Prevent facial irritation from face masks such as N95 and others during the COVID-19 pandemic with a dermatologist's advice. I know that wearing a face mask for hours at a time is very taunting to your skin. Health care workers are starting to experience the irritation that happens when you wear a mask all day. I just read a question about it from an ER doc in an online magazine. I wondered when this was going to become a common problem. Looks like it now is.
I have worn surgical masks for 8 hours a day for well over 30 years in my dermatology practice and I know how to treat and prevent the facial skin irritation that results.
My career has led me to spend hours at close range in people’s faces. Years ago, I kept getting the cold and flu. Once I started wearing a face mask all day, I stopped getting sick - but my sensitive skin complained. Wearing a mask for hours at a time forced me to give myself my own professional attention. I’m going to tell you what I learned about how to keep my skin free from redness and irritation while wearing a face mask for many hours. The solution was simple. - Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
Dermatologist's Advice for Preventing Facial Irritation from Wearing a Face Mask During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
There are 2 taunting skin issues with wearing a face mask for extended periods of time:
- The skin under the mask gets very humid, inviting the growth of skin organisms that otherwise are asymptomatic such as Pityrosporum yeast which plays a role in seborrheic dermatitis, 'fungal' acne and rosacea. These skin problems look like skin irritation but the solution is a little more precise.
- The mask material can be irritating causing a simple irritation or an irritant dermatitis.
Here is an image of me wearing the reusable double layer cloth face mask so you can see how nicely it fits my face and under my chin:
How do you fix facial redness from seborrhea or rosacea that is triggered by wearing a face mask?If the irritation is from a flare of seborrheic dermatitis, 'fungal acne' and/or rosacea use remedies for these skin problems. My Facial Flaking and Redness Kit has the three key products that can be added to your skin care routine and that will help fight Pityrosporum yeast and heal skin inflammation. It helps control facial seborrhea and rosacea triggered by wearing a face mask because:
- Calming Zinc Soap contains pyrithione zinc that helps to reduce Pityrosporum yeast.
- Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy Cream has high concentration pharmaceutical-grade green tea polyphenol antioxidants to help reload the skin's antioxidant reserve that's reduced by inflammation. It is a very soothing product for facial redness skin problems.
- Daily Moisturizing Face Cream helps heal irritated skin barrier.
- The latter two products also contain dimethicone to act as a protective skin barrier to irritation (see below).
How do you fix and prevent irritation from the face mask material?
Use barrier creams with silicone related ingredients. We use it in hand creams to help create a ‘gloves in a bottle’ effect. I also recommend it for athletes that need to prevent groin chaffing from running and cycling. It will work under your face mask too. Silicone-like skin care ingredients help to form a coating on skin to protect it and create slide. The idea barrier product acts like a barrier without being heavy or greasy.
What are silicone barrier creams?
Silicone comes from silica, which is sand. It is formed into a polymer made of repeating molecules that are large and have large spaces between each molecule. Dimethicone and cyclomethicone are similar and both can be found in skin care products.
My favorite is dimethicone. It is my Dry Skin Hand Cream. This cream is not just for hands. It can be used as a facial moisturizer and hand cream applied throughout the day. Frankly, I've carried a tube of this Hand Cream in my lab coat pocket for years. I use it throughout my workday wherever my skin feels dry and irritated. My Daily Face Creams and Green Tea also contain dimethicone. If you apply my Facial Redness Kit in the morning before work and keep this in your pocket to apply (with clean hands) to your facial skin throughout the day you have a good set of tools to calm facial redness from wearing a face mask.
How do you treat really red and irritated face skin from wearing a face mask?
If skin gets really dry, red and irritated you can treat it the way dermatologists treat irritant dermatitis. We use the moisturizing treatments I described above and add a cortisone cream. Only mild cortisone creams are appropriate for facial use and even then, they risk side effects. I usually start with simple 1% hydrocortisone cream twice a day for just a few days.
Never use prescription cortisone on your face without dermatologist's supervision because most will cause big-time side effects. The percent of cortisone is not the key to knowing medicine strength. The molecular structure is the issue. Dermatologists will know what can and should not be used on the face. (This information is educational only and not advice!)
Also, avoid cortisone creams with other 'actives' such as benzocaine or diphenhydramine because these can cause allergic contact dermatitis. If there is no improvement in a few days it’s time to ask your doctor for help.
You can also be allergic to your face mask.
It's important to know that the rash you get under your mask may not be simple irritation. Contact dermatitis and hives are also problems to consider. Read here about allergens in face mask material and how to avoid laundry allergy if you are washing a reusable cloth mask. Everyone needs to know this information during the COVID Pandemic.