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What's happening to my skin?

Have you seen a change in your skin since wearing a mask? Perhaps you’ve noticed outbreaks and spots even though you haven’t experienced this in years? Has your skin become sore and irritated? We’ll tell you why.

Since the Covid outbreak, mask wearing has become a normal way of life. Checking we’ve got our bag, purse, keys, phone and now mask has become second nature and love it or hate it, mask wearing is the new norm. Something we weren’t expecting though is the pimples, spots, dry lips and sore chin.

Whilst we all continue to adjust to the lifting of restrictions, whether you choose to continue to wear the mask or whether you’re ready to ditch it, one thing most of us will have in common is wanting to achieve healthier skin.

So what’s happening to our skin?

One of the most common skin conditions we are seeing right now is ‘Maskne’ otherwise known as Acne Mechanica. This is a different condition to the acne we see as teenagers (Acne Vulgaris) which is caused by hormonal changes, blocked pores and increased oil production.

The causes of ‘Maskne’ are different and include friction, heat and pressure all of which are made worse when the skin is not exposed to air. This condition has commonly been experienced by athletes who are required to wear face coverings for long periods of time. The spots tend to be smaller than normal acne and blackheads and whiteheads are also common.

A good cleansing routine is essential to treat this condition. Using products that contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids (such as glycolic acid) or Beta Hydroxy Acids (such as salicylic acid) will help to unblock the pores and keep them free of dirt and oil. Using an exfoliator a couple of times a week can also help to remove dead skin cells which contribute to blocking pores. To prevent further outbreaks you should use a good emollient to lubricate the skin and prevent rubbing.

Another issue that we see is ‘Trans Epidermal Water Loss’ (TEWL) caused by heat and water evaporation on areas of the skin that are covered. Coupled with mask wearing this condition generally presents on the lips causing chapped skin and making them feel dry. Make sure to stay hydrated to combat moisture loss and apply a hydrating lip balm regularly to soothe and protect lips.

Less common but no less frustrating are frictions and lesions caused by the mask rubbing against the skin. This is unlikely to occur if only wearing masks for a short period of time but many healthcare workers that are in PPE all day have experienced the discomfort of sore skin. We recommend applying a soothing balm to the area before wearing the mask as this will act as a barrier. Make sure to reapply it throughout the day to keep skin soothed and protected.

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