There’s no doubt that wearing a face mask protects you and others from COVID-19. Yet some people say that constant mask wearing causes problems with their skin, even if they’ve never had skin issues before. You may be in this group of people as well. Whether you’re experiencing dryer skin or “maskne” (acne caused by wearing a mask), there are steps you can take to reduce these irritants.
Medical Daily asked beauty consultant Rachel C. Weingarten for some advice on skin care in the age of COVID-19, and for tips on applying make-up when you know you’ll be wearing a mask. This Q&A has been edited for length and for clarity.
Medical Daily: What kind of facial routines can people use to decrease dryness or oiliness on their skin before and after mask use?
Rachel C. Weingarten: I think the big mistake most women (and men) make is thinking they should stick to the skin routine that’s worked for them until now. While masks can potentially help keep us healthy, they can wreak havoc on our skin.
People with oily skin might find that the mask moves the sebum [oils from glands on the face] around as it shifts on your face. For people with sensitive skin or rosacea, even the most gentle mask might cause irritation. For those with dry skin, a mask might make the flakiness worse. So pay attention to your skin right now. Use the most gentle cleansers possible after you remove your mask. Don’t wait until your nightly clean-up routine. And I’d advise going for gentle in all your products. Now isn’t the time to experiment with Retinol or any potential irritants.
Wash your mask after use in unscented laundry detergent or use baby shampoo if that is more helpful.
As for oiliness, try to blot your nose or oily areas before putting on your mask. And if you’ll be out all day in the sun, consider taking a backup mask or two so that you don’t soak the mask and then spread the sweat or sebum onto the rest of your face. Now is a good time to baby your face!
MD: If you wear make-up for work, but have to wear a mask for your commute and when in close contact with coworkers, what can you do to keep your make-up looking good? Or should you do without make-up?
RCW : There’s no reason to do without make-up. I’d advise using an extra softening lip balm at night or even when hanging out at home since your lips aren’t receiving any TLC or softening from lip products. I’d advise cutting down on your skin routine since your face is already partially covered and not as exposed. Also, you know how awful it looks when someone wears the wrong shade of foundation and it rubs off on their collar? It’s even worse when it happens on your mask.
So if you need product on your face, consider a tinted moisturizer (and feel free to skip below the mask line), use a cover-up for dark circles or to cover up any spots or discoloration. And while you already know that you have to cover your nose with the mask, feel free to use the most gentle pressed powder possible to blot shine on your cheeks or the tiny portion of your nose that might show.
MD: When you’re wearing a mask all day, other people only see your eyes. How can women highlight their eyes without overdoing it?
RCW: I think my number one tip is don’t neglect your brows. While eyebrow grooming has been incredibly popular the past few years, with mask wearing you want a look that is polished and defined without looking weird or overdone.
Stick to more neutral eye shadow colors to even out the look of your eyelids. Now isn’t the time for extra shimmer. Add a defining line of eyeliner to make your eyes noticeable. I’m not sure that mascara is your friend right now since if it smears, it’s more noticeable than ever.
MD: Do women tend to overdo their eye make-up now, since the rest of their face is covered?
RCW: I think in some cases women feel helpless because make-up gives them a certain confidence. For others, it’s simply a matter of balance. They might not realize that their eye make-up suddenly looks overdone when not balanced out by lipstick.
One last tip: I think women should feel free to wear blush, but of all the makeup you’re going to wear, apply that as if your entire face was going to show. In other words, blush or bronzer will look decidedly odd if you apply it on a limited basis.
MD: Do you have any other suggestions about our appearance when we wear masks? After all, part of our mental health can depend on how we feel about ourselves, right?
RCW: Absolutely. We have to wear masks right now. It’s the smart thing to do and it’s the right thing to do. But that doesn’t mean you can’t consider it a fashion accessory. Choose colors that flatter your skin tone. Match your mask to your outfit or hobby. Also, avoid dangling or overlarge earrings since they can get stuck in your mask or hair.