Since a few days ago most of the world has begun to experience what it means to wear a protective mask on; necessary, but uncomfortable. Many of us had already seen photos of front-line workers circulating on social networks after their long shifts, with the marks reflecting the intensity of their hours. A resounding rate of skin damage among front-line workers in Hubei, China. 97% of them had dermatological problems caused by the protection measures: that is, practically all of them. The most common: dry skin (more than 70%), peeling, extreme sensitivity, itching, erythema (redness due to the rupture of blood vessels), or papules (pimples). The nasal bridge, where the mask rests, was the most common area of irritation.
Yes, we are seeing two types of reactions related to the prolonged use of the mask: dermatitis and acne, the most severe usually occur in health personnel who have been wearing this type of protection for the longest hours. Beyond a deterioration of the skin caused by the general stress situation (confinement and uncertainty have affected seborrheic and rosacea dermatitis), specialists detail two groups of damages, also in those who have now started to use the mask: the friction injuries (irritative dermatitis, erosion or small sore) and the outbreaks of acne processes. In the case of granites, its reappearance is due to the rubbing of the mask but also due to the occlusion it causes in the pores. The skin cannot breathe well and excess sweating remains in the perioral area, most prone to these kinds of outbreaks. We are seeing cases of slightly inflammatory acne, like scaling, explains local doctor. The good news is that by following these recommendations, you can control the situation.
What to do BEFORE putting on the mask
As it is not possible to dispense with the use of the mask at this time, there are two important tips according to this dermatologist:
1) Hydrate the skin, every day, morning and night; and
2) Those who use anti-aging cosmetics and are going to use masks for a long time should minimize the use of acids such as glycolic or retinol, because they can make the skin more sensitive and more easily irritable. Unfortunately, now is not the time to experiment with a more intensive cosmetic.
Vaselines, protective bars and other protection tricks
Immediately before putting on a mask, it is advisable to use a product that reduces friction or friction, and that increases the air between the skin and the protector. There are various types of products, such as pure, unscented petroleum jelly, which can be applied to the most prominent areas of the face (nasal septum and cheekbones), which are usually the most uncomfortable. Silicone patches also work very well, especially for personnel who will spend 12 hours with a mask or PPE, because they exert greater reinforcement. Finally there are the anti-scratch sticks, which make the mask slide on the skin without rubbing it and relieve excessive pressure.
Place it well
The idea is to try to increase the air gap between the skin and the mask, while using it correctly. It should be well adjusted in the nose and cheekbones, but to avoid the appearance of pimples we should ensure that the perioral area around the mouth has the least possible contact with the tissue.
Better without makeup
Experts recommend that people who are going to spend many hours with a mask on consider to skip makeup such as foundation and concealer, at least in the area that will be under the mask. The first reason is that if the product we use is not non-comedogenic, it could clog pores and lead to acne breakouts. The second reason is that the mask can drag makeup, causing an occlusion of the sebaceous organs and worsening the situation.
If our intention is to prevent skin conditions, we should try to keep their bacteria at bay. These days the simplest and fastest way to achieve is to apply a soft and antibacterial tonic, with a cotton pad, in the area where the mask rests, several times a day. This way we keep the skin clean in the most exposed areas.
Moisturizes the skin a lot
A clean skin absorbs any cosmetic that comes later better, and a hydrated skin will always be more elastic and stronger against aggressions. The reason is that the skin’s protective barrier is hydrolipidic, which means that it helps to retain the moisture necessary to be healthy. The hydration routine is especially important when using a mask and that it should not be neglected in the morning or at night. The active ingredients recognized for their high moisturizing power are vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.
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What to do AFTER removing the mask
It is as important to take care of the skin before and during and after removing the mask. These tips can help you keep your skin healthier:
Wash with a very mild cleaner
Dermatologists say that the most important thing to prevent irritation and breakouts is to keep the skin clean and hydrated. And although we might think that an intensive cleanser (even an exfoliant) is going to be the most effective, in reality, it is advisable to use a cleanser with a balanced pH that eliminates grease, dirt, and bacteria residues but at the same time is gentle with the skin. When choosing a cleanser, there are three key characteristics: fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and non-irritating skin.
Strong facial cleansers can alter the outer layer of the skin, causing dryness and inflammation. This will make irritation more likely after putting on your mask.
Hydrates skin very well (again)
Some intensive moisturizers can provide quick relief after using the mask.
The areas of greatest impact, such as the nose and cheekbones, can be alleviated with hydrocolloid dressings, very effective for wound healing. For redness it is recommended to use an arnica gel (usual recommendation after aesthetic medical treatments for its effectiveness against skin burning). And before acne breakouts, the most indicated is to follow the usual topical treatment or, in the most severe cases, consult a specialist for a pill treatment.
What to do if you already have damage
If there is erosion, medical treatment
In principle, there are three types of dermatitis that usually occur: due to the materials that make up the masks; irritative, at pressure points such as the nose and ears: and that related to humidity around the mouth by breath or saliva. If there is erosion, medical treatment must be followed: the first thing is to consult a specialist, who, depending on the intensity and type of aggression, will prescribe a regenerating product such as a moisturizer or a repair oil with rosehip. If a small sore has appeared, medical treatment will have to be followed, which will probably combine corticosteroid-type anti-inflammatories with topical antibiotics to prevent it from becoming over infected.
If the condition is not serious
The recommendation is to use cosmetics that include anti-inflammatory active ingredients that reduce skin congestion, such as niacinamide (a derivative of vitamin B3 known for its calming power and for reducing hyperpigmentation, fighting the signs of aging and helping to maintain hydration. of the skin), turmeric (especially indicated for oily skin, as it is a good scar and reduces the secretion of fat caused by the sebaceous glands ) or azelaic acid (which is used to eliminate the symptoms caused by rosacea, a disease that affects the skin and causes redness, flushing, and pimples on the face).