In 2020, staying safe while going out in public means wearing a face mask. The benefits of wearing a mask to protect against COVID-19 far outweigh any potential risks. However, many people find themselves breaking out on their noses and chins, or experiencing bothersome chafing when having to wear their masks for long periods of time.
The good news is that if you deeply cleanse your skin well before and after wearing a face mask, it can go a long way toward keeping your skin comfortable and blemish-free. Here are some steps you can take to care for your skin while your face mask protects against bacteria and prevents infection.
Why Your Face Mask Is Causing Irritation
If your mask is clean (and please be sure that it is – replace it or remove and wash it after each wearing), then you might think that it’s no problem to wear it against your facial skin for long periods of time. After all, you wear clothing against your skin all the time and rarely have an issue.
The skin on your face is more delicate, however, and more prone to breakouts than other parts of your body. Also, it is used to being out in the air, where sweat and natural skin oils can evaporate or dry. When you wear a mask, these normal substances tend to stay on the skin.
Mix that with your warm breath, and your skin becomes a haven for the (generally harmless) bacteria that live there all the time. This does not mean that you should avoid wearing masks, but it does mean that you might need to make a bit of an effort to keep your skin happy.
Pre-Face Mask Care
Before you don a mask, always wash your hands. This keeps bacteria off the mask as well as off your face. While at it, you should wash your face; you can use a foaming cleanse product or, if you have already washed your face with a cleansing product a few hours ago, just rinse with plain water and pat dry.
If you are just running into the grocery store and will be wearing the mask for a half hour or so, that is sufficient. Make sure your skin is clean and off you go! If you will be wearing your mask for many hours, however, you should remove your makeup from the nose down (we know, we know! But nobody is going to see that part of you, remember?).
Leaving makeup on under a mask that you will wear for an entire work shift will cause clogged pores and can lead to a rash or acne, so do yourself a favor and take off any foundation or powder that is on the skin that will be covered.
Do apply a light moisturizer. This will act as a barrier between your skin and the mask. Even if you are breaking out or prone to acne, you should find a water-based product that will help protect your skin. Even if you are not prone to breakouts, look for a product that is non-comedogenic, which means that it will not clog your pores.
Before you leave the house, grab an extra mask or two, too. This way, if you get your mask damp or it gets dirty, you will be able to change it rather than continuing to wear it for several more hours.
Intra-Face Mask Care
Keep your mask clean and dry. If you need to remove it, first wash your hands, then remove it by touching only the ear loops or straps. Do not touch the part that will touch your face or the part that sits facing the rest of the world.
Ideally, you will not be putting that mask back on (hence the suggestion to bring an extra mask!). If you do need to continue wearing it, however, put it somewhere where nothing will touch the part that touches your skin.
Also, be sure you do not reverse the mask after wearing it. If you put it on “inside out,” you will be putting the day’s germs right against your nose and mouth, completely defeating the purpose of wearing it in the first place.
Post-Face Mask Care
When you are done wearing your mask, remove it as described above, washing your hands before and after removal. If it is disposable, toss it directly in the trash. If not, put it in the laundry pile. Do not re-wear a mask if you can possibly avoid it.
Wash your face again with a gentle cleanse. Apply your moisturizer again. If you can go bare-faced without putting on makeup, do so; that will let your skin breathe. If you do need to put on makeup, try to give your skin some time, if possible.
Otherwise, apply foundation and powder lightly. If you have sensitive skin, you might already use a laundry detergent without dyes or fragrances. If not, it is a good idea to buy a bottle that you will use specifically for washing your face mask.
Put your masks through the regular laundry cycle and the dryer, but do not use fabric softener. Since it would take a lot of masks to make a full load of laundry, you will probably need to wash them with other items. Towels are a good choice because they also benefit from not using fabric softener.
Maintain a Daily Skincare Regimen
While these are uncertain times, one thing is for certain: You should be keeping up with your regular routines as much as possible. This means that you should get up and wash your face and apply moisturizer even if you are working from home and will not see anyone.
You should also keep any appointments with your dermatologist to the extent allowed and reasonable in your area. You might not be able to go to the spa now, but you can talk to your esthetician or dermatologist about at-home facial products that could help you deeply rejuvenate and cleanse your skin.
These uncertain times will not last forever. Continue to take care of your skin so it will be ready to make its appearance once the time for masks has passed!