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Ogunbiyi: Good skin hygiene, regularly washing of face mask curb skin irritation



Wearing of face mask is one of the safety measures recommended to curb spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. And though many people put on face mask, issues have been raised on the proper wearing and hygiene. Consultant dermatologist at University College Hospital, Ibadan, Prof. Adebola Ogunbiyi said unhygienic methods, while using face mask could cause irritation and allergic reactions.

How does face mask cause skin irritation?
Shortly after the Coronavirus infection was declared a pandemic, the issue of face mask came up. A lot of studies showed that putting on mask would reduce the chances of contracting the virus. The whole idea of face mask is to put it over the nose and mouth as a physical barrier.

Face masks are made from different materials. There are cloth face masks and medical face masks, among others. The commoner one is the cloth mask, which those living in communities are expected to put on. The cloth face mask is supposed to be seated on the bridge of the nose, cover the lower chin and anchored to both ears.


One of the commonest issues we have with using face mask is skin irritation. We noticed that people who put on their face mask tightly tend to have irritation in such places like the bridge of the nose, under the chin and the back of the ear, where we have the elastic.

You can either have irritation from friction or allergic reactions. We have seen different colours and shades. So, you can have reactions from dyed cloth, detergent used for washing and cosmetics. People wear cosmetics, which run on the face mask and don’t wash it. All that can cause allergic reactions. Metal holds on the mask can also cause allergy.

How can the skin be taken care of while wearing face mask?
There are different face masks, which include the single layer, double layers and triple layers. Ideally, the double layers tend to be more protective than the single layer. When breathing out, moisture comes out, which is why people feel more comfortable with cotton face mask that tends to absorb moisture. The non-cotton face mask allows moisture around the face, which can cause irritation.
So, one of the things people should do while having the face mask on is to have a clear face. It is important to wash our faces and dry before wearing face mask. If it is cotton type, it will absorb sweat. There has also been the issue of makeup and face masks. I believe it depends on the face mask used.

If you are wearing face mask throughout the day, I suggest you avoid putting cosmetics. But if it is for a short time, like one or two hours, that is understandable. So, if you are wearingmake-up under the face mask, you need to wash and dry it. Those using medical face mask tend to have lot of friction on the nose because the metal part clings to the nose.

So, some people apply lotion on the bridge of the nose before putting on face mask. Some actually put a plaster on the nose, so that the metal part is not resting directly on the skin, thereby preventing physical trauma. Face mask should be washed and dried properly on a daily basis. Also, washing the face with a mild soap and drying it before wearing face mask will help.

What skincare products should people avoid?
It is difficult to say avoid this or that product, but during this time, I would advise people to avoid oily substances that can further increase moisture on the skin. When having on a face mask, why wear makeup? I guess some people are accustomed to wearing makeup. One of the problems with face mask is that the warmth breathed out further adds moisture to the skin. So, I would say limit oily skin products or those that tend to increase moisture on the skin.

What best ways to care for the skin during this pandemic?
Everybody is talking about hand hygiene, but face hygiene is also very important. After taking off the face mask, it is helpful to wash the face and pat it dry. There might not be problem for those using cloth face mask, as there is no metal added to it. Those who wear medical mask or mask that has metal should be careful. They might need to use plaster or moisturiser to help keep physical contact to the minimum.


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