The internet is filled with photos of health care workers who are dealing with skin issues from wearing medical-grade masks hours on end. So I wondered: How can the average mask wearer—even someone crafting a makeshift mask out of a bandana or scarf—keep their skin clean and protected after wear? Whether you’re an outdoor athlete or just taking a break from social distancing by walking your dog every day, Adeline Kikam, DO (better known as @brownskinderm), chief resident dermatologist at Corpus Christi Medical Center in Texas, gives Health her best tips for how she keeps her own skin healthy after wearing a mask.
Wash your skin with a gentle cleanser after removing your mask
“When you take off your mask, you definitely want to wash your face to clear up some of the debris, sweat, and whatever you've accumulated during the day,” says Dr. Kikam, who advises using a gentle cleanser or cleansing bar to wash your face without overdrying it. Her personal favorite: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($15; dermstore.com), a fragrance-free “non-foaming gentle cleanser that's not going to strip the skin of moisture,” she adds. No matter the cleanser you’re using, be sure to use lukewarm, not hot, water. “Hot water can be more abrasive to the skin and further compromise the skin barrier."
Apply a moisturizer with skin barrier-boosting ingredients
“Constant rubbing and friction from everyday mask use can compromise our skin’s barrier, resulting in dryness, bruises, and scrapes from various mask textiles,” says Dr. Kikam. Regardless of your skin type, she recommends following up after cleansing with a moisturizer containing these holy grail ingredients for fighting off dryness and irritation: ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. “Ceramides, a natural component of our skin, will replenish your skin barrier; hyaluronic acid pulls moisture from the environment into the skin to increase the hydration; niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, soothes the skin and reduces redness.” All three can be found in Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream ($13; ulta.com), which she recommends.
Cover irritated skin with a protective ointment before bedtime
If you’re wearing a mask for several hours a day, you’re likely to develop irritated skin patches on your face, like those of registered nurse Patricia Lafontant. If you’re dealing with these patches as well, Dr. Kikam recommends applying a barrier-reinforcing ointment or petroleum jelly with zinc oxide or dimethicone like CeraVe Healing Ointment ($8; ulta.com) before bed for extra protection after moisturizing. Another tip? “You can also use it before wearing your mask to reduce abrasion,” she says.
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