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What happens with your skin under a face mask?

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

Without a doubt, face masks have become our everyday reality. The whole point of using them is to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 because a droplet transmission is the most common way for viruses to get from one body to another. However, wearing protective masks has its downsides, also when it comes to your skin. In this article, I will take those problems under a microscope.

Even though we had long months to get used to masks, many of you are still reluctant to wear them. And I don’t blame you. Having a piece of material on your face is a nuisance. Masks make breathing difficult, especially for people who have asthma.

But even if you’re healthy, you can feel irritated or strongly opposed to this duty. Nevertheless, masks will stay with us for a long while, and you need to learn how to live with that.

Apart from the annoying necessity of wearing them, there is a significant disadvantage – skin problems.

What happens with your skin under a face mask?

The mask adheres tightly to the lower parts of the face while filtering out the air you breathe. But what you need to remember is that you breathe out carbon dioxide and steam – and this is where the problems with skin come out.

Everything you breathe out under a mask forms a microclimate. A research carried out in New Zealand on twelve workers in various professions has proved that wearing masks has increased the skin temperature under the mask in the range of 1.2C to 4.8C.

It’s a significant jump in temperature!

How does it affect your skin?

Those factors loosen the epidermis around the mouth, unseal the epidermis's protective barrier, which dries, flakes, redness, and sometimes even cracks the epidermis.

Moreover, humidity is an environment that accelerates the development of microorganisms. Therefore, your skin is much more likely to be attacked by a higher number of bacteria, also those pathogenic ones, that can cause inflammation or acne.

Unfortunately, the list goes on. Humidity combined with increased warmth creates ideal conditions for the development of yeasts. Those can harm your skin but also disrupt your natural microbiome.

What is microbiome?

It would be best to think of your microbiome as a protective barrier to your skin’s function. Your microbiome’s overall condition is strongly linked with potential skin diseases, pathogenic changes, and in general – your skin’s well-being.

The microbiome is created by bacteria, fungi, mites, and viruses, and their species and abundance differentiate according to their area of residence on the body.

Water is an essential factor influencing the composition of a microbiome. When you breathe under your mask, the material gets more humid, which leads to further development of the microbiome. And that causes skin disorders, eczemas, or redness.

On the other hand, when a microbiome is not disturbed, the pathogenic microorganisms do not damage your skin.

Other skin problems

When your mask material gets humid, it increases the odds of getting skin burns/chafing. It can also harm sebum production and lead to a higher number of clogged pores.

If that wasn’t enough, wearing masks can also increase your capability of getting:

• Herpes

• bacterial infections in the mouth area

• chapped and cracked lips

• acne around the mouth, chin, mandible area (more often in teenagers with oily and acne-prone skin and adult women with acne tarda)

• worsening of symptoms of rosacea

• seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis

What can you do to take care of your skin


First off, it’s crucial to maintain your skin hydration at a constant level. It’s wise to choose non-comedogenic products, which will not clog your pores. It would be best if you also kept an eye out for hyaluronic acid. It’s a specimen with powerful moisturizing capabilities and will protect your skin from losing water. Additionally, this acid helps to rebuild and regenerate your epidermis.

Be gentle

Secondly, when you wear masks, your skincare shouldn’t be too intensive. On the contrary, it’s better to reduce the number of aspects that can irritate your skin. That said, you should quit excessive cleansing of the skin (for example, with facial cleansing brushes). Forget about the too frequent use of strong scrubs, which can overstretch the irritated hydrolipidic barrier of the skin (this can also contribute to the weakening of the natural ability to protect the skin against microorganisms), and consequently the formation of inflammatory states.

On the other hand, it’s a good idea to enhance your daily skincare with preparations containing antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Protect from sun and radiation

It would help if you also remembered that wearing masks does not mean that you can stop applying sun protection and UV filter creams to your face.

Moreover, switching to a 100% remote work model and spending most of the time in front of a computer exposes you more to the impact of blue light emitted by screens. That said, it is worthwhile to consider cosmetics that protect against harmful radiation and photoaging.

Reduce your make-up

Face masks and make-ups are not best friends. In fact, it’s best if you stop using make-up at all, but if you can’t entirely quit it, try to reduce the number of applied cosmetics.

What’s more, when you get back home, get rid of your make-up straight away, and then – use the subsequent steps of your daily skincare to start regenerating your skin at once.

Why is it so important? Because masks rub your skin all the time, which means they rub the make-up cosmetics and dirt deeper inside your skin.

What to do with masks

If you wear disposable masks, please remember to throw them away as soon as you stop wearing them. Even if you took it off for a couple of minutes, for example, to eat your lunch, it should mean a farewell to that mask and start wearing a new one.

However, if you choose material masks, you should change them every four hours and wash them every day in antibacterial preparations.

SOS for your skin

In this section, I will outline some golden rules for the health of your skin during the pandemic:

Proper hygiene

Make sure your face masks are clean and changed during your day. Wash your hands frequently, especially before touching your face skin. Remember to limit touching of your face.

Delicate skincare

As I highlighted before, it’s best if you choose non-aggressive care and gentle supporting your skin by using:

• mild preparations for washing the skin

• tonics to restore the skin to a proper pH

• serum

• nutritious, soothing, and moisturizing preparations (containing ceramides, antioxidants, i.e., vitamins E, C, panthenol, lactobionic acid, aloe vera, coenzyme Q10, sea algae, evening primrose oil, or raspberry seed oil, etc.)

All those aspects will help you look after your skin’s comfort and keep it in good and healthy condition.

If some scars or abrasions occurred on your skin, you should quit using preparations with acids and retinol until your skin heals. If you want to boost the healing process, look for preparations containing zinc, panthenol, micronized silver, ceramides.

Responsible make-up

It’s not the best time to put on make-up like there’s no tomorrow. If you can, try to quit using make-up for a while. However, if you really have to, make it light. Luckily, I have some tips and tricks for you here:

• What other people can see if you wear a mask? Exactly! Your eyes! Focus on their beauty and play around with eyeshadows, brows, mascara.

• Use moisturizing and protective lipstick instead of a colouring one because, under a mask, your lips dry up quickly

• Remember to wash and disinfect your brushes and sponges frequently.

Final words

In those crazy times we’re living in, remember to protect yourself completely. Always look after your hands; may washing them will be an essential part of your daily hygiene. Now, more than ever, your hands are exposed to drying and irritation.

If you wear disposable gloves for a couple of hours a day, you experience extensive sweating and losing essential protective elements of your epidermis. Moreover, antibacterial preparations can cause irritation, allergic reactions, or even cracking of your skin. That’s why it’s vital to have (and use often) protective and caring hand creams.

Finally, find time and commitment to reinforce your immune system thanks to implementing a balanced diet and physical activity.

Remember that if wearing masks cause some skin changes, you cannot underestimate them because they can leave you an unpleasant souvenir – a discoloration or a scar. And that – you wouldn’t like to have once the masks vanish from our lives.

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