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Face-mask skin problems: DIY treatment


Skin problems can develop beneath your mask

Common problems include acne breakouts, excessive dryness, and irritated skin.

Cashier and shopper wearing face masks

If you find that wearing a face mask is causing a skin problem like a rash, acne, or other irritation, you may be able to treat it yourself. To help, we’ve gathered expert advice from dermatologists, wound care nurses, and doctors on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what you can do to treat skin problems from a face mask at home.

  1. Follow a gentle skin care routine. Skin care plays a vital role in healing your skin. If you’ve developed a skin problem from wearing a mask, follow this daily routine.

    Face washing 101

  2. Treat your skin. How you treat your skin varies with the skin problem. Here’s what dermatologists recommend:

    • Acne: Wash your face after wearing a mask, being sure to use a non-comedogenic moisturizer after washing. If your face mask causes new acne or makes your acne worse, talk to a board-certified dermatologist for the best way to treat your skin type.
    • Raw, irritated skin: Apply petroleum jelly to irritated spots on your face before bed. This product is designed to protect the skin so that it can heal.
    • Sore skin behind your ears: You have a few options. If you can change the type of mask you wear, find masks with different types of ties and ear loops. Wear a different type of mask each day.
    If you need to wear the same type of mask each day, try wearing a ball cap or headband that comes with buttons so that you can wrap the ear loops around the buttons.

  3. Stop applying skin care products and medications that can irritate your skin. Until your skin heals, dermatologists recommend that you stop using:

    • Acne treatments that contain salicylic acid
    • Anti-aging products
    • At-home light devices
    • Peels or scrubs
    When you irritate your skin, you can delay healing.

  4. Skip makeup where you have a skin problem. Until your skin heals, makeup can worsen a mask-induced skin problem. If you must apply makeup where you’ve developed a skin problem, use an oil-free product, such as mineral-based makeup.

  5. Wash your cloth face masks. Oils on your skin and particles that you breathe out collect on the mask. As these build up, they can irritate the skin covered by your mask. You can remove germs, oils, and particles by washing a cloth mask in a washing machine or by hand. Just be sure to:

    • Follow the washing instructions.
    • Wash the masks in hot water, unless the instructions say otherwise.
    • Use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent.
    Besides helping to keep your skin healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wash your cloth face masks after each use to limit the spread of germs.

Continue to wear a mask to protect yourself and others

It’s important to continue wearing a mask, even when it causes skin irritation. When you cannot socially distance, such as at a grocery store or pharmacy, the CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask.

Protect your skin before you put on your mask

If you need to wear a mask while you have a skin problem, gently apply a no sting barrier spray. This product adds a layer of protection, so your skin feels more comfortable. You can find this product online.

Source: The Wound Healing Unit of the University of Pisa (Italy)

Woman wearing face mask while shopping

When to consult a board-certified dermatologist

With the right skin care, you should notice an improvement in a few days. If your skin stays the same or worsens, it’s time to consult a dermatologist. During the coronavirus pandemic, some dermatologists are seeing patients through telemedicine and essential in-office appointments. You can locate a board-certified dermatologist in your area at:

Find a dermatologist

Related AAD resources


Images
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References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Darlenski R, Tsankov N. "Covid-19 pandemic and the skin - What should dermatologists know?" [published online ahead of print, 2020 Mar 24]. Clin Dermatol. 2020;doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2020.03.012.

Lan J, Song Z, et al. "Research letter: Skin damage among health care workers managing coronavirus disease-2019.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2020;82(5):1215-6.

Oranges T, Janowska A, et al. "Reply to: Skin damage among health care workers managing coronavirus disease-2019" [published online ahead of print, 2020 Apr 10]. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2020;S0190-9622(20)30542-9. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2020.04.003.


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