Tips on preventing a skin break out from wearing protective face mask

Dirt and oil can get trapped under your protective face mask, making your skin prone to breakouts.
Dirt and oil can get trapped under your protective face mask, making your skin prone to breakouts.
Image: 123RF/belchonock

Wearing a face mask whenever you step out the house is good for curbing the spread of Covid-19, but it might not be such good news for your skin — especially if you'll be wearing this mask for hours on end.

“When you wear a mask, more oil builds up because your skin can’t breathe. This may result in blocked pores and cause breakouts," explains Barbara de Lange, an advanced beauty consultant.

"At the same time, you might find your skin loses moisture because the foreign material can scratch and irritate it."

To guard against these ill effects, Dr Lilliana Lulli, an aesthetic doctor at The Renewal Institute, says it's essential to wash fabric face masks regularly and to let your skin breathe as much as possible.

"Avoid wearing foundation and make-up on the areas in contact with your mask, as this disrupts the integrity of your mask and acts as a bacterial or fungal trap," she explains.

De Lange points out that it's important not to neglect your daily skincare routine — even if you'll be spending the whole day in your pyjamas. 

Lulli advocates using a gel-based cleanser twice a day and exfoliating cleansers or masks twice a week. She advises against exfoliating more than usual, especially using harsh, abrasive scrubs that contain granules or beads.

“It is vital to keep the skin barrier intact and maintain pH. Exfoliating too often or too harshly creates irritation on the skin which could act as a portal of entry for pathogens,” she explains.

Picking your spots is another way in which pathogens can breach the skin, so resist the temptation to do so. Also always wash and dry your hands prior to touching your face.

To protect against dryness, De Lange suggests using a serum followed by a hydrating face cream. She recommends using a protein mask (of the skincare kind) to feed your skin because wearing masks can make it sensitive.

Lastly, Lulli stresses that you shouldn't underestimate the importance of drinking lots of water, eating healthily and getting enough sleep and exercise in giving your skin that wonderful glow.


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