As you are heading out for the day, you realize that you forgot your mask in your apartment. You head back into your place, by opening the door with your dirty keys, find your mask, look down at the mask, and realize that it was sitting on your dirty countertop with makeup and germs where you cover your mouth. You take it anyways and go about your day. You go to the store, buy a few items, pick up those dirty items, get thirsty, take your dirty hands that were just touching those dirty items and pull down your mask to take a sip of water. Put your mask back on and go to the register. You pay for your items, touching your dirty cash or dirty credit card and then leave. You get in your car, put your mask down on the dirty passenger seat, where someone else was just sitting in a few days ago, put some hand sanitizer on, and drive to your destination. Finally, you can breathe without your mask! You put down your windows and take in that fresh air.
While the day is almost over, you pull in to your garage, get out of the car, take your dirty mask, put it back on while you go up to your apartment, push some dirty buttons for the dirty elevator, and make it back to your place. Wow what a tiring day! You take your dirty mask off, put your dirty keys and dirty purse on the countertop, wash your hands, and you are ready for dinner.
That mask has been through a lot in one day. But do you realize how many places and things it has touched? Regardless of your hand washing and using hand sanitizer, the mask you put over your mouth to protect you from COVID and other viruses is collecting a lot of germs throughout the day.
Mask Acne (aka Maskne)
Just in case you need something else to worry about, mask-related acne (aka maskne) is starting to literally “break out” on everyone else’s face around the world. Those little red bumps that you may be getting around you face can be a direct cause of your mask. It doesn’t matter if you are usually oily, dry, or have near perfect skin, your face is being irritated by your mask as we try to prevent COVID. While you try to prevent tiny droplets and saliva from getting close to your nose and mouth, the air from you breathing is being trapped causing a humid environment inside your mask with moisture and bacteria thriving.
Now this doesn’t mean that you should stop wearing a mask. Everyone should be wearing masks to help themselves AND help others around them. Just like regular acne, there are multiple reasons why this can happen and it would best to try and figure out the root cause. Some things that can directly affect your face is not washing your mask enough, washing with hard chemicals (detergent), the material your mask is made of, the makeup and dirt on your face rubbing on your mask, and how frequently you have to wear it. A good suggestion is to use gentle, fragrance free detergent. If you are prone to getting stress-related acne, it’s not a surprise that a pandemic could be causing your acne. The best thing to do is to find ways to relax. This includes self-care such as exercising, meditating, healthy eating, seeing less people, washing your hands, leaving places that make you uncomfortable, and anything else that will relieve your stress.
Face Mask Cleanliness
The best way to take care of your mask is to use 100% breathable cotton masks that allow you to wash them after every use. Investing in multiple masks and switching them out frequently will allow you to save some time from constantly washing every day. Washing them in hot water and setting them aside in a dry area in your house (like a cabinet drawer) will help you not forget where your masks are. Make sure the mask is completely dry before using it. Use the highest heat setting on your dryer or lay flat to air dry. If possible, put it in direct sunlight to dry. Disposable masks are also the way to go but are not as environmentally friendly and can take a toll on your wallet. Changing the mask throughout the day is a good idea so it doesn’t allow the bacteria to fester and grow inside.
First off, we need to make sure our masks are not tighter than necessary. This can cause the mask to be abrasive to the skin. Irritation and inflammation can occur leading to flare up conditions such as acne, eczema, and rosacea. Ensure your mask is sitting smooth on your face and adjust it to relieve pressure.
If you typically wear makeup, avoid putting the makeup where your mask is. Avoid comedogenic products or your skin may become congested with blackheads. Ideally, keeping your face clean and moisturized is best. Normal cleansing and exfoliating is important to get rid of dirt and debris. Use a gentle facial cleanser with anti-inflammatory properties of hyaluronic acid. Most people think that drying out the acne on your face will get rid of the breakouts faster, but it can often lead to more breakouts since your face will produce more oil to moisturize the dry areas. Salicylic acid is great for oily prone skin to prevent more clogged pores and keep your sebum in check. Overall, washing your face before and after mask use will help most people and is key to prevention.