How to prevent skin damage from wearing a face mask during the pandemic

After weeks of experts telling us that we should not wear face masks to protect ourselves from the new coronavirus, the CDC has now reversed that recommendation.

In fact, this most trusted source of information on combatting disease in our country is now saying that every person should wear some form of face covering when out in public (other than those who have trouble breathing or are under two years old).

So, as long as you don’t fall into the latter two categories, it’s likely that from now on, you will be spending hours at a time in a face mask — whether homemade, a surgical option, or an N95 respirator.

After all, we all have to eat and therefore will eventually need to go to the grocery store, through a drive-thru, or have to grab take-out from our favorite sit-down restaurant where exposure to coronavirus is not only possible but likely.

Related: Coronavirus: When a mask makes sense and when it doesn’t

And unfortunately, while a mask might decrease your risk of picking up the virus and developing the all-too-often deadly symptoms of COVID-19, wearing a face covering can cause harm too, specifically skin damage resulting from sweating and the rubbing of the mask against your nose.

So, whether you’re a doctor or nurse or simply a member of the general public who is now confined behind a face mask on a regular basis, you need to know how to care for your skin to keep it healthy and unbroken — not only to prevent the pain that comes with skin damage but also to ensure your skin barrier remains intact in order to avoid opening a path for germs into your body.

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Recommendations from skincare experts

Because of the new focus on wearing masks thanks to the current pandemic, skincare experts at the University of Huddersfield have published their list of suggested remedies.

And, while you may think that adding cushioning under your face mask would be on that list, think again…

“The masks the healthcare professionals are wearing have to be fitted to the face — so if healthcare professionals add dressings to the skin under the mask after being fitted there is a chance the mask will no longer fit correctly,” says Professor Karen Ousey, the University’s Director of the Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention.

And, an improperly fitting mask could be deadly when you’re dealing with coronavirus for healthcare workers on the frontlines as well as those of us simply standing in line at the grocery store as someone coughs and sneezes behind us.

Instead, here’s what the Huddersfield team recommends:

1. Care for your skin

Ousey says that people wearing masks should focus on keeping their skin clean, well-hydrated and moisturized. And, it’s also important to apply a barrier cream at least half an hour before you put your face mask on. This could be as simple as rubbing Vaseline into your skin.

2. Be conscious of sweating

The team also recommends that not only should you keep your skin clean, you should also make sure it stays dry and sweat-free, something that can be a bit more tricky.

Basically, if you find yourself sweating beneath the face mask, you need to find time to take off the mask in order to dry your skin. When you remove your mask, it’s vital that you practice safety precautions such as:

  • Washing your hands before and after mask removal
  • Avoiding touching the front of the mask
  • Being careful to avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth
  • Washing your hands after removal

3. Take a break

They also say that you should give your skin a break from the pressure of the face mask every two hours, find a safe place, and clean your skin again.

And, if you do feel your face mask rubbing, take it off as soon as you safely can.

Masks are a new part of life for most of us. But, with the tips above, you can avoid coronavirus exposure while keeping your skin healthy and strong.

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  1. Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. Suffering from skin damage from face masks? — EurekAlert
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.