Ask Sofia: How do I deal with “mask-ne” and discomfort?
Many of us still struggle to mask our various frustrations with face masks – everything from acne to itching, discomfort around the ears and nose to fogged-up glasses and more. “Mask-ne” is a newly termed phenomenon where face masks lead to skin irritation, which can be even more challenging if you already struggle with sensitive skin, rosacea, allergies and other skin issues.
Since face masks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and the change in seasons may have shifted your comfort level with masks, we put together some tips for making this important health measure a little more comfortable:
- Wash your face before donning a mask. While this may not be possible every time you run into the grocery store, you can wash up before work, major events and at the beginning of each day. Ideally, use a fragrance-free cleanser and moisturizer so you don’t further irritate your skin. Make-up can contribute to clogged pores (and dirty masks) so this might be the time to let your natural beauty shine.
- Address specific areas of irritation. You can use a band aid or paper tape for cushioning on the nose bridge or reposition your hair for greater comfort (you may have seen headbands with a button on either side for straps). You can also look for extenders to the elastic straps of your mask so it doesn’t rub on your ears. If you have rashes or areas of skin issues that aren’t healing, contact your doctor to discuss potential solutions.
- Try different options. Some people prefer masks that tie behind the head while others prefer straps behind the ears. Some like disposable and others turn to cloth or more breathable options for exercising. If you opt for a reusable mask, make sure you wash it after every use, ideally in hot water with fragrance-free conditioner.
- Make sure your mask fits properly. A mask should fit comfortably cover your mouth and nose without feeling abrasive. Go for the Goldilocks effect: It shouldn’t be too tight or too loose.
- Cool off. A cold compress at the end of the day can cool down areas of irritation or swelling. Anti-inflammatory creams, such as hydrocortisone 1% cream, as well as petroleum jelly can also soothe inflamed areas.
- Reframe your perspective. Instead of focusing on “this is so annoying and uncomfortable,” try a shift to “this isn’t forever and I am helping to keep myself and others safe right now.” Remind yourself who you are wearing a mask for and why. This change in perspective can remind you why you are doing what you’re doing.
“As healthcare professionals, we wear masks all day, every day, and are committed to the health of each other and our patients, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy,” said Dr. Amy Hammers. “Just like everything else, finding the right mask can take some time and effort, but it is well worth it when you find a mask that fits and performs well. It can save lives.”