How to prevent breakouts while wearing face mask regularly?
In light of the recent recommendation by WHO (World Health Organization) and the Singapore Government to wear face mask when going out of the house, all of us are likely to have discovered the side effects of keeping our nose and mouth covered for a prolonged period of time. We have also seen pictures on social media from healthcare workers around the world with rashes, chafing and even blisters from wearing masks!
In this post, we are going to talk about another common side effect of wearing face mask – acne/breakout around the chin/jawline area. We have noticed quite a number of our patients developing breakouts over the lower face area with the increased frequency of wearing face masks.
Why does this happen?
The issue lies in the “deliberate occlusive” nature of protective face masks. Wearing face masks helps to prevent the individual from contracting any airborne infectious germs. It also helps to prevent the spread of infection and is an essential part of an infection control strategy to eliminate cross contamination. When someone coughs, talks or sneezes, they could release germs into the air that may infect others nearby.
However, protecting your face with a mask traps your breathing; thereby creating a hot and moist environment for the skin underneath the mask. This leads to a build up of sweat and oil which can cause rashes and inflammation. When oil is accumulated in the skin, it creates a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria, thus leading to breakouts. Additionally, when we breathe in and out, the humidity and temperature of the skin within the masked area increases. This creates an ideal environment for more bacteria to breed.
What should we do then?
You should still wear your face masks whenever you step out of the house. At Prive, we have come up with a step by step guide to keeping your skin clear of breakouts while wearing your masks!
1. Thoroughly wash your face before and after
Before wearing your masks, you want to make sure that you have washed your face thoroughly. The same goes after removing your face masks, as there will be heat and oil build-up around the lower face after wearing face masks for an extended time period. We recommend using foaming cleansers as they remove oil more effectively.
Remember to always wash your hands before you wash your face. Your hands need to be cleaned by washing with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, otherwise, you may risk spreading the dirt and impurities on your hands onto your face. Worse still, you may risk spreading germs (Coronavirus included) around your face and get sick!
2. Skip makeup if possible (especially under your masks)
Wearing full-on foundation, blush or lipstick underneath the face masks will not only stain your face masks, but will also cause your skin to be clogged – this paves the way for acne-inducing bacteria to breed. Avoiding make-up will be most ideal, especially foundations and concealers with a heavy formulation. Any potentially irritating or pore-clogging ingredients should also be avoided under the mask-covered skin.
If, however, you need to look presentable at work or for video conferences, light make-up on the upper face, i.e. eyebrow liner, eye shadow and eye liner application will be preferred. Avoid using any oily products as it could clog your skin further.
3. Continue to moisturise regularly
Moisturising daily reduces the chance of our skin becoming extremely dry or oily. When skin is dry or oily, it could cause or further aggravate skin problems such as acne.
For the general population in Singapore, using water-based moisturiser to nourish the skin is recommend as our climate is hot and humid. For those with sensitive skin, use a moisturiser that can rehydrate the skin while forming a protective barrier to minimise friction caused by wearing face masks. Products containing ceramides, niacinamide and/or hyaluronic acid will help!
4. Always treat the irritated skin
If you notice any redness due to irritation, wash the area with gentle cleanser and apply an ointment to help the skin heal as soon as possible. Products that help to soothe the skin, such as aloe vera, can help to treat mild irritation. In the meantime, hold off any anti-aging products temporarily as they may irritate skin further. Try to avoid products that contain retinol, and keep your skincare simple.
When wearing face mask, you want your mask securely in place but no tighter than necessary to achieve a skin-to-mask seal. It is also important not touch the mask if possible, so wearing something comfortable is recommended.
5. Exfoliate regularly
Skin exfoliation is physically or chemically removing dead skin cells and build-up that causes the skin to appear dull. Long-term build-up of dead skin cells could lead to further worsening of breakouts.
For those with acne prone skin, exfoliating regularly is essential in preventing breakouts. Regular exfoliation will also ensure that your skin reaps the benefits of the skin care products and active ingredients that you painstakingly apply every day!
6. Brush your teeth after eating
Brushing your teeth after every meal is part of making sure your mask is clean. This prevents breathing food particles into the mask unknowingly. To ensure utmost safety, get rid of any food residue after eating by wiping your mouth clean, brushing your teeth, as well as gargling with mouthwash.
7. Speak to your doctor about taking oral medication for acne breakouts
“Desperate times calls for desperate measures.”
For those who always seem to have severe acne breakouts despite trying various preventive measures, you may want to speak to your doctor about taking oral medications to control hormones (e.g. Oral contraceptives) or reduce oil production (e.g. Oratane or Roaccutane) to prevent and treat existing acne. Although it is not recommended as a long-term solution, it can manage the situation at hand and keep breakouts at bay during this period. As these are prescription medication, you will need to consult a doctor first – he/she will be able to assess the safety and suitability of taking these medication based on your medical condition and history.
It is crucial to see a doctor as some medication, such as Roaccutane require special precaution. If you are of child-bearing age, and are currently planning for pregnancy or will be planning for pregnancy in the near future, the usage of Roaccutane may not be recommended. In such cases, taking oral antibiotics like Doxycycline or Clindamycin may be a better solution for you. Either way, always speak to a certified medical practitioner first, and get medication only from licensed clinics.
Lastly, to reduce the spread of Covid-19, proper social distancing is necessary. Avoid going out of the house at all if possible, and stay at home as much as you can. When you cannot avoid going out, wearing a mask is important to protect yourself as well as those around you; including your loved ones. Most importantly, we are all in this fight together… #SGUNITED
The opinion in this blog is based on our extensive research and our own personal experience. For more information and prices, please contact us via WhatsApp or Call us at +65 96565380. T&Cs apply.
Written by Dr Shirley Kwee
Dr Shirley Kwee is Privé’s resident doctor with over 2 years of experience in medical aesthetics. Approachable and friendly, she adopts a holistic approach towards medical enhancements and believes that confidence is beauty.