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How to prevent breakouts when wearing face masks

Wearing a mask for hours on end may lead to irritation for those with sensitive skin

Getting dressed now includes putting on a face mask the minute you step out of your house.

But for some of us, wearing it has caused facial flare-ups.

Here, doctors shed light on the common skin problems associated with wearing masks, how to avoid skin irritation and how to care for your skin.

Common skin problems for different skin types

Dr Mark Tang, senior consultant dermatologist at The Skin Specialists & Laser Clinic, said the most common skin issue caused by frequent wearing of masks is eczema, which affects those who have hypersensitive skin. It can present itself in any form, ranging from "redness, flaking, itching and in severe cases, oozing and crusting".

Those with hyper-oily skin can also experience more frequent acne, including "clogged pores, inflamed red papules, pustules and in severe cases, nodules and cysts".

Another issue he has noticed are pressure sores and skin tears on areas like the nose, upper cheeks and the sides of the cheeks. They can cause tenderness, crusting and wounds, which tend to resolve with dark marks and scars.

These pressure-related skin issues are common among "those who need to wear tight-fitting N95 face masks for prolonged periods of time, especially healthcare workers".

Why this skin irritation occurs

When we wear a mask, we are essentially covering a large surface area of our faces with pieces of fabric, depending on the type of mask you wear.

Dr Gerard Ee, managing director of The Clifford Clinic, said: "Covering our face increases humidity and heat build-up inside the mask. This can encourage the growth of acne-causing bacteria, cause abrasions on the skin and disrupt the skin's protective barrier."

How to manage skin flare-ups

If you experience redness, itching or flaking, keep your skin well-hydrated by applying a soothing balm that contains fortifying and calming ingredients to help your skin to heal, advised Dr Toby Hui, senior aesthetics doctor of Freia Medical.

To relieve discomfort and minimise redness, try Biologique Recherche's Masque Biosensible as it contains soothing actives like hexapeptides and milk proteins.

Dr Ee also recommends using a light moisturiser with ingredients that helps protect the skin barrier, like ceramides and niacinamide.

For acne, Dr Hui recommends treating the affected areas with your usual topical spot treatments. Ingredients like alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid and retinoids are effective against acne as they help decongest pores and stimulate cellular turnover.

If you are experiencing some form of flare-up that you cannot identify, it is best to seek the advice of a medical professional.

This article was first published in Cleo Singapore (