Best Practices

The Skinny on reducing skin irritation when wearing a face mask

The Skinny on reducing skin irritation when wearing a face mask

PRIMED’s masks all feature high quality materials with an emphasis on wearability and comfort as well as protection. However, our skin simply isn’t accustomed to being covered for entire work shifts or school days. This means that oils can build up, leading to skin irritation, or friction can cause discomfort. If you’re looking to minimize skin irritation, we’re going to cover seven critical considerations!

1. Start with Your Mask Choice

Simply stated, all medical masks are not equal. From design considerations and materials used to ASTM ratings and quality control, your experience from one mask brand or design to the next can vary greatly.

For example, our ASTM-rated surgical tie or earloop face masks all meet strict regulations for breathability and biocompatibility to provide a base level of protection against skin, face, and ear irritation.

Materials are also important. We never use nanoform graphene, fibre glass, or other materials that might create an adverse reaction.

Instead, we rely on proven non-woven textiles, such as spunbond and spunbond-meltblown-spunbond (SMS), layered in such a way to provide proven levels of protection while providing long-lasting comfort.

If your masks don’t list materials or manufacturers won’t answer questions about what they use to manufacture their PPE, steer clear to minimize the risk of skin irritation and ensure reliable protection.

2. Optimize Your Fit

A snug fit is your front-line defense against skin irritation. Even if a mask isn’t scratchy, rubbing against your face for extended periods can create tiny abrasions, encouraging clogged pores and other skin issues.

Further complicating things, even the softest medical face mask is likely leeching moisture from your skin throughout the day as well. It could also hold the oils against your skin or move them around to places you typically don’t find oil if you have oily skin.

All of this can lead to general soreness, rashes, increased blemishes, and even acne flare-ups if you’re prone to them.

To help secure your mask, be sure to use the nosepiece to hold the top of the mask firmly against your face. Then use the earloops or surgical ties to keep the sides and bottom of the mask snug as well.

For smaller faces, pediatric masks offer a tighter fit. You might also consider ear savers if you can’t find a fit you like. These typically provide a means of subtly adjusting mask fit, helping to take mask fit from slightly loose to just right!

3. Don’t Forget Skincare Options

Many people don’t have a choice about the amount of time they’re required to wear a mask due to workplace or government regulations. However, we all have control over the ways we take care of our skin.

If you’ve never considered a skincare routine, doing so can make a noticeable difference in the skin irritation caused by extended mask use. Mayo Clinic recommends using a moisturizer both before and after wearing a mask.

"Check the label for the words noncomedogenic, non-clogging or non-acnegenic to find the right option for you." they say. "Look for moisturizers that have dimethicone or ceramides as ingredients, which can help repair the skin barrier to prevent irritation from the masks."

The best routine to follow depends on your skin type, allergies, personal preferences, and other factors. Where possible, avoid abrasive cleansers, products that dry out your skin, or oily cleansers or moisturizers. Products that dry thoroughly and leave no residue are typically best.

4. Mind the Makeup

Keeping makeup to a minimum in areas where your surgical mask touches your face can also help to reduce irritation and minimize the chances of acne, rosacea, clogged pores, and other common skin reactions.

Speaking with Allure, Bruce Brod, a certified dermatologist says, "Consider skipping your makeup, such as foundations and concealers, as well as other skin-care items that could cause irritation."

If you must use makeup around your mask areas, dry to use non-caking and dry makeup type and use as little as possible. Wet cosmetics or creams can often form a thicker layer on your skin, contributing to humidity issues and further irritation. Translucent setting powders or sprays can help against this to some extent.

Lipsticks and lip balms are the exceptions to this rule. The added heat and moisture of mask usage can lead to chapped lips.

Speaking with Glamour magazine, Dr. Esho a UK-based cosmetic doctor, highlights the benefits, saying, "It’s important to choose a product that will not only treat dry skin, but also boost your lips hydration through all its layers so avoid using waxes that will just sit on the surface of the lip."

If you’re worried about colour transferring to your mask, choose a nude or natural tone or opt for a transparent or translucent balm instead! Avoiding strong scents (often found in medicated, mentholated, or minty lip balms) can also help to reduce eye discomfort.

5. Don’t Underestimate Small Breaks

When it is safe to do so, take a moment to remove your mask. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, this will allow fresh air to circulate against your skin and help to reduce any moisture or condensation built up after long periods of wear. This is better if you can step out and allow your skin to get a little sun.

Just be mindful of distancing protocols, risk factors, and masking requirements. However, aiming for at least 15 minutes of mask-free time per four hours of mask use can make a noticeable difference in skin condition and reduce irritation levels.

6. Refresh Your Mask Often

Today, it’s common to see people with masks hanging from their bags, backpacks, car mirrors, and more. You can probably name a few places in both your home or office with a stash of used masks tucked away somewhere.

When masking first became a prominent concern for most of us, supplies were minimal. However, this has improved significantly.

As such, if you’re using single-use medical face masks, there’s less reason to continue reusing masks time after time. Where supplies allow and regulations dictate, be sure to change out your mask periodically. This is particularly important if the mask is visibly soiled, physically damaged, or excessively moist.

All of these will not just contribute to skin irritation but could also compromise the protective benefits of the mask. If you commonly use cloth face masks, be sure to launder them regularly and allow them to dry thoroughly before reusing them.

When possible, clean them using detergents with minimal fragrance or softening agents to help reduce skin discomfort and keep the masks looking and functioning at their best.

Finally, rotate your cloth masks to ensure you always have a fresh, clean mask available.

7. Keep Things Silky Smooth

If you typically shave the area where your mask rests, you might find that this causes increased irritation. This is especially common for people who didn’t frequently shave before wearing masks.

Using a moisturizer and developing a post-shave skincare routine can help to reduce these issues. If your facial hair grows particularly fast, you might find that the irritation comes from stubble rubbing the mask as the day progresses.

If this is the case, University Hospitals suggests adding a mid-day shave to your schedule to help to eliminate this irritation.

Johns Hopkins Medicine notes, however, that you should be sure to moisturize frequently and to monitor how your skin responds to more frequent shaving as it might simply result in trading one form of skin irritation for another.

If so, depilatory creams, alternative razor designs, or other hair removal methods might help the hair remain shorter for longer while minimizing skin irritation.

Key Takeaways

  • High quality masks, such as PRIMED’s surgical tie face masks and earloop face masks, are essential for minimizing skin irritation resulting from wearing a mask.
  • Masks with an ASTM rating meet strict guidelines for breathability and biocompatibility, ensuring a baseline level of comfort and reduced skin irritation risks.
  • Using a mask with a nosepiece and ensuring the ear loops or ties keep the mask snug against your face can further reduce irritation due to abrasion or drying.
  • Take care of your skin with regular cleaning and moisturizing between mask-wearing sessions. Oil-free products which leave the skin dry and smooth are typically best.
  • Be mindful of makeup use in areas covered by your mask. Heavy makeup can lead to increased breakouts, clogged pores, and other skin concerns. When makeup is a must, use translucent sealers to help minimize irritation risks.
  • Take mask-wearing breaks where possible. At least 15 minutes every 4 hours is recommended. However, even a quick break to take a few breaths, pat your skin dry, and don your mask again can make a difference!
  • Replace your face mask with a clean one when they become soiled, moist, or physically damaged. Avoid reusing single-use face masks where possible.
  • For cloth masks, regular laundering with a mild, scent-free detergent and rotating your masks often is an excellent approach to minimizing skin concerns.
  • If masks are irritating recently shaved skin, this could be caused by your mask rubbing against the stubble on your face. Consider a post-shave skincare routine to soften fresh stubble or add an additional shave to the middle of your day.

PRIMED is a leading provider of high quality PPE throughout Canada. Supplying both the public and the healthcare professionals serving them, our selection of single-use face masks, surgical gowns, hair coverings, and other items combine innovative designs with premium materials and affordable pricing to provide dependable performance time after time. Contact us today or browse our product selection for more on how we can help you!

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