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Masks Can Irritate Skin, But These Tips Might Help

Masks Can Irritate Skin, But These Tips Might Help

MONDAY, Jan. 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Wearing a face mask can protect you and others from COVID-19, but masks can also irritate the skin, a dermatologist warns.

Many people develop acne, rosacea and other skin irritations from wearing face masks and shields, according to Dr. Anna Chien. She's an associate professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore.

Several factors can contribute to these breakouts, including age, the length of time a mask is worn, the fit of the mask, allergic reactions to the materials or chemicals in the mask, and the overall condition of the skin.

"Age can potentially play a role, since our skin barriers aren't quite as good as we age," Chien said in a Hopkins news release. "However, it really has more to do with how long someone wears a mask -- especially in work or other activities where it's needed for long periods -- as well as an individuals' propensity for skin conditions. Some people may just naturally have more sensitive skin and or skin prone to acne."

Signs of skin inflammation can include red bumps, pimples, rashes, irritation or chafing. "You may even experience scaly and itchy skin," she noted.

Chien offered these tips to help protect your skin from masks:

  • Try to take mask breaks, if possible. Time is a big factor in minimizing skin irritation.
  • Make sure your mask fits properly. "It should be comfortable around your nose and ears because those are the areas where we see the most chaffing," Chien explained.
  • Choose a mask that works best with your skin. Chien said that cotton and polyester blends are best for people with more sensitive skin.
  • Use a good, gentle skin care regimen. Mild soaps without any fragrances or antibacterial chemicals are best. Stick to a very bland moisturizer at night.
  • Barrier creams, such as petroleum jelly and even baby rash ointments, can help prevent sores and skin irritations. Ask your doctor about topical and oral medications if over-the-counter treatments aren't working.

More information

For more on face masks, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, Dec. 30, 2020

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