How To Avoid Skin Irritation From PPE Face Masks During COVID-19

image © Facebook/Martina Benedetti/Nicola Sgarbi

If you work as a healthcare worker, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the trials and tribulations of PPE: a great necessity but also a source of considerable discomfort.

We’ve looked at the latest advice from the British Association of Dermatologists and NHS England to compile some simple dos and don’ts to avoid skin problems from face masks and PPE.

What are the main problems from wearing PPE masks?

Friction and sweat! They're a terrible combination for skin. The necessarily tight fit of the face mask or goggles means that skin can get pretty sore, particularly on the bridge of the nose, but also on the cheeks and round the ears. Skin can also get hot, sweaty and damp, which can result in a whole host of skin issues.

  • Peeling skin
  • Red pressure marks
  • Breaking down of overly damp skin 
  • Spots/rashes
  • Cracks 
  • Skin thinning
  • Chafing 
  • Infection
  • Ulcers

Other than the obvious pain and discomfort, this can lead to some serious problems: it increases the risk of people touching their faces and getting infected when they’re not wearing a mask; it also encourages people not to wear their PPE properly, in the hope of relieving the pain; and, in a worse case scenario, severe sore skin could mean that healthcare workers won't be able to work.

What can you do about it?

We’ve got some effective skincare tips for looking after sore or damaged skin.

At work:

Make sure your PPE mask is correctly fitted and properly put on
Apply your chosen emollient at least 30 mins before putting on your mask
Ideally keep shifts to max 2hrs, and take off your mask and let your skin recover in between
If your skin is broken, consider an alternative to a face mask such as a hood
If masks are cleaned with wipes, let them dry completely before putting them on
Wipe your face gently free of sweat with a soft paper towel or tissue, and allow to dry
Keep hydrated: drink water in between shifts and at home
Choose natural emollients over paraffin if you’re going anywhere near flames or sparks!
If you use very fine dressings or protective films over sore areas, make sure they don't affect the fit of the mask

At home:

Regularly check your skin for signs of redness or damage
Keep skin meticulously clean: use a gentle, scent-free wash at home to clean your face
Use warm (not hot or cold) water to wash with
Pat your face dry very gently with a paper towel - don’t rub!
Use oil-based emollients rather than water-based creams, especially if your skin is broken or raw (creams can sting!)
Avoid foaming facial cleansers with SLS or soap: try an oil-based cleanser at the end of the day instead
Seer clear of scented beauty products or procedures for the time being: stick to a simple routine of cleansing and moisturising
Use a few drops of nourishing rosehip oil (or our Scar Oil) last thing at night to support cell regeneration
Remember that the best emollient is the one you're comfortable with using frequently! Find one that suits your skin and that you want to use, then keep on applying it.
Why is Skin Salvation a good choice as a barrier balm?
  • Skin Salvation is an oil-based ointment, so it’s unlikely to sting even very sore, raw or broken skin
  • The beeswax forms a semi-occlusive protective barrier over broken or fragile skin
  • This barrier acts as if it were the skin’s own barrier function, locking moisture in and keeping irritants out
  • It’s rich in the essential fatty acids that skin needs for its natural cycle of regeneration and repair
  • It is unscented and free from the synthetic ingredients that can aggravate sensitive or inflamed skin
  • Unlike paraffin-based emollients, it isn’t flammable!

“My face and hands have really been suffering for all the PPE over the last couple of months and these products have been a life saver!! Thank you, thank you.”
Victoria Taylor on Trustpilot
“I bought lots of pots of Skin Salvation for myself and my nursing colleagues to help us look after our hands at work. Everyone loves it!! Many thanks.”
Helen Earl on Trustpilot

Recommended product:

Skin Salvation with hemp seed oil, beeswax and calendula, from £7.99 for 30ml

Balmonds Rosehip Scar Oil with rosehip, lavender and chamomile, £18.99 for 50ml


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