Keep your skin healthy under your face mask

Face mask

I had a long conversation with a nursing friend the other day where we talked about how she was coping with wearing a face mask for long periods and the effect it had on her skin.

While wearing a mask is essential to protect ourselves and others it has negative impacts on our skin. And that is whether you’re in a workplace and wearing one all day or if you’re wearing one for short periods on the bus or at the shops.

Wearing a face mask creates conditions that are hot, sweaty and humid and can also cause increased friction between the mask and your face. As a result your skin can become increasingly dry, and you can have flare-ups of dermatitis and acne.

Now is the time to really be focused on maintaining a strong skin barrier. That means you need clean and hydrated skin.

You need to remember to keep drinking and eating as well … but maybe not this (or maybe, it could be fun!):

Clean

I did a video last week on face cleansing and what I said there remains the same. Clean your face every day with a gentle cleanser that removes all the dirt, make-up, sunblock and impurities from the day.

If you’ve been wearing a face mask during the day or even if not, it’s a great idea to clean your face and start your skincare routine as early as possible. This gives your skin a better chance to absorb whatever cream or oil you put on before you go to bed. It also decreases any problems with product rubbing off on the pillow. And, let’s face it, if we leave it to the last minute it can be forgotten, rushed and maybe not as enjoyable.

After wearing a mask, you might think “argh, my face is dirty I need to really scrub it”. But please do not over-do it. Use a gentle cleanser, avoid soap and go easy with exfoliation. Over-scrubbing can actually worsen any dryness and irritation. So keep exfoliation to once or twice a week and use a gentle exfoliator.

Hydrate

Once your face is clean, moisturise with a good face cream or face oil or both, morning and night.

I’ve previously outlined all the reasons to keep your face hydrated for good skin health. And wearing a mask is going to dehydrate your face faster than normal. A good moisturiser or face oil keeps the skin barrier intact and decreases water loss, so making it more resistant to micro-abrasions and scrapes from wearing a mask.

Protect

If you have to wear a face mask and it is causing irritation then a good barrier cream or balm may be helpful.

This will protect your skin further, especially around your nose, cheeks and chin.

And now is the time to try going make-up free. After all, no-one can see your face anyway and the mask makes such a mess of lipstick :).

If you have to wear it then use something light. Make-up combined with the damp environment under your face mask can clog your pores.

My nursing friend who works in a hospital has to wear an N95 mask and PPE. But for the rest of us it’s different. From the research I have done, and from what Ashley Bloomfield tells us, a mask made from natural fibres works well. A cotton mask allows you to breathe as easily as possible and is also washable.

Clean again

Just as you need to clean your skin after wearing a mask, you also need to clean the mask. This is to get rid of bacteria, oil build-up and make-up residue. It pays to have at least two masks (the Ministry of Health recommends four) so you always have a clean one at hand.

In summary, the advice is clean your face when you get in home but don’t overdo it. Moisturise morning and night. Use a balm or barrier cream for added protection. Keep your mask clean. And look after your self and everyone else

Thanks to Claire McCracken for modelling the Citizen Women face mask in the main image.