Who says we can’t be fashionable while protecting public health? Lately, face masks have evolved to be both stylish and practical. A myriad of mask designs have emerged from the pandemic, ranging in material, print and shape. What started as a direct response to the PPE shortage last summer has become another avenue for self-expression and individuality.

While regulations are loosening due the rising number of vaccinated adults in America, some industries do not have the luxury to remove the mask. For health care workers, the mask is an integral part of the uniform. They have to be double-masked to protect themselves and from spreading potential COVID-19 particles from patient to patient. Due to the extended wear of tight-fitted masks, health care workers are at higher risk of developing high contact dermatitis symptoms – dryness, flakiness, rashes, inflammatory breakouts, swelling, and lacerations on the nose bridge (Kelechi, Brunette & Lee, 2020).

If you’re developing skin complications from mask wearing, here are 4 ways to treat and prevent further development.

4 Ways to Treat PPE-Related Skin Complications Infographic

Regularly Disinfect and Replace Masks

Masks are intended to reduce particle transmission when speaking, coughing, sneezing or any other method that spreads bodily fluids. The bacteria your body expels is trapped underneath your mask, creating an undesirable occlusion where bacteria thrive. Our bodies also produce sebum that make it easier for bacteria and dirt to cling to the epidermis. Therefore, wearing the same mask without proper disinfection will increase the likelihood of skin irritation. Most commonly, acne  can form around the points where the mask contacts our skin the most – cheeks and chin.

Disposable masks should be changed daily in order to minimize the spread of bacteria to the face. Fabric masks can be reused when properly washed. Avoid using bleach since it can irritate the delicate skin barrier on our face. Hand washing your mask is a time-effective method, but it’s important that the mask is completely dry before wear. Additionally, the detergent should be thoroughly rinsed out. Some detergents contain skin irritants which will cause contact dermatitis on the facial area.

 

Protect the Skin Barrier

A healthy skin barrier will prevent bacteria moving deeper from the epidermis to the dermis. The key to maintaining your skin barrier is routinely moisturizing your face. Products with hyaluronic acid or ceramides improve water retention that will keep your skin barrier from drying out or flaking. Reapplication in between mask wear may be helpful, depending on the environment you work in. Just make sure your hands are clean before applying the moisturizer.

 

Simplify Your Skin Care Routine

The phrase “less is more” is often used to describe skin care products. When our skin breaks out, it’s tempting to pile on layers of products to fix it. The problem is that treating acne and repairing the skin barrier are two separate goals. Mixing ingredients without referring to expert guides from dermatologists can worsen your condition. For example, you don’t have to use both hyaluronic acid and a ceramide lotion together because it will overload your skin with moisture. On top of that, exfoliant ingredients commonly used for acne treatments – salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, BHAs and AHAs – need to be well-researched before integrating into your skin care regimen.

Dermatologists recommend to routinely wash your face with a gentle cleanser, seal the skin barrier with a moisturizer, and use a spot treatment if needed. Finding the right combination of ingredients is a journey, but is worthwhile when you can prevent breakouts. In addition to skin care, reducing the wear of makeup can largely improve your skin. The reason behind that is that makeup brushes and tools aren’t routinely disinfected, so you could be applying bacteria directly to your face. It may feel foreign to go to work bare-faced, but at least we have face masks to hide it.

 

Engage in Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Stress is a major culprit in the disruption of our overall health. It affects our sleeping habits, digestion, metabolism, and many more internal bodily functions. Although there hasn’t been data to support that stress leads to acne, stress-related habits can certainly affect it. In a previous blog , we shared the tips to survive the night shift for nurses that include healthy sleeping and eating habits. This can be applied to our day-to-day lifestyle as well. Maintaining a balanced diet, reducing caffeine intake, exercising daily and engaging in hobbies can greatly improve quality of life and skin condition.

 

Join Our Nurse Team Today

At Eisenhower Health, we provide resources for our nurses and doctors to flourish in both their careers and personal lives. Located in the Coachella Valley, our world-class medical facility provides many opportunities to embark on local outings and soak up the California sunshine. Start your fulfilling journey of nursing at the Career page to find available nursing jobs and nursing specialties that align with your skills and interests.

Originally posted on 14/6/2021

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