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Skin care during COVID-19

Essential tips to protect your skin during COVID-19

Our skin has suffered a lot this year; essential handwashing and hand sanitiser use has made our hands dry and irritated, and frequent mask wearing has created the new concept of ‘maskne’ (mask-acne). Sara has the following advice to help keep skin healthy:

“With winter fast approaching, it’s important to consider your skincare routine to ensure your skin is protected during the colder months, whilst also protecting yourself from COVID-19.

Mask use and skincare:

  1. Cleanse and moisturise your face daily: Gentle skin care can prevent skin problems. When washing your face, use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser. Dry skin is a common facemask skin problem, but so is greasy skin. If you have drier skin, then applying moisturiser adds a protective layer that can reduce dryness. You want to apply moisturizer immediately after washing your face, if you are prone to dry skin.

You can prevent breakouts of spots by using a moisturiser formulated for your skin type. When selecting a moisturiser, follow this guide:

  • Oily skin (or when weather is hot, humid): gel-based moisturiser
  • Normal or combination skin: lighter lotion
  • Dry to very dry skin: greasier cream

If you have acne or tend to break out with spots, you can still use a moisturiser but make sure it is either oil free or a gel.

2. Protect your lips by applying petroleum jelly: dry skin and chapped lips are common facemask skin problems. You can prevent chapped lips by applying petroleum jelly to your lips:

  • After washing your face
  • Before you put on your mask
  • Before bed

To prevent breakouts of spots, take care to apply the petroleum jelly only to your lips. Adding extra grease to your face will bring out more spots.

3. Skip the makeup when wearing a mask: Beneath a mask, makeup is more likely to clog your pores and lead to breakouts. If makeup is necessary, use only products labelled “non-comedogenic”, “won’t clog pores” or “oil free”.

4. Avoid trying new skin care products that can irritate your skin: Wearing a mask for even a short time can make your skin more sensitive. To reduce skin problems, avoid trying harsh products, such as a chemical peel, exfoliant, or retinoid, for the first time. Retinoids can irritate your skin. If you’ve been using a retinoid (or retinol), apply it at bedtime and don’t increase the amount that you apply.

5. Use less of certain skin care products if your face becomes irritated: When you cover your face with a mask, some skin care products that you’ve used in the past may irritate your skin. If this happens, then cut back on products that can irritate your skin, such as:

  • Leave-on salicylic acid/ acne treatments – reduce to alternate days if needed
  • Retinoid creams you apply to your face
  • Aftershave

6. Wear a mask that offers a snug, but comfortable fit which helps to protect you and others from the coronavirus. You want a snug fit across your nose, on the sides, and under your chin. A snug, comfortable fit also reduces skin problems. If the mask feels too tight or slides around on your face, it can irritate your skin. You’re also more likely to adjust a poorly fitting mask. When you touch your mask, you can transfer germs to your mask and your face. The fabric is also important. Avoid synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, and rayon on the layer that rests against your skin. These are more likely to irritate your skin and cause breakouts.

7. To stop behind-the-ear soreness, find masks with different types of ties and ear loops and wear a different type each day if possible/necessary.

8. Take a 15-minute mask break every four hours. Healthcare workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic have found that this helps save their skin. Of course, only remove your mask when it’s safe to do so and after washing your hands.

9. Wash your cloth masks. Many health care organisations now recommend that you wash a cloth mask after each use. Washing it also removes oils and skin cells that collect inside the mask, which could lead to a skin problem.

You can wash a cloth mask in a washing machine or by hand. Both ways remove germs and other particles. Just be sure to:

  • Follow the washing instructions on each mask
  • Wash the masks in hot water unless the instructions say otherwise
  • Use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent

After washing your mask, check its shape. If a mask no longer fits snugly (and comfortably), it is less protective.

10. Take extra care if you have an existing skin condition such as acne or rosacea. It’s especially important to follow your treatment plan if you have these conditions. This can help keep them under control and if you have any concerns about this then please do contact your GP.

Hand care tips:

  1. Wash hands in line with government guidance.

2. Dry your hands fully after washing by patting them dry, not rubbing.

3. Moisturisers (emollients) help repair the damaged outer skin and lock moisture inside the skin making it soft and supple again. They should be applied generously after hand washing, repeatedly through the day, and whenever the skin feels dry. Whilst at work, a lighter cream is more practical, whereas at night a greaser product can help (see last bullet point). Avoid coloured and fragranced products and the greasier a product is, the longer it will last on your skin. Products come as lotions, creams, gels and ointments, with increasing greasiness respectively. Choosing the level of moisture and product needed will depend on how dry your skin is and how frequently you can apply a product.

4. Some people find overnight moisturising treatments beneficial. Apply a generous layer of a plain moisturiser, the greasier the better (e.g. Vaseline / beeswax-based products) just before you go to bed, then put on a pair of clean cotton gloves and leave overnight.

The Skin Integrity Team is still able to offer support to NCH&C staff members in dealing with skin issues via consultation. All you need to do is contact the team (look up skin integrity team on the global email address book) to arrange a virtual consultation. In the consultation, they will be able to discuss pre-existing skin conditions and risk factors, current management and what can be tried differently with over the counter preparations before looking at if prescription items are needed.”

Sara Burr
Community Dermatology Specialist Nurse, NCH&C