Are face masks irritating your skin? Two derms weigh in to help

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Face masks have become part of the new normal for millions of people. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has most recently advised Americans to wear cloth face coverings while in public areas where social distancing may be difficult.

While very important, there are side effects of wearing face masks and keeping your nose and mouth covered for prolonged periods of time, including rashes and chafing on the skin.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reports an astounding 97 percent rate of skin damage enhanced by infection-prevention measures among frontline medical workers in Hubei, China. Just over 70 percent of those workers cited dry skin; 56.8 percent noted tenderness and 52.5 percent felt itchy skin. Over 60 percent noted desquamation (peeling skin); 49.4 percent experienced erythema (redness due to burst blood vessels) and 32.9 percent had papules (pimples).

Okay, so what does any of that mean?

Even if you’re not a medical professional, you’ve probably noticed some face mask irritation at one point or another. Thankfully, there are skincare solutions that you can incorporate into your regimen to help.

Be sure to wash your face

Erin Jensen, an expert in aesthetics medicine, recommends washing your face thoroughly before and after putting your mask on. You should opt for a foaming cleanser to remove oil more effectively, Jensen told In The Know.

For those more prone to oily skin, Jensen suggested a face wash that contains salicylic acid, which we know additionally helps with acne and hyperpigmentation. A cleanser with salicylic acid “will help remove excess oil and dead cells from the surface of the skin, which will prevent clogged pores,” Jensen says.

Dr. Amy Wechsler, a board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist, also recommends going for products that are fragrance-free if your skin is particularly sensitive. “My go-to is a Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar, but the Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser, Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser and Purpose Cleansing Bar are other good ones,” Wechsler told In The Know.

Shop: Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar, $15.99 (Pack of 2)

Credit: Amazon

Shop: Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, $8.99

face mask irritation
Credit: Ulta

Shop: Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion, $24

Credit: Dermstore

Be sure to moisturize

We can’t stress the importance of moisturizing, especially when your face can feel dry from cloth coverings. “After washing your face, it’s important to apply a lightweight moisturizer, even if your skin tends to be oily,” explains Jensen.

She continued, “Since you’re wearing a mask for long periods of time, you want to make sure your skin barrier is in the best shape possible — which means it’s both balanced and hydrated.”

Wechsler mentioned that her favorite product for hydration is Solution 10 from CHANEL, which includes Silver Needle Tea Extract packed with a high concentration of active ingredients. If it’s a bit out of your price range, other great moisturizers she recommends include the Clinique Moisture Surge , Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer and CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion.

The Treatment Skin Boutique is also now offering Healthcare Heroes Kits and has been giving away hundreds to hospitals. Each kit is curated with medical-grade skincare products to soothe face mask irritation. 

Shop: Chanel La Solution 10 de Chanel, $80

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Shop: Moisture Surge 72-Hour Hydrator, $39.50

Credit: Clinique

Be sure to exfoliate dead skin cells away

We recently wrote this article on knowing if you’re exfoliating too much or too little, but even if you’re wearing a face mask, you should still have the practice involved in your skincare routine.

“I recommend exfoliating once or twice a week if your skin can tolerate it to remove dead skin cells,” suggests Wechsler. “Some scrubs can be harsh, so make sure to find a product with smaller, buffering grains that are gentle on the skin like the texture of sugar or oatmeal. My favorite exfoliator is Fresh Sugar Face Polish.”

Shop: Fresh Sugar Face Polish Exfoliator, $25

face irritation
Credit: Sephora

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