Due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, face masks became mandatory when stepping outside home. However, due to the use of face masks, many have reported various skin issues according to Dr.Nayani Madarasinga, Consultant Dermatologist. Skin issues like acne, skin dryness and irritation, contact dermatitis, contact urticaria, scaling and aggravation of persisting skin conditions have been reported.
Reasons for skin issues to occur
Dr.Madarasinghe stated that the main reasons for the skin problems to occur is due to the friction, occlusion and pressure that occurs when putting on a face mask for a prolonged period, but she said that for various conditions there were different causative factors.
Acne- Friction can cause acne mechanica (acne caused by friction) to occur. Acne due to friction is mostly seen on the nasal bridge, cheeks and chin area. Reduced air flow to the face and the circulation of exhaled air results in a warm and moist environment which is favourable for bacterial growth, and can also cause sebum (natural skin oils) to be trapped and clog pores increasing inflammation and bacterial growth. The acne that occurs due to face masks is now popularly known as ‘maskne’, which is not a medical term.
Skin dryness and irritation- Due to the fabric of the mask absorbing natural lipids on the skin surface, it can cause the skin to dry out. As a result of this, irritation can occur.
Contact dermatitis- Some people can develop allergies due to the fabric or dyes, resulting in scaling, redness, itchiness in the area covered by the face mask.
Contact urticaria- Hives break out in the area covered by face mask due to pressure effect.
Redness of the face can occur due to the pressure of the face mask on the skin, for a prolonged duration.
Dr.Madarasinga stated that the normal skin care routine has to be followed, but advised against using harsh skin products which also included anti-ageing creams and acne medication. “These products can be used during bed time or when you won’t be wearing a mask,” she said. She also advised that prior to wearing the mask, one should use a gentle cleanser to clean the face. “Avoid vigorous scrubbing as it can dry and damage the skin. Also use a moisturizer that is oil-free and fragrant-free to prevent friction from the mask and to prevent skin drying out. Then put on the mask,” she added.
She stated that it was best to also avoid using make up products on the skin as they could clog up the pores due to occlusion that occurs due to wearing the face mask for a prolonged period of time.
“It is also best to wear 100% cotton facemasks if one is using a fabric, reusable face mask and the face mask has to be washed thoroughly with a fragrant free detergent frequently.” advised Dr.Madarasinga.
If the skin condition persists, it is best to consult a dermatologist and obtain treatment, stated Dr.Madarasinga. She cautioned the public to follow proper hygiene when putting on and removing the face masks to prevent the spread of infection and to prevent the skin being subjected to more microbes.