By: Bolupe Olaseinde, Columnist
Has anyone else suffered from the dreaded “maskne” (mask acne) or is it just me? If your skin has been flourishing during the pandemic then you are one of the lucky ones because, for many others, face masks have not been so friendly to their skin.
Essential healthcare workers have gone viral for showing the effects of how wearing a mask up to 14 hours a day at times, leaves deep marks embedded into the skin causing redness and irritation. But even for people who aren’t essential workers but go to the grocery store often or essential places like work, mask-wearing has led to rashes for some and breakouts for others. It can also cause skin congestion, dry skin, and acne.
The global pandemic, social distancing, and the overall fear of possibly getting sick are enough to worry about without worrying about skincare. But with the constant reuse of disposable or cloth face masks and the lack of education around proper use, people are left with less than stellar skin. Skincare may seem like an afterthought during a pandemic but skincare is an important part of self-care and wearing masks has increased the need to focus on taking care of yourself and maintaining skin health.
For college students especially, this is a crucial time to prioritize self-care. With school abruptly going virtual and the upheaval of students on campus to whatever living space they managed to find within a short time frame, it left a lot of students in a vulnerable state. With the combination of stress and mandatory mask-wearing, your skin may be going through it.
It’s even gained its own name, “maskne” by Allison Wisniewski, an aesthetician. According to an interview by Carle, Wisniewski emphasizes the importance of self-care through skin care and offered ways to keep your skin at top health while wearing a mask.
‘“[…] Store your mask in a clean place such as a fresh paper bag,” Wisniewski said. “‘Wash your reusable or cloth mask, using hot water and dish soap rather than a washing machine.”’
Many of us don’t know that there are proper procedures to go through even from the start of touching your mask let alone while it’s on and that it continues through taking your mask off. No one should have to get “maskne” just because they are trying to stay protected.
‘“Wash your face immediately after removing your mask at night. If possible, try not to wear makeup in the area where your mask sits, and if you do, make sure it is non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and oil-free,” Wisniewski said. “Natural mask fabrics such as cotton and bamboo are the best options for your skin. Let the skin breathe when not at work or in public.”’
Suzan Obagi, director, UPMC Cosmetic Surgery & Skin Health Center, shares tips on a number of ways to protect your skin while practicing safe mask-wearing. Having moisturized skin is the most important step in keeping your skin clear.
“Wash your skin well and apply a light moisturizer or, if your skin is very dry, use a cream,” she said.
Obagi stresses the importance of sunscreen and ointments for chaffed skin.
“Apply a light sunscreen lotion or cream, preferably a mineral-based sunscreen containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide,” Obagi said. “If you have areas on your skin that are raw or chaffed, apply an ointment to these areas after you are finished wearing your mask for the day and then reapply this ointment at bedtime.”
Even though we are in a pandemic, it doesn’t mean other parts of our lives have to matter less. Self-care is crucial in a time where going out, seeing friends, and enjoying the activities that brought our lives excitement can’t happen like it did just at the start of this year.
There are a lot of unexpected elements when it comes to facing COVID-19 and we’re all learning new things along the way. But don’t let “maskne” get you down when there’s a million other things to worry about. These tips are easy to follow and the products are easy on college students’ pockets. Looking your best helps you feel your best and that isn’t something we should shortcut.