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Maskne 101: Guide to Protective Face Mask Skin Care


Helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 doesn’t need to impact your skin. Help prevent ‘maskne’ & care for your skin while wearing face masks with our guide.

Maskne 101: Guide to Protective Face Mask Skin Care

Happy to help halt the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a protective face mask, but troubled by the potential impact on your skin? You’re not alone. Dermatologists across the world are seeing an increase in mask-related skin concerns ­– from ‘maskne’ to redness and general discomfort.

These unwanted side effects are not always inevitable, however, and there ARE some simple steps you can take to care for your skin while wearing a face mask. So, whether you’re suffering from acne or experiencing rashes or chafing, read on. Our skin-saving guide for face mask wear has you covered.

What are the Government Guidelines for Face Masks in Australia?

Government regulations regarding cloth face covers and face masks differ between countries and states. In Australia, the health department recommends masks be worn in areas community transmission is occurring, where physical distancing is difficult. In Victoria, from 22nd July at 11.59pm it’s mandatory to wear protective face masks when in public in metropolitan Melbourne or the Mitchell shire (with some exemptions).

While authorities in New South Wales also recommend mask wear when physical distancing is not possible, this is not yet mandated.

What Skin Problems Can Protective Face Masks Cause

If you’ve seen the photos of healthcare workers on social media, you’ll know both single use and reusable face masks can create a number of unpleasant skin issues – especially when worn for extended periods of time. Masks need to be snug and can therefore rub against the skin, creating friction and resulting in redness, chafing and discomfort.

Acne, increased sensitivity and general skin discomfort are other common side effects of mask wear. Even if a mask is single use, reusable, frequently washed, or a homemade DIY face covering that aligns with government recommendations, allergies can arise, resulting in redness and rashes.

Face Masks and Acne – Understanding Mask-Related Breakouts

As evidenced by the recent 20% increase in search traffic for acne advice, protective face masks can lead to breakouts – particularly for the oily and acne-prone. There are a number of factors that contribute to ‘maskne’, from the sweaty, humid environment masks can create (particularly in warmer climates), to the dirt, oils and bacteria present on unwashed reusable masks. Pimples can also emerge as a result of mechanical friction from the mask – this type of breakout is known as acne mechanica.

Skincare Tips for Maskne

To help prevent ‘maskne’, good hygiene is crucial. Always wash your face after removing your mask to rid your skin of accumulated oils, sweat and impurities. If acne is an ongoing concern, stick with your regular regime and use a cleanser and moisturiser for oily, acne-prone skin.

For additional pore-unclogging action, you may benefit from using a cleanser with salicylic acid a few times a week, or as part of your evening routine – as tolerated. It’s important to note, though, that while it can be tempting to approach mask-related acne aggressively, it’s best to take a cautious approach.

Treat your skin with care and use products designed for sensitive skin. Add new ingredients slowly, avoiding ingredients such as retinol and AHAs or BHA if your skin is already irritated. As always, avoid squeezing blemishes to prevent further infection and scarring.

And if your skin’s not oily but you’re suddenly finding yourself with pimples? La Roche Posay’s anti-acne moisturiser Effaclar Duo (+) can also be used as a spot treatment to help clear pores, reduce redness and resolve pimples, while helping prevent post-acne marks.

Face Masks and Irritation – Combating Face Mask Friction

Face mask irritation is a real concern, particularly for those frontline workers wearing PPE and other medical grade face masks, such as N95 or surgical face masks, for hours on end. Chafing, rashes and red marks are side effects often seen.

Skincare Tips for Face Mask Friction

If you want to reduce rubbing and chafing, moisturise before putting on your protective face mask. Keeping the skin well hydrated is essential for a normal skin barrier function. A well-functioning skin barrier helps keep moisture in and irritants out, and – alongside mask choice – is your best defence against mask-related skin flare-ups. Sticking with a strengthening yet minimalist formula, free from potential irritants such as fragrance and alcohol, is advised.

To address redness and discomfort caused by single or reusable face mask wear, look to a repair balm. Free from fragrance and lanolin, La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 provides fast-acting nourishing, soothing care for the whole family. Formulated with soothing Panthenol (Vitamin B5) and purifying Madecassoside, it enhances barrier protection with lipid-replenishing shea butter. Apply as needed.

Rashes and Face Mask Allergies – When to See a Dermatologist

One possible side effect of face coverings or mask wear is perioral dermatitis – a rash of small, red, sometimes itchy papules around the mouth. This can occur as a result of skin barrier dysfunction, combined with friction and moisture from wearing a mask.

Rashes can also indicate an allergy – to the mask fabric, chemicals used in its production, or your washing powder. It’s therefore best to consult a dermatologist if you develop a rash. They’ll be able to determine the cause and advise on the best treatment plan.

5 Tips When Using a Face Mask

1. Simplify your skincare routine
If you’re experiencing any irritation, it’s often best to go back to skincare basics. This means limiting or eliminating your use of any potentially sensitising ingredients, such as fragrances and essential oils. Harsh exfoliants and scrubs should also be avoided as your skin is already subject to increased friction from your face covering or mask. If using chemical exfoliants, you may wish to decrease usage frequency.

2. Skip the makeup
With much of your face covered, do you really need a full face of makeup? Makeup under a mask could clog pores and lead to breakouts, so limit your wear – especially if you’re experiencing more blemishes.

3. Wash your face (and mask) when you get home
Make mask off, face off your mantra. While disposable face masks should be discarded, reusable cloth masks should be washed after each wear. It’s a good idea to have a few masks on rotation to make sure you always have a clean, dry face mask available to wear.

As soon as you’ve removed your mask, cleanse your face. As aggressive or too-frequent cleansing can strip the skin of moisture and weaken its barrier, stick with a gentle, minimalist cleanser twice daily and use tepid water.

4. Keep your skin hydrated and protected Moisturise before putting on your mask to assist the natural skin barrier. After removing your mask and cleansing your skin, apply a hydrating cream (after your serum, if using), and give any red areas extra attention with a hydrating, repairing balm.

5. Don’t skip sunscreen!
Since your mask only covers part of your face, broad-spectrum sunscreen should remain an essential part of your daily skincare routine. Use a non-comedogenic, fragrance-free sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin, like the La Roche-Posay Anthelios range.

If mask wear is making you extra greasy, try a mattifying formula. Or consider something ultra-lightweight, such as Anthelios XL Ultra-Light SPF 50+.

ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE. Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, towelling and perspiring in accordance with directions.

Follow the link to learn more about the Victorian government’s mask regulations.

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