In just six months, masks have become an inseparable part of our daily apparel. Coupled with hand hygiene and distancing, masks have been declared our first line of defence against the virus, helping curb community spread. However, as more and more Indians step out wearing the protective layer, bracing dust, heat and humidity, they are encountering some new problems: breakouts, rashes and itching, say doctors.
Reaction to sweat
Dr Vandana Punjabi
Dr Vandana Punjabi, consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, shares that on an average, at least two in 10 patients report these problems daily. She says that the mask-related skin issues are usually of two types — dry, itchy rashes and acne — both primarily caused by sweat. “Owing to the muggy, hot climate, those who wear masks for long hours and travel for work or otherwise, tend to sweat a lot. That sweat doesn’t have an outlet to escape and accumulates under the mask. The sweat works like an allergen for those who have sensitive or dry skin and leads to eczema or rashes,” she explains. For those who have oily or acne-prone skin, the sweat and dust clog the pores beneath the mask, leading to breakouts or “maskne”, she adds.
Using a calamine lotion or good quality aloe vera gel can help
The rashes and breakouts generally affect the T-zone of the face — the nose, cheeks and mouth area. Although eczema isn’t contagious, the fluid from the rash can spread on your own body. “If the rash gets bad, you keep scratching it and water or serum comes out, that can act as an allergen,” she elaborates.
Harsh material of mask straps that rest behind the ears, and synthetic or non-breathable fabric can also lead to irritation, Dr Punjabi points out. “Wear clean, washable and breathable cotton masks. Get a tie-up mask to avoid straps that line the ear,” she advises.
Dr Tushar Rane, internal medicine expert, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Mumbai, believes that one should ensure that the mask has a snug fit. “It has to cover your nose, mouth and face, but shouldn’t be too tight,” he says, adding disposable N-95 masks or three-layer surgical masks work best. “One must also follow proper mask hygiene. Constantly touching the face, reusing masks without cleaning them and keeping them in infected places can lead to irritations and put you at risk against the virus,” he shares.
Help at hand
Both doctors suggest that those who wear masks for long hours or are aware that they sweat profusely, should change them in between. “The mask should be changed at least once in four hours,” says Dr Rane. Dr Punjabi adds that if you have acne-prone skin, use an appropriate cleanser and those facing a flare of itchy, dry rashes, should use mild cleansers. “Wash your face on reaching work or after working out and change the mask. If the breakout feels too hot, use an ice pack,” she recommends.
One must avoid touching the skin or itching it. “You can apply calming calamine lotion or aloe vera gel. At night, you can also use repair creams or serums. But if it persists or worsens, reach out to a doctor immediately,” she concludes.
Dr Tushar Rane
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