How To Take Care Of Your Skin When You're Wearing A Face Mask

Masks are part of our new reality, so we have to figure out how to work around them.

Aesthetician Rafaelle Longpré is very familiar with the not-always-pleasant experience of wear a mask all day. She and her coworkers at Montreal spa Espace Nomad have to wear them during their entire shifts in order to keep their customers safe. And since the spa re-opened several weeks ago, they’re getting way more appointments for facials than they usually get this time of year, Longpré told HuffPost Canada.

“I think [wearing masks] is one of the reasons,” she said. “People have more time now, they want to take care of themselves. But I think they also have more breakouts, which makes them think, ‘I should take care of my skin.’”

There’s such a big demand for facials that they’re actually working on developing a special “déconfinement” (post-lockdown) treatment for this specific problem, she added.

Passengers wearing face masks get on and off a train at a subway station in Toronto. We're all going to be wearing masks for a long time, so we need to figure out how to live with them.
Passengers wearing face masks get on and off a train at a subway station in Toronto. We're all going to be wearing masks for a long time, so we need to figure out how to live with them.

Wearing a mask, especially in the summer heat, can have a big impact on skin. The area around your mouth and nose becomes a lot more humid than usual, and your skin isn’t able to breathe, which can lead to breakouts and redness.

“Masks just block everything,” Longpré explained. “That’s good, because that’s what we need [to protect from COVID-19]. But at the same time, our skin is our biggest organ, and it needs to breathe.”

The good news is that for people with dry skin, or people who don’t often get acne, their skin will likely be unaffected. They might want to take a little more time than usual in their skincare routine, but there likely won’t be major changes.

But if you’re someone who’s already prone to breakouts, masks can definitely make that problem worse, Longpré said. “If you already have sensitivity, it might [increase] a little bit more because of the heat and the humidity.”

Luckily, there are things you can do to feed and nourish your skin. Longpré walked us through the important skincare steps.

Wash new masks, and wash your mask after every use

You should be doing this already, as masks are only effective against COVID-19 if they’re clean and freshly laundered. But in addition to effectively being useless, a used mask will more likely irritate your skin, Longpré said.

Change your mask regularly

If you have to wear a mask all day for work like Longpré does, she suggests changing your mask every four hours. (This isn’t a Health Canada recommendation, although the government does recommend changing a mask that’s damp or dirty.) For one thing, your mask might get sweaty, which in addition to irritating your skin would render the mask useless. You may have inadvertently touched it, or taken it off to eat. Either way, it’s a good practice to change it up.

She says it’s a good idea to either throw away a disposable mask or put a reusable one in a bag to wash at home, and use the time between masks to wash your face. It’s a good time to do a spot treatment if you have acne, or just hydrate and freshen. “It makes a huge difference,” she said.

If you're able to take a break partway through your shift to wash your face and change your mask, that can be great for your skin.
If you're able to take a break partway through your shift to wash your face and change your mask, that can be great for your skin.

Don’t use fabric softener or scented detergent

The chemicals in artificial scents aren’t great for your skin, so it’s best to find an unscented detergent with as few chemicals as possible. But fabric softener is bad for masks for an entirely different reason: as with towels, they’ll become less absorbent.

“When you put the softener in [with masks], they’ll absorb less water,” Longpré explained. “They absorb less of your sweat, and your breath.” It can make ventilation a problem.

If you’re putting fabric softener in with the rest of your laundry and you don’t want to do an extra load for masks, you can always wash them by hand, she said. She suggests using hot water and unscented soap, and letting them air dry.

Wash your face regularly, especially at night

Yes, this is an obvious step — but it’s still one that a lot of us ignore, Longpré said.

It’s particularly important to wash your face at night, so that you’re getting rid of all the day’s grime, and your skin can breathe while you’re sleeping. Longpré suggests using micellar water to remove makeup and dirt, and make your skin soft.

Micellar water is a good option for washing your face.
Micellar water is a good option for washing your face.

Exfoliate more often

If exfoliation is something you usually do once a week, consider doing it two or three times a week instead, Longpré said. Exfoliation removes the dead skin from your skin’s surface, which will prevent the buildup of oil and clogged pores.

Make sure you’re not going overboard, though — exfoliating too often will hurt your skin, and can lead to inflammation.

Over-exfoliating “can feel really good in the moment,” Longpré said. “You’re like, ‘Oh, I’m finally clean and fresh.’ But your skin [reacts to dryness] and produces even more oil, and then you put a mask on top of it and it gets out of control.”

Moisturize regularly

Hydration is one of the easiest and most important parts of skin care. In addition to making sure you drink enough water, add a good moisturizer into your skincare routine.

Consider a special treatment

If your skin is really bothering you, consider splurging on a luxury product or a skincare consultation. Longpré swears by the Montreal brand Étymologie’s Probiotic Glacial Clay Mask, which provides a deep clean and reduces acne formation.

You also go to your local spa to ask them for personalized suggestions, or seek out an online consultation if you don’t feel comfortable going in directly.

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