The CDC’s most recent public-health advisory recommends that every American wear a cloth face covering in public to curb the spread of COVID-19. Whether you decide to DIY your own mask using a bandana and elastics, or you buy a mask online, 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 NYC-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, the issue is the deliberate occlusive nature of masks. It impacts anyone who wears one, but especially the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the pandemic who have posted selfies of their skin covered in hives, red marks, and even bruises. “Protecting your face with a mask creates a moist, hot environment for your skin, as your breathing is being trapped,” Dr. Zeichner 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.”
Ahead, Dr. Zeichner and a few other trusted derms break down their step-by-step advice for keeping 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. Zeichner recommends using a foaming cleanser. “Foaming cleansers remove oil more effectively than hydrating oils or balms will,” he explains. “For people with very oily skin, look for a face wash that contains 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.”
Next, it’s important to apply a lightweight moisturizer, even if your skin tends to be oily. “Skin hydration and skin oil production are separate issues,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “Even acne-prone people may need a moisturizer. Especially if you’re wearing a mask, you want to make sure you skin barrier is in the best shape possible, which means it’s both balanced and hydrated.”
Skip Makeup 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 Manhattan-based dermatologist Hadley King, MD. “I would recommend minimizing makeup — 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.”