Masks sewn with love, created with care.

Masks shipped from China, $14.50 a pair.

Masks from the hospital cherished and cleaned,

Autoclaving and baking, how strange it all seems.

Patients brought their extras into my clinic,

The kindness displayed has had no limit.

Family members sewed them & decorated with art,

A reminder of love as Covid keeps us apart.

We wear them to protect the immunosuppressed.

Susceptible persons one never can guess.

Wearing a mask shows the world you care

For all those around you, everywhere.

 

Thank you for wearing your mask. Thank you for protecting vulnerable persons around you. Masks are a part of our new normal. So let’s talk about how to keep your skin at its optimal health, even though no one else can see it hiding under there.

One of the most important things to remain aware of when wearing your mask is to ensure appropriate hand hygiene, washing with soap and water prior to touching your mask to place it on, or to remove it. It is important to not touch the mask while wearing it and inadvertently transfer possible infection onto your face.

The skin trapped under a mask is exposed to constant friction and rubbing of the surfaces that the mask comes into contact with.

This can lead to a few main skin problems.

Potential Skin Problems Caused by Wearing a Mask

Acne

The changes in humidity from breathing under a mask, the lack of breathability, and upsetting the bacterial balance on the skin, can all lead to triggering of acne.

Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

For those of us with a beard or a 5 0’clock shadow, masks can cause irritation of the hair follicles leading to acne like bumps on the lower face. These can appear similar to shaving irritation.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Skin irritation from the rubbing of the mask and the straps. Most commonly I have been seeing this on the middle of the cheeks were the mask contacts the skin surface at the edges of the nose pieces.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

There are some components within masks that persons can develop an allergy to, which can result in an eczema like, itchy, painful rash. Allergens identified in masks include:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Quaternium 15
  • Ethylene urea melamine formaldehyde resin.
  • Nickel in the flexible nose pieces

If wearing a cloth mask that has been laundered, there is a risk of soap residue left on the mask that can be transferred to the skin resulting in dermatitis.

Bruising, Hyperpigmentation and Redness

We have all seen the online images of the frontline workers with these ever imprinted visuals of their reality on their faces. Most commonly, these traumatic skin changes are seen in health care providers who are wearing the N95 and other medical grade sealed, protective devices and are unlikely to be a concern from masks recommended for the general public.

So how to protect your skin when wearing a mask?

1. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser in the mornings. Don’t wash your face frequently throughout the day to avoid causing an irritant contact dermatitis.

2. Always wear sunscreen if planning to drive or be outdoors with your mask on. There was a commercial in 1994 where kids stuck their faces into ovens with the door half open waiting for a pizza to cook… I imagine the resultant tan lines would be similar.

3. Limit the amount of make up left on the skin under the mask to avoid clogging pores. Always choose non-comedogenic mineral make up.

4. For those with oily skin, hydrate your skin with a hyaluronic acid serum.