For AU students who regularly leave the home for part-time work, groceries, or other commitments, masks are now an essential part of life outside the home. Sometimes continuous masking is required in public locations and must be worn for many hours at a time. For those who do this regularly, you’re familiar with the skin irritation and discomfort that may accompany breathing in a closed environment. For myself, I know that the bacteria in my mouth from my saliva and digested food can create acne breakouts and red irritation around the covered surface. So how do we cope with this new reality and take care of our skin better during this time?
For many AU students who follow a regular skin care routine, continuous masking can add some further headaches to the equation. Since you may be cleansing with a routine that works in the pre-COVID era, it may not be effective when you’re using masks for many hours of the day. Using a non-comedogenic product is recommended such that pores can remain unclogged and healthy.
One of my least favorite discoveries is that, after many hours of wearing a surgical mask, darkened marks appear around the areas of tighter contact with my skin including the nose bridge and the lower chin areas. This frustration led me to dab some baby powder onto these compressed areas. Certain baby powder formulas have zinc oxide ingredients that soothe and protect the skin. Sometimes placing a Band-Aid in areas of skin contact like behind the ears may be a good option.
For those with dry-skin, thicker products that are generally used to beat the Canadian winter dryness may not be the best option. Specifically, products with petrolatum (Vaseline) and oily formulations are a recipe for disaster with masks. Opt for a water-soluble moisturizer that is light and non-scented. My favorite drug store brands include Neutrogena, Cetaphil (non-oily moisturizer), and Vichy (Normaderm series). Water-based moisturizers leave your skin feeling refreshed and light.
Spot treatment your acne
For myself, acne has been an ongoing issue that never completely ended post-puberty. Depending on the level of hormones in my body, acne flare ups are quite common. With mandatory masking policies in public locations, I’ve found it hard to manage acne flare ups that happen hand-in-hand with skin irritation. In the beginning of the pandemic, my skin was so distressed that I could certainly have qualified for more aggressive Accutane treatment. However, I’ve found a good balance of using products with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These ingredients are found in most blackhead removal and acne cleansing formulas. Preventing acne flare ups is also important by spot treatment solutions such as salicylic acid gels.
This category is particularly applicable for women who often have multiple layers of product on at a time including primers and foundations. Unfortunately, having layered on make-up before sporting a surgical mask, I’ve come to learn of the skin discomfort, itchiness that can accompany having too much product on. One interesting fact I’ve learned from women in Asian countries who have been masking long before COVID-19 is to wear make-up products on exposed areas rather than masked areas. This has worked well for me and prevents many of the aftermaths of long hours of masking.