With masks and PPE becoming an increasingly common preventative measure against COVID-19 - as with anything unfamiliar, there are a few questions we've been attempting to answer.
Photographer and skincare authority Emma Hoareau lives in London. And has a bit of a run on many of us in Australia, re mask-wearing in public spaces. When her followers began reaching out about skin irritation, acne, and skincare for mask and PPE wearers, she put a how-to together.
Sure, in the scheme of public health, a breakout isn't the worse thing that could happen. But (from all angles of this discussion) prevention is always better than a cure.
Find Emma Hoareau's tips for mask and PPE skincare below.
How do masks and PPE cause skin irritation and "mascne"?
According to Hoareau, it's not so much down to "trapped air" or moisture. Rather, the effect of fabric irritating the delicate skin on the face. "The main thing is when the fabrics or whatever it might be are causing and irritation. And irritation is leads to inflammation, and inflammation is leads to a breakout."
To protect your skin, start with the mask that's right for you
"I think the main thing first is getting fabric mask that isn't going to necessarily irritate the skin, because less irritation is less inflammation." Hoareau recommends silk masks (from Dai) for more everyday use - if you've chosen not to wear a medical grade mask.
Skincare to avoid mask and PPE breakouts
"What you want to do before you get the breakout is before you put them on, especially if you're wearing them for long periods of time, you want to really protect the skin and almost give it another skin barrier but a physical one," says Hoareau "So that could be a thicker cream or balm."
And if you do break out under your mask or PPE?
"In terms of when you do break out I think the best kind of ingredients to do are the anti-inflammatory ones," explains Hoareau.
"My good old friend that I can't stop talking about, salicylic acid, aka BHA, is a really wonderful ingredient to use because it's super anti-inflammatory so it's really soothing on the skin. As well as, because it's a beta hydroxy acid, it's going to be clearing out the pores and making sure that doesn't get clogged up.
"I would recommend using it anyway to be honest if you have any problems with breakouts."
If your skin is irritated, dial back on exfoliating
"If you are having reactions to wearing a mask or wearing PPE every day, do step back in terms of exfoliating," says Hoareau.
"So maybe if you normally use a daily AHA or retinol a couple of times a week, maybe just dial it back for a bit. Not that that is bad for the skin but if it's also getting irritated you don't want to risk sensitising the skin by removing a couple of layers."