Let's get this straight out of the way. Wearing a mask to protect yourself and others from coronavirus is essential. Not wearing a mask in public in some states will invite a fine. But as monsoons set in, so has humidity. How do you stay protected from COVID and monsoon-related skin infections?
FIT chats with Dr Manjul Aggarwal, Senior Consultant, Department of Dermatology at Fortis Hospitals, Delhi on measures and precautions to protect your skin, while wearing a mask.
What Kind of Damage Can the Mask Cause to the Skin?
Surgical masks have a single layer made of polypropylene. The N95 mask has 4 layers. The layer that comes in contact with the skin also contains polypropylene. Polypropylene provides maximum protection and is recommended for masks by the World Health Organisation. But wearing a mask with polypropylene for a long duration can cause an allergic reaction.
2. Bacterial infection
Mask increases the risk of bacterial infection leading to rashes and pimples.
When we exhale, there is moisture present in the air. When sealing the mask, along with moisture, sweat and body temperature, all three form an environment that is suitable for bacteria to thrive. Although bacteria is always on our skin, but when it goes inside the skin, it leads to infection.
3. Frictional melanosis
Apart from all this, the elastic band provokes problems of allergy and pain at the back of the ear. There is also a risk of pigmentation on the ears, nose.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 100% cotton masks can be used instead of medical masks. Cotton masks can absorb the sweat whereas masks made of polyester and synthetic spread the sweat. Synthetic material also keeps the mask warmer.
If you already have acne, then take special care.
Those who are already suffering from acne, who have been using creams with cecilic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, should avoid it for the present. Even if it suits their skin, but if covered with a mask, it can increase irritation and dryness.
These creams can be applied in areas not covered by the mask.
Dr Manjul also advises avoiding skin treatment like chemical peel and exfoliant at this time. The treatments can cause the topmost layer of skin to burn, making the skin very sensitive.
The American Academy of Dermatology has suggested some measures to take care of the skin with a mask.
Skin dryness is a common problem while wearing a face mask. Applying moisturizer adds a protective layer that can reduce dryness.
Moisturize your face every day. While washing your face, use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser. Apply moisturizer immediately after washing the face. Use a product that contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone (reduces skin irritation).
It is important to choose a moisturizer according to the skin, follow this guide:
Oily skin: Gel moisturizer
Normal Skin: Lotion
More Dry Skin: Cream
Makeup or No-Makeup?
Do not apply makeup while wearing a mask. Putting on makeup when it is humid, and then wearing a mask on top can block the pores of the skin, causing irritation and allergic reaction. If makeup is necessary, then use oil-free makeup products. One should try to avoid using any new product for the skin during this time.
Boys Stay Clean Shave!
Dr Manjul suggests boys stay clean shaven. There are many cases of folliculitis, which is an infection of the root of the hair.
Mask Break Is Also Necessary
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends for better skincare that you can take a break from the mask when indoors, in a car, or in a crowded area. Once outside, a break of 15 minutes can be taken every 4 hours.
Apart from this, those who use cloth masks, should wash them frequently:
You can wash clothes masks in a washing machine or by hand.
Follow the washing instruction of the mask.
Wash the mask in warm water, unless instructed otherwise.
Use fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergents.
After washing your mask, check its shape. If a mask does not fit easily, it is less protective.
Keep in mind that being skin sensitive does not mean that we cannot wear masks. But some precautions should be taken. Dr Manjul says some allergies are self-healing, that is, they are cured on their own. For example, if the skin becomes red, lotions such as lacto calamine can be used. It is important to consult a doctor if the problem persists.
Face masks are essential for your safety as well as the safety of others.
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