsher detergent-like or hand soaps can actually dry your skin out and leave it even more prone to additional damage.
Hydrate As Much As Possible
When you drink a glass of water, you are hydrating your entire body, including your skin. While you may have to wear a mask for long periods of time, if there is any point throughout your day when you can readily gulp down a few swigs of water, do it! Water is better than sports drinks, better than coffee, better than any other liquid at nourishing and hydrating every organ that’s part of our bodies, including your skin.
Not only will it help your skin keep its natural defenses up, drinking a satisfactory amount of water can help your body stay healthier overall. There’s no reason not to squeeze in an extra glass of water where you can during the day.
Apply Light Sunscreen
If you put nothing else on your face prior after washing, at least start with a small dollop of sunscreen. Opt for a light formula that’s mineral-based, to get at least a little sun and skin protection. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are excellent ingredients to look for as well, as they reinforce the skin’s natural defenses and help maintain the skin barrier.
Be careful to only apply a thin coat, and don’t use any product that is too heavy or oily. This will just create more trouble by smothering your skin all day under your mask and potentially trigger an outbreak, particularly if your skin is already prone to acne or similar issues. Still, a small layer of sunscreen is the bare minimum recommendation to lubricate the delicate facial skin and moisturize beneath a mask.
Continue Skin Maintenance Routines
If you already have a skincare routine that you swear by, good for you! You’re right on track to taking the best care possible of your skin. However, with the addition of masks into our daily lives, it may require a few extra steps or alterations to your normal morning preparations. This is especially true if your skin is on one extreme or the other of the dry-to-oily scale.
The basic skin routine we recommend starts with a gentle cleanser and warm water, followed by a light sunscreen, a hydrating moisturizer, then serum for any trouble spots you’re looking to improve. If this is your every day, this is safe to maintain while wearing a mask daily. High-impact areas like the cheeks and nose can be particularly prone to irritation, so consider applying additional moisture in those areas.
If you do develop redness or irritation along areas where your mask touches your skin, be certain to wash and treat those areas immediately once you remove your mask. Apply a layer of ointment to promote the dermis healing as rapidly as possible, and if possible, choose one with antioxidants.
Avoid Makeup Under the Mask
Tempting as it might be to continue your normal skin routine as it pertains to daily makeup, it would be in your skin’s best interest to go without. No matter how lightweight, any makeup you wear under a mask will be trapped closely against your skin in a potentially moist environment with little to no circulation. Additionally, any makeup that might brush against your mask could compromise its integrity, fit, or function. Stay on top of cleansers and hydration, but steer clear of cosmetics.
Fix Foggy Glasses with Micropore Tape
One common woe of daily mask-wearers comes from those of us who have to pair our masks with eyeglasses. When securing the mask over the nose, it must also be tucked under glasses in order to ensure a secure fit. However, the warmth of your trapped breath can then sometimes escape upwards. In just a few moments, it’s clear to see- or rather, not see- that your vision is largely obscured.
The easiest way to deal with this issue is to buy a small roll of micropore surgical tape and apply a strip on either side to secure the mask against your skin. We recommend micropore paper tape specifically as it is the least likely to irritate your skin further or harm your pores. It is readily available at most big box stores and can be ordered online and delivered via contactless methods.
Many new mask-wearers are discovering ear-irritation is a very common symptom of long-term mask use. No matter the style or material, if the mask is secured behind the ears, the delicate skin there is not used to such friction. Additional moisturizer behind the ears has proven helpful to some, though can be messy for those with long hair. Nurses and medical staff have been on top of switching up hairstyles to best suit securing masks to themselves, but many say while a bun or high pony can alleviate a little, it definitely doesn’t solve the discomfort.
DIY-ers have taken to designing new types of masks that offer complete facial protection while tying behind the head instead of behind the ears. It is a slightly more cumbersome, labor-intensive method to mask-wearing.
A simpler option if you are in pain from irritation and inflammation behind your ears is ear protectors, which work like a bra-extender does for bras that are too tight.
For children, kid-sized masks are the way to go.
Always Lotion Post-Wear
Whether you don your mask for an 8-hour shift or a 16 hour double as some nurses and doctors are currently, it is imperative that you treat yourself and your mask properly when it comes time to remove it. Remove your mask by the sides and straps, avoiding touching the front as much as possible.
If you are using a cloth mask, be certain to launder it per the CDC’s regulations. Improper handling or laundering of your mask could transfer germs or render the mask ineffective for further use. Even when simply disposing of single-use masks, be certain to thoroughly wash your hands before and after.
If you are in need of KN95 masks – the highest quality, medically recommended personal protective respiratory masks – we recommend these, from Vital Depot.
Finally, our skin solution when it comes to giving your more sensitive spots an additional protective boost is Aquallure Antioxidant Rescue Cream. We dive deep into the virtues of this cream in our in-depth review, giving you all the details on how this advanced peptide formula not only protects but also helps to heal and restore your skin. It’s dermatologist tested, and one of the top-ranked by our editors, for very good reason.