"It's a wide variety of problems that can happen from just people on the street to providers who have to wear one or two masks to just keep themselves protected," explained Dr. Sue Ellen Cox, founder of Aesthetic Solutions Dermatology in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Dr. Cox says she is seeing more and more patients with skin issues stemming from masks.
"A lot of it is due to occlusion acting so they're getting lots of little fine bumps around their mouth just from sort of sweating and clogging up the pores," Dr. Cox explained.
The rash forms when bacteria or moisture builds up under the mask and irritates the skin. Hot weather can also lead to excess sweating making the rash worse in the summer months.
"So you get a very humid environment that dehydrates your skin," Dr. Cox said. The material of your mask may also be an irritant.
"Sometimes irritation and contact dermatitis as well as irritant dermatitis, which can be due to something in the mask itself," Dr. Cox explained. "They might be using masks that are synthetic like nylon masks and that can really be irritating to the skin, so I usually tell my patients, because they don't have to wear medical-grade masks necessarily, to use a cotton mask. Because cotton will allow your skin to breathe better and is less likely to be inclusive. It's also less likely to cause friction.
But, if you're going to use a cotton mask, make sure it's one where if you hold it up to the light, you can't see through it, because you want something that that is not going to allow particles to enter as easily."
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Dr. Cox says it is important to keep the mask and skin clean and well hydrated using a moisturizer to create a barrier as well as minimizing makeup while wearing a mask.
"I think that what's most important is to keep the skin very clean," Dr. Cox said. "And, then very well hydrated. Using a good very gentle moisturizer that may have ceramides or have hyaluronic acid in it so that it keeps the skin very hydrated.
If you do have any abrasions, making sure that you're putting Vaseline or apply Aquaphor on the areas to heal them. There's also another really good silicone-based product called Stratacell that we use a lot that can be very helpful," she added.
Dr. Cox says it's important to pay attention to any issues a mask may be creating for your skin but it's even more important to wear one during the pandemic and seek help from a professional if your irritation won't heal or worsens.