World Health Organization has issued advisories to wear face mask outdoors to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. As more people are wearing masks and covering their faces for prolonged period of time, some people are starting to notice skin issues as a result of wearing masks for prolonged periods.
Just in the first three months of 2020, the global disposable face mask market size has exceeded US$74 billion. Experts have projected CAGR of 53% through 2027. This sudden increase in market size for disposable face mask is largely driven by the coronavirus pandemic that completely changed the world as we knew it.
Common skin issues from wearing face masks
When face masks are properly fitted on the face, it should create a seal to protect and cover the lower face so that it limits the air flow in and out of the mask.
When face masks are worn for long hours, it increases the temperature and humidity around in the lower face. These moist and warm crevices are the perfect environment for acne bacteria to grow, combined with sweat and sebum that clog the pores. The heat and humidity can alter the pH of the skin and make it susceptible to “maskne”, a label for acne caused by prolonged wearing of mask.
The constant pressure on the skin from the mask may also cause abrasion, breaking down the skin barrier, causing increased sensitivity and irritation to the face. Over a long period of time, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation may develop on the trauma lines and friction and irritation from the chemicals that may have been used to treat the masks.
Telltale signs of skin issues caused by face mask
Watch out for areas of the skin that come in contact with the face mask such as nose and both sides of the jaw. If you notice any red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with your face mask, you might be suffering from contact dermatitis. It is not a serious issue that requires immediate attention, but it can be painful and uncomfortable if left untreated.
Doctors are also noticing a rising trend of new onset of rosacea and premature skin wrinkling in recent weeks. If irritant dermatitis or moisture-related dermatitis is not managed properly, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation may follow after the skin irritation recovers.
Acne breakout is the most common skin issue people are suffering from now. Look out for whiteheads and papules that may form on the lower face. Minor skin inflammation may occur, and it can be kept under control if it is picked up in the early stages. The cheeks and jaw are the most common areas of irritation.
How to prevent “maskne”
STEP UP ON YOUR SKINCARE REGIME The most important thing we need to do is to keep our skin clean and well moisturized. Wash your face twice a day with a pH-balanced, gentle cleanser before and after wearing a mask to remove the dirt and grime from the face.
A moisturizer is important. Contrary to popular belief, moisturizers are not only reserved for people with dry skin. Every skin type needs a moisturizer to restore moisture and balance to the skin. Choose one that is fragrance-free, noncomedogenic and lightweight so that it does not clog your pores.
PROTECT YOUR SKIN BARRIER The skin barrier is important because it protects your skin from harmful microorganisms and chemicals that can penetrate the skin and cause damage. Include a skin-restoring serum that contains peptides such as EGF serum as it can encourage skin renewal and repair.
REFRAIN FROM APPLYING MAKEUP If you are required to wear a face mask throughout the day, refrain from putting on makeup. These cosmetic products may not be noncomedogenic and may irritate the skin, leading to breakouts.
ANTI-ACNE PRODUCTS For people who are already suffering from acne breakouts due to prolonged wearing of face mask, consider applying AHA/BHA gel to unclog pores and eliminate bumps on the face. One such serum is the Liberty Skin Clarifying Gel from Radium Skin.
These are temporary fixes to address red, inflamed skin caused by wearing of face mask. We hope that we won’t be needing them for much longer if wearing of mask is no longer mandatory!