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Authors: Heather Funk, MBA and Helen M. Torok, MD – Co-Founders H&H Science

The CDC’s most recent public-health advisory recommends that every American wear a face covering in public to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Whether you decide to make your own mask using a bandana and elastics, or you buy a mask you’re likely to soon discover the uncomfortable side effect of keeping your nose and mouth covered for a prolonged period of time: rashes, chafing, and even breakouts.

According to our HH Science dermatology expert and co-founder, Dr. Helen Torok MD, the issue lies in the deliberate occlusive nature of a protective mask. It’s something that impacts everyone who wears one.

“Protecting your face with a mask creates a moist, hot environment for your skin, as your breathing is being trapped,” Dr. Helen Torok explains. “This can lead to a build -up of sweat and oil on the skin under the mask, which can lead to inflammation, rashes, and even acne breakouts.”

Dr. Torok and our team at Trillium Creek Dermatology provide you with a step-by-step guide below on how to keep your skin clear while following the CDC’s guidelines for wearing a face cover.

Wash Your Face Before And After

After washing your hands, you want to make sure you also wash your face thoroughly before and after wearing a mask. Dr. Torok recommends using a gentle, foaming cleanser like the HH Science Green Tea Cleanser for normal, dry and combination skin types.

“Foaming cleansers remove oil more effectively than hydrating oils or balms will,” she explains. “For people with very oily skin, look for a face wash like the HH Science Pore Minimizing Cleanser that contains glycolic and salicylic acid. This will help remove excess oil and dead cells from the surface of the skin, which will prevent potential flareups and clogged pores.”

Continue with your daily skin care regimen but make sure you apply a protective barrier over top.

Keeping up with your daily medical grade skin care essentials is essential! Your skin needs now more than ever its daily dose of medical grade retinol, antioxidants, and brighteners- but you need to apply protective barrier over top.

Applying a moisturizer that contains a barrier from your skin and the mask is essential, even if your skin tends to be oily.

“Skin hydration and skin oil production are separate issues,” explains Dr. Torok “Even oily, acne prone people need to apply a barrier repair cream that is oil free and non-comedogenic like our HH Science Barrier Repair + Moisture Lock.

Especially if you’re wearing a mask, you want to make sure you skin and its barrier is in the best shape possible, which means it’s both balanced and hydrated.

Skip Makeup Unless It’s Mineral Under Your Mask

It might seem obvious, but if you’re used to wearing makeup on your entire face, it’s time to shift your application to only what’s above eye level. “Any potentially irritating or pore-clogging ingredients should be avoided under the mask-covered skin,” explains Dr. Torok.

“I would recommend minimizing any makeup that is not pure pigment mineral make-up— particularly foundations and concealer with heavy formulations — because the increased humidity under the mask could affect your skin’s sebum production and potentially lead to an increase in clogged pores and breakouts.”

All of our HH Science Mineral Make-up Foundations are oil-free, non-comedogenic and pure pigment which provides another protective barrier.

Pick the right type of mask and make sure it fits securely

According to the CDC, the American public should be wearing cloth face coverings — not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as those are critical supplies that must be reserved for frontline healthcare workers.

When it comes to donning a mask, you want to make sure the fabric that touches your face is comfortable. “Cotton is a breathable fabric and will therefore be relatively non-irritating for the skin,” says Dr. Torok.

Make sure that your mask is secure, but no tighter than necessary to achieve a skin-to-mask seal.

“The best idea is to wear a cover that sits close to the skin and that doesn’t wave away,” explains Dr. Torok.

“It’s important to remember to touch the mask as little as possible, so you certainly want to wear something that is comfortable, especially if you have sensitive skin.”

Treat Rashes and Breakouts With TLC

If you’ve already experienced a bit of irritation or redness from mask-to-skin friction, Dr. Torok recommends treating it with good, old-fashioned Vaseline.

“If you notice this kind of irritation after removing the mask, wash the area with water and a gentle cleanser like our HH Science Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, then apply an ointment, like Vaseline, to help the skin heal,” Dr. Torok says.

Dr. Torok adds that the same care should be taken with breakouts. If you can clearly recognize your condition as acne (whiteheads, blackheads, or pustules), you can treat those areas with a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment like our HH Science Spot Treatment 5%.   

But, if this is a first-time occurrence or it looks unusual in any way, you might need a virtual visit or regular dermatology appointment with one of our Trillium Creek skin care experts to assess what’s going on and potentially get a prescription for an antibiotic or anti-fungal cream.

At the end of the day, protecting yourself and others is the number one priority — and maintaining a strong skin barrier, helps prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and infection, is just as much a part of that as wearing a mask.