Caring For Your Skin While Wearing Masks

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Sheralyn Tay
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Caring For Your Skin While Wearing Masks

Unlike the facial masks that moisturise and beautify our skin, masks – an essential norm in today’s pandemic-afflicted world – can result in the opposite and cause skin complaints of all sorts. Dr Isabelle Yeoh from IYAC Aesthetic Clinic shares how to care for skin while also keeping safe.

The protective, water-resistant cover that masks provide are important to keep pathogens at bay.

These typically come in two types. Reusable masks made of natural fabrics such as cotton and disposable surgical masks made of synthetic fabrics. The latter are more prone to irritate the skin.

“Cotton masks are the preferred option for acne-prone and sensitive skin, as the fabric is more absorbent – they absorb sweat and moisture leading to less breakouts - and has a softer texture that is less irritating on the skin,” Dr Yeoh explains.

However, regardless of type the warm, moist microclimate under masks can increase the risk of acne and skin irritation. “This is because of build-up of oil, sweat, dirt, makeup and exhaled air trapped under the mask. This makes a conducive environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive,” says Dr Yeoh.

Added to this, prolonged contact of the mask fabric against the skin can thin or break the skin, leading to friction and irritation. This damage can cause redness, sensitivities, irritations, abrasions and even ‘friction acne’ (known as acne mechanica). Those with dry and/or sensitive skin or wear N95 masks for long periods are most at risk.

Extra TLC

Seeing as mask wearing will be the norm for some time to come, it is important to take extra steps to care of your skin. One way is to reduce contributing factors such as occlusion (build up on the skin), heat, friction and pressure – as much as possible.

Dr Yeoh suggests lining your mask with facial tissue. “Fold it into half and place this between your skin and the mask. Choose the softest facial tissue you can find. This acts as a protective barrier to prevent friction rubs on your skin, and keeps your mask dry for a longer time. You can change this tissue lining as many times during the day as required.”

Daily cleansing and care are also important, Dr Yeoh emphasises. Always cleanse skin thoroughly and gently after wearing a mask. Use a cleanser appropriate for your skin type, mild for dry and sensitive skin, and one with salicylic acid for acne-prone skin. And regardless of your skin type, moisturise. “Use hyaluronic acid if you have dry and sensitive skin. And add a face oil containing oils such as jojoba and squalene to soothe abrasions and rashes,” she advises, “For breakout prone skin, opt for a serum instead. Finish with an overnight hydrating gel mask to heal skin quickly overnight, as well as keep your complexion youthful and supple.”

Your morning routine should prime your skin for the day and prepare it for mask-wearing. Follow cleansing with essence, serum and/or moisturizer. Even oily skin needs some lightweight serum, gel or lotion as this helps acne lesions to heal faster. Importantly, moisturiser helps to repair and protect the skin barrier. Don’t forget to care for your lips – use balm to protect the delicate skin.

And if abrasions or friction burns occur, Dr Yeoh recommends keeping hydrocortisone 1% cream and vaseline on standby and to use these twice daily on affected areas. “Alternatively, for long-term use, opt for a steroid-free cream containing natural soothing agents.” Ask your doctor to recommend what’s best for your skin type – via a virtual consultation where feasible – adds Dr Yeoh, who offers the latter.

Mask, use with care

And just as you keep your face clean, is keeping your reusable mask clean as well. “Be sure to wash your mask regularly - wash it with hot water and soap, and dry it under the sun,” Dr Yeoh reminds. Avoid using strong, fragranced detergents of softeners as the chemicals can irritate the skin. Keep two to three reusable masks on hand and rotate them so you always have a clean, fresh one on standby.

The most important thing that “once you put on your mask, do not keep touching your mask. This is not only irritating to the skin, it transmits viruses,” Dr Yeoh shares. Always clean your hands, before and after putting on and taking off your mask by the loops. This way, your mask will continue to do its work of keeping you safe from infection.
Once you put on your mask, do not keep touching your mask. This is not only irritating to the skin, it transmits viruses
Dr Isabelle Yeoh
Dr Yeoh IYAC Clinic 4 2
Dr Isabelle Yeoh

Virtual consultations are available at IYAC. Call 6738 9989.

The information provided in this article is meant purely for general information purposes only and may not be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please seek the advice of your doctor or qualified healthcare provider. The views, information or opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the writer and the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect those of, and are not endorsed by, Camden Medical Centre.