All healthcare workers wear scrubs

What is maskne and how do you keep mouthguard acne under control?

The skin problems caused by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) are unique. Although they primarily affect healthcare workers, even wearing a non-medical everyday mask can lead to overly irritated skin, more pimples, dry and / or flaky skin (1). We have put together some expert tips on how to combat skin problems related to PPE.

How everyday masks and PPE affect the skin

Tight-fitting masks can cause friction where the mask is in direct contact with the skin. In addition, face masks create a closed environment from which sweat and salt cannot easily escape and are deposited on the skin. This can lead to tenderness, flaky skin, or pimples. The combination of both factors exacerbates the skin irritation. If you are prone to rosacea or eczema, these symptoms can also get worse.

Given these issues, it's important to create the mildest skin care routine possible and remove from your routine any products that could make the problems worse, including:

  • Perfumed skin care
  • Ingredients that irritate the skin such as alcohol (SD or denatured), menthol, witch hazel or essential oils.
  • Coarse scrub peelings or hard cleaning brushes.

Prepare the skin for PPE or everyday masks

It is important to protect and strengthen the skin barrier when wearing a face mask for long periods of time.

  • Prepare your skin by applying a protective moisturizer to the areas covered by the mask. If you have oily or combination skin or are prone to blemishes, use a light serum instead.
  • If you need more protection along the outer edges of the mask, apply an extra layer of petroleum jelly here to prevent skin damage in these areas (2).
  • Skin damage at pressure points (e.g. on the nose) often occurs when wearing medical masks such as N95 masks (3). A strip of silicone gel (commonly used to reduce scarring) can help here. Put a narrow strip on the skin like some kind of padding to protect it from rubbing. You can find these strips in the (online) pharmacy, for example. (Of course, if you work in the medical field, you should first check that this is in line with the safety guidelines.)

What better to avoid?

  • It is best not to wear makeup on the covered areas of the face.
  • Don't use skin care products with very strong, active ingredients (save these for the evening; more on that later).
  • Here and there you read the tip to use a layer of gauze on the pressure points, which we do not recommend due to the rougher texture of the fabric. This can actually lead to more "abrasion".

Skin care tips when wearing a face mask

Here are some tips to keep in mind while wearing PPE:

  • Carefully remove the mouthguard and pour cold (but not ice-cold) water on your skin. This helps cool the skin and washes away any accumulated sweat and salt. Gently pat the skin, but avoid abrasive wiping or rubbing - this can make skin problems worse.
  • Reapply your protective skin care product before putting the mouthguard back on.

Skin care after wearing a face mask

When you're back home safe and ready to take off your mask, use a cleanser to cleanse your face to remove any accumulated salt, sweat, and dirt. Then it goes into the "build-up mode".

  • Unfortunately, there isn't just one miracle cure that can do it all - we need a mix of moisturizing, repairing, barrier-strengthening and soothing ingredients. If you're not sure how to put such a routine together, the ultimate gentle routine can be found at the end of this article.
  • And what to do with "Maskne" (pimples on the areas covered by the mask)? Try to refresh your face with cold water on a regular basis - even in between when you put the face mask on again. Use an exfoliant peeling with 2% salicylic acid in the evening.
  • To get a grip on particularly sensitive skin or even rashes, it may be worth trying a cream with hydrocortisone. Such creams are available from pharmacies and should not be used more than once a week. If possible, choose a cream that also contains ceramides. This helps the skin retain moisture.

Many PPE wearers wonder whether it is advisable not to use retinol products. Since retinol strengthens the skin, there is no need to stop using it - unless your skin doesn't respond well to it (4). However, you shouldn't apply retinol to irritated or flaky skin.

The same goes for other highly potent ingredients (such as high concentration niacinamidine, vitamin C, bakuchiol, benzoyl peroxide, etc.). You don't have to do without them completely. It is enough to use them less often or to take them off for a while if it is temporarily too much for your skin.

Do you have any other questions? Here you can find out more about the right care for sensitive skin.