Keep your skin healthy while wearing face masks

One Spa City Club manager Marnie Bennett talks about the importance of wearing a face mask and how to prevent skin problems,
as Victoria steps up the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

Face masks are an important tool in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, but some people are encountering irritating skin problems.  One Spa City Club manager Marnie Bennett says face masks help protect individuals and the community because they provide an additional physical barrier to COVID-19. 

home made face masks


“However, face masks can cause some undesirable and uncomfortable side effects when it comes to your skin,” Marnie says.  “Problems include breakouts, rashes, and skin irritation, which can aggravate pre-existing skin conditions and result in flare-ups.” 

She recommends face masks made of tightly woven cotton rather than synthetic fabric. “Cotton will feel more breathable and softer on the skin," she says.  “If you’re using a homemade cloth mask, you should wash it after each use, as it may be absorbing your skin’s natural oils, which could lead to breakouts.” 

A new study, published in AIP Publishing’s online journal Physics of Fluids in June, confirmed the most effective homemade face masks were made with tightly woven cotton fabric and had a good seal along the edges. 

Marnie recommends using a moisturiser for the face and paw-paw balm for the lips, along with avoiding harsh scrubs, chemical exfoliators and rubbing the skin after cleansing.  

She says increased humidity under the mask can affect sebum production and lead to clogged pores and breakouts.  “If you’ve noticed breakouts around your nose, mouth and chin, it might help to minimise the amount of makeup you wear, particularly foundations and concealer with heavy formulations,” Marnie says. 

“There is no need to avoid makeup but it’s best to use breathable natural makeup to prevent clogging of the pores under the mask.”  If you have active acne, she suggests wearing a good quality face mask with smooth edges. “The edges of poor-quality masks may be sharp or abrasive and cause substantial irritation, sores or even cuts.” 

Australian dermatologist Dr Li-Chuen Wong says skin specialists are seeing an increase in people experiencing skin irritation, inflammation and the development of pimples/pustules with the use of masks.  

“This is due to increased humidity, sweat and oil trapped within,” she says.  “It is important to take the time to properly fit the mask to make it comfortable around the nose and ears.  “This will prevent you readjusting it during the day and unnecessarily touching your face.” 

Dr Wong says the mask needs to be discarded when it becomes too damp because it will no longer be effective against viruses, as well as causing skin irritation. She recommends that anyone experiencing skin problems should see a doctor or dermatologist early to prevent a worsening of the condition. 

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