Wearing a Mask

Wearing a mask is important Photo

Wearing a Mask is an important part of the fight against COVID-19

The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), notably face masks, has become an important weapon in our arsenal in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19. Research shows that face masks, even of the reusable cotton type, can help to substantially reduce the risk of infection. ¹ Wearing a mask reduces transmission of the virus by limiting the distance that airborne droplets travel, such as those expelled when sneezing or coughing, by about 50% compared to the distance these droplets would travel if the person wasn’t wearing a mask. ² Not only that, wearing a face mask also provides greater protection to the wearer by blocking the droplets expelled by another person.² This actually makes social distancing more effective,3 as the recommended 1-2m distance is far enough away that the vast majority of droplets, which are only transmitted about 35cm when wearing a mask, ² do not reach the next person.

While the science is strong, and the need to wear face masks is critically important in helping to curb the spread of the virus, this doesn’t mean that there are no downsides to wearing one, especially for our skin.

How facial skin can be affected by face masks

The skin is literally the body’s first line of defence to the outside world, this means that it is particularly sensitive to changes in factors such as temperature, humidity and friction. If any of these are too high or too low, your skin can react in a multitude of ways, from dryness to redness to irritation³.

If any of these are too high or too low, your skin can react in a multitude of ways, from dryness to redness to irritation.⁴ Wearing a mask for extended periods of time is introducing a relatively enclosed environment that can increase temperature on that part of the face. Increasing temperature can also increase sebum (oil) secretion, potentially giving rise to skin breakouts and pimples or, in some instances, acne. 

This mask-induced acne has even given rise to a new term: ‘maskne’.⁵ In addition, exhaled breath can lead to some condensation within the mask itself, increasing the moisture content on the skin. This can irritate the skin, and is fertile ground for acne-causing bacteria. Finally, the mechanical friction caused by wearing a mask, especially behind the ears and around the cheeks, nose and chin, can lead to irritation and redness.

Clearly, the effects of a face mask on the skin can be uncomfortable and potentially lead to incorrect usage. Below are three areas to keep in mind to help make wearing a mask as comfortable as possible.

How to manage the effects of mask-wearing on your skin

Hydration is key to the proper functioning of the skin.

One way to combat this is through the use of well-formulated, effective moisturisers. By using products that contain ingredients such as occludents, emollients and humectants that mimic how the skin naturally hydrates itself, you can not only offset the dryness that can be caused by face masks, but also help to reduce irritation and discomfort. In addition, moisturisers containing occlusive ingredients such as petrolatum or silicones such as dimethicone can help to form a water-resistant barrier on the skin, reducing the negative impact of too much moisture building up under your mask.

The QV Face Range contains products that have been scientifically formulated to provide varying levels of moisturisation for all skin types.

1 Chu DK, Akl AA, Duda S, Solo K, Yaacoub S, Schunemann HJ. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet 2020;395(10242):1973-1987

2 Dbouk T, Drikakis D. On respiratory droplets and face masks. Phys Fluids 2020;32(6):063303

3 Ngonghala CN, Iboi E, Eikenberry S, Scotch M, MacIntyre CR, Bonds MH et al. Mathematical assessment of the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions on curtailing the 2019 novel Coronavirus. Math Biosci 2020;325:108364

4 Engebretsen KA, Johansen JD, Kezic S, Linneberg A, Thyssen JP. The effect of environmental humidity and temperature on skin barrier function and dermatitis. JEADV;30(2):223-249

5 Tan Y. BBC. ‘Maskne’ and bold makeup: how masks are changing how we look. [internet] 2020. Available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-53468051

6 Szepietowski JC, Matusiak L, Szepietowska M, Krajewski PK, Bialynicki-Birula R. Face mask-induced itch: a self-questionnaire study or 2,315 responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Acta Derm Venereol 2020;100:adv00152

7 Sieber MA, Hegel JKE. Azelaic acid: properties and mode of action. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2014;27(suppl 1):9-17

8 Khodaeiani E, Fouladi RF, Amirnia M, Saeidi M, Karimi ER. Topical 4% nicotinamide vs. 1% clindamycin in moderate inflammatory acne vulgaris. Int J Dermatol 2013;52(8):999-1004

9 WebMD. The Power of Hand-Washing to Prevent Coronavirus. 2020 [internet]. 06/03/2020. Retrieved 31/07/2020. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200306/power-of-hand-washing-to-prevent-coronavirus

10 Lambers H, Piessens S, Bloem A, Pronk H, Finkel P. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora. Int J Cosmet Sci 2006;28(5):359-70