How to Prevent and Treat Skin Irritation from Your COVID-19 Mask
As California reopens some outdoor recreational facilities and businesses, we will all likely be spending more time wearing our masks. Whether venturing out to the grocery store or going on a hike, donning a protective mask has become as routine as putting on sunglasses and a hat. The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth masks—face coverings that shield the nose and mouth—to halt the spread of infection, as even those who are asymptomatic can spread the virus simply by speaking.
(Note: It is critical that surgical masks and N95 respirators be reserved for frontline healthcare workers.)
With rising temperatures in the summer months, perspiration can build up under your mask. The moisture from your exhaled breath coupled with normal skin secretions, both trapped under the layer of fabric, can result in skin irritation. If you are a frontline health care worker, wearing a tight-fitting medical grade mask also could cause pressure sores.
Tips to Prevent and Treat Mask Irritation
Keep your skin moisturized, hydrated and clean underneath your mask.
At least 30 minutes before going out:
- Lightly wash the lower part of your face with water and a mild cleanser. We recommend Gentle Soothing Cleanser and Glycolic Gentle Cleanser.
- Dry the skin gently, then smooth on a noncomedogenic moisturizer, such as Ultra Lite Moisture Dew.
- Skip face make-up, like foundation or concealer, before putting on a mask. Face make-up could contribute to pore blockage.
Immediately after you return home:
- Remove your mask and wash your hands for 20 seconds—do not touch your face before you have washed your hands.
- Rinse your face with warm water after removing your mask and washing your hands.
- Gently re-apply a light noncomedogenic moisturizer.
What to Do if Your Skin Becomes Irritated From Your Mask
- If there are red indentations on your face from the mask, gentle massage the area with your fingertips to increase circulation.
- Should there be any skin breakage, apply a first aid antibiotic ointment.
- With any sign of infection—pain, swelling or pus—contact your California Skin Institute board-certified dermatologist.
- For flareups of acne or perioral dermatitis, also get in touch with your California Skin Institute board-certified dermatologist.
Additional Mask Tips
- Place your mask over your mouth and nose.
- Tie your mask behind your head or use ear loops, and make sure it fits snugly on your face.
- Don’t touch your mask while wearing it.
- If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands.
- Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face.
- Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask.
- Regularly wash your mask with soap and water in the washing machine. It’s fine to launder it with other clothes.
Remember, wearing a mask is an adjunct to, but not a substitute for, social distancing. So, wear your mask and keep six feet apart. All of us at California Skin Institute urge you to keep following safety protocols and maintain your health and skin care. We are here if you need us.