You know we’re in a whole new world when we start worrying about acne flare-ups from our work or essential-errand-running face masks.

Of course, this is a reality for all of us now and for the foreseeable future!

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Whether you’re an essential worker that is required to wear a mask or you’re a shelter-at-home mask wearer — dawning your new facial attire for neighborhood walks, runs around the park, grocery store trips, or on any other essential errand — you may have noticed some unsavory side effects appearing on and around your chin, cheeks, and nose.

Masks not only rub against and cause friction on our already sensitive and fragile facial skin, but they also trap dirt, oil, sweat, and makeup causing buildup and clogged pores. The result? More rosacea, increased inflammation, blackheads, and, ultimately, acne.

You may be thinking that there are more important things to worry about in the world right now. Maybe you’re even taking the what does it matter approach because you’ve got nowhere to go. No matter how you feel at the onset, long-term sustained skin breakouts and inflammation can start wearing you down, causing real psychological, as well as physical damage and scarring, and may even affect your overall mood, increase anxiety and stress, and can lead to depression.

The mask is both a semi-savior and enemy! Therefore, spending a bit more time and energy tending to and caring for our skin is incredibly important and should be part of your self-care regimen.

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How Masks Wreak Havoc With Our Skin

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Yes, it’s already somewhat annoying to don a mask for everyday life. Yet, you probably already find yourself coming to terms and even finding it somewhat normal.

On the other hand, the skin irritation caused by wearing the mask is not so easy to normalize. 

Wearing either a cloth or medical mask for long periods of time “can wreak havoc with your skin, leading to pressure marks, irritation, rashes, breakouts, and even skin infections (fungal or bacterial).”

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With many of the medical masks, there’s a pressure issue. Unfortunately, the only way to properly wear one of these masks is to make sure that it “hugs the skin, covering the nose and mouth and leaving little room for air to enter around it.” This pressure is fine for a few wearing, but over time it causes “chafing, temporary red marks, and even bruising or sores.”

Along with pressure, you’ve got a new little ecosystem brewing under that mask. Due to the mixture of your breath and the masks pressure, “oil and sweat … build up … creating a warm, humid environment,” which then causes “acne breakouts, a rash, or even an infection if the skin is broken.”

For those of us using homemade or store-bought cloth masks, you may not have the same “pressure” issues, but you’re definitely still dealing with a humid, acne-loving environment. Plus, depending on the type and quality of fabric used to make the mask, some people may experience increased irritation (from those chemicals and dyes) or even allergic reactions.

Even if you’ve never suffered from acne before, wearing a mask for most of your day or even part of your day can stir up all kinds of skin trouble. When it comes to mask specific skin issues, many people are reporting skin redness, bruising, abrasions, pressure ulcers, acne, and rosacea flare-ups.

If you’re experiencing any of these skin issues or want to avoid them altogether, here are a few tips and tricks to protect and care for your skin!

5 Tips for Healthy Mask-Wearing Skin

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Unfortunately, we can’t really stop wearing masks. They are an integral piece of the safety puzzle for keeping others safe, as well as yourself. On the other hand, irritated, inflamed, acne-covered, raw skin isn’t necessarily a health issue any of us want to deal with long-term.

So, what is a safety-conscious, broken-out person supposed to do?

Luckily, dermatologists have risen to the cry for knowledge! Here are a few tips and tricks compiled from dermatologists to help us back to healthy skin without sacrificing our masks.

1. Choose Skin-Friendly Fabric

The obvious, first step to preventing irritated skin from your mask is choosing the right fabric. While you may want to go super cheap, if you have sensitive skin, do a bit of research before purchasing.

Try to find masks — or purchase cloth to make a mask — that are either 100 percent cotton or mixed with gentle polyester. These fabrics are not only vegan-friendly, but they’re also breathable and provide an adequate barrier. Think about a mask that also has a second very soft barrier layer that’s made out of microfiber.

It’s also important to wash your cloth mask after every use! This not only keeps your mask sanitized and safe for your use, but it also prevents dirt, sweat, and oil from building up on the inside of the mask and then recontaminating your face every time you put it on.

If you plan on making your own face mask, make sure to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

2. Change Up Your Makeup Routine

While make-up is definitely that extra self-confidence boost many of us need right now — maybe it’s even that little daily routine that makes you feel even slightly normal — try to plan your makeup wearing around your mask-wearing.

Specifically, try not to wear makeup when you know you’ll be wearing a mask. Makeup adds an extra layer of oil on top of environmental debris that gets trapped under your mask.

With that said, if donning a bit of makeup to go out is part of your self-care routine, try keeping makeup to the parts of your face that aren’t covered by the mask. Maybe stick to eye makeup and nix the foundation and lipstick for now?

3. Find Gentle Cleansers

Any other day, week, month, or year, your cleanser will serve you well! In the times of COVID-19, it may be time to rethink your cleanser and choose one that’s specifically designed for sensitive skin. This is even more important right now, as you’ll want to wash your face every time you remove your mask in order to “clear up some of the debris, sweat, and whatever you’ve accumulated” under there.

So, what should you be looking for?

Per Adeline Kikam, DO, — chief resident dermatologist at Corpus Christi Medical Center in Texas — you’ll want to use “a gentle cleanser or cleansing bar to wash your face without overdrying it” that is fragrance-free, non-foaming, and that doesn’t strip moisture. Also, make sure to avoid hot water, which can be “more abrasive to the skin and further compromise the skin barrier.”

Looking for easy access? Here are a few you can order right now on Amazon: {save} Natural Vegan Face Wash for $19.95, — which is fragrance and paraben-free and recommended for dry, sensitive skin — DERMA E Fragrance-Free Sensitive Skin Cleanser with Pycnogenol for $12.40, — or this BeBarefaced Natural Milky Vegan Fragrance-Free Cleanser for $18.34, — which uses chamomile and vitamin E to reduce redness and hydrate.

4. Protect Your Skin with a Barrier Cream

Taking care of your skin after removing your mask is hugely important, yet what you do before putting your mask on can help protect your skin as well!

After cleansing your face in the morning and before putting your mask on, apply a barrier cream that includes one or more vegan-based hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or niacinamide (Vitamin B3). Per Dr. Kikam, DO, these three ingredients equate to the “holy grail … for fighting off dryness and irritation.” On top of applying barrier cream before donning your mask, give yourself even more protection by using it post mask-wearing face wash as well.

Here are a few vegan-friendly, cruelty-free face facial moisturizers with two or more of the “holy grail” ingredients: Fitglow Beauty Vegan, Organic Cloud Ceramide Moisturizing Balm with Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, & Cloudberry Seed Oil for $89.00CERAMEDX Extra Gentle Natural Ceramide Cleanser for $9.99 — which is unscented for dry, sensitive skin and uses hyaluronic acid — or this InstaNatural Vitamin C Moisturizer for $19.97 — which uses hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, jojoba oil, and aloe vera. 

5. Invest in a Bedtime Serum

Did you know that our skin uses the body’s sleep cycle to regenerate, repair, and rehydrate?

If you’re looking to boost the health of your skin, reduce breakouts, fight inflammation, and repair flare-ups then it’s time to invest in bedtime serum. This is especially important for those of us wearing masks on a regular basis, which can cause odd and irregular patches of inflammation that need to be specially tended to.

When it comes to serums, maybe choose one that provides other skin benefits that you’re interested in as well? Along with healing and moisturizing, maybe you’re looking for a serum that removes dark spots, helps with anti-aging, or reduces wrinkles.

Here are a few vegan options to try out: Poppy Austin Vitamin C Serum for $26.49, Provence Beauty Vitamin Boost Night Facial Serum for $12.95, or this Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum with Konjac Root, Hyaluronic Acid, and Ferulic Acid for $27.19.

Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!

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Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammationheart healthmental wellbeingfitness goalsnutritional needsallergiesgut health and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked many health problems, including acnehormonal imbalancecancerprostate cancer and has many side effects.

For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Here are some great resources to get you started:

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!

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