By Anita Mehta, M.D., F.A.A.D.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, people are being advised to wear facemasks to protect themselves and others when out in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Whether making your own or buying one, you're likely to soon discover the uncomfortable side effects of wearing one for a prolonged period – rashes, chafing, redness, breakouts, and rosacea around the nose and mouth – particularly if you have sensitive skin. In fact, skin issues related to frequent handwashing and now facemask wear are among the common dermatology conditions patients are seeking treatment for through Kelsey-Seybold Virtual Visits.

Wearing your mask for a prolonged time can lead to irritation on the nose, cheeks, ears, chin, and other parts of the face where the material is rubbing. To protect yourself and others, it’s important to wear masks snuggly, but this can increase skin irritation. In addition to friction from the mask rubbing against the skin, humidity from breathing traps moisture against the skin, leading to chafing. To prevent these skin issues and minimize concerns as they arise, we recommend developing and maintaining an effective morning and evening skincare routine that includes the following steps:

•Wash your hands and face before putting on a mask and after removing it. Foaming cleansers remove oil more effectively than hydrating oils or balms. Those with oily skin should look for a face wash that contains salicylic acid. This will help remove excess oil and dead cells from the surface of the skin, which will prevent potential flareups and clogged pores.

•Apply a lightweight moisturizer, even if your skin tends to be oily, taking special care in areas where the mask has been rubbing. Look for moisturizers that include ingredients like ceramides, squalene, and niacinamide. At bedtime, apply a thicker cream moisturizer to help replenish skin cells and repair damage as you sleep. If you typically apply anti-aging serums or other products at night, you may want to hold off on using these while wearing masks regularly.

•Skip makeup under the mask, ladies, particularly foundations and concealer with heavy formulations, because the increased humidity under the mask could lead to an increase in clogged pores and breakouts.

•Remove your mask when you can safely do so to avoid prolonged use. For example, take your mask off while driving your own car or in the privacy of your own home. Cleanse and moisturize as soon as you can so your skin doesn’t become overly dry and irritated.

If you have questions about which products to use or home treatments aren’t helping, reach out to your dermatologist with a Virtual Visit. We’d be happy to talk to you about the best skincare routine. If you notice sores, hives, or other more serious skin issues after wearing your mask, contact your dermatologist right away. You may need prescription medications. To make an appointment, call 713-442-0000 or schedule through MyKelseyOnline.


Dr. Anita Mehta is Chief of Dermatology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. Her clinical interests include skin cancer, psoriasis, acne, and eczema. She cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Berthelsen Main Campus.