In times of the coronavirus pandemic, it is a key element of hygiene measures – the mouth-nose mask. But wearing it permanently for one's own protection and to prevent the spread of the virus can trigger skin irritations or aggravate inflammatory skin diseases. What can be done about it?
Meanwhile it has become part of our everyday life and a condition for participation in social life: the protective mask. It protects the wearer from aerosols in the air he or she breathes, provided its edges are close to the face. A Europe-wide standard (EN 149) regulates their quality, and three protection classes define their retention capacity: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 (FFP: Filtering Face Piece). Masks of class FFP2 or higher are considered to provide corona protection. Wearing a mask is a challenge for our facial skin, which reacts in an irritated manner – terms such as "maskne" or "mask dermatitis" are becoming increasingly widespread. Those who are most affected are those who have to wear the mouth-nose protection continuously for professional reasons.
gesund! interviewed Professor Dr. Uwe Hillen, head physician at the Clinic for Dermatology and Venereology at Vivantes Neukölln Hospital. Among his patients are Vivantes employees who suffer from skin problems because they wear the mask.
Professor Hillen, how can we best protect our skin?
We know from studies that the moisture content of the horny layer and transepidermal water loss (the loss of water through the skin) are increased under the mask. These are indications of stress on the skin barrier, which is increased by the friction of the mask. In addition, skin temperature and redness, pH and sebum production increase. These are factors that play a role in acne and rosacea, for example. What can be done?
- Let off steam. If heat and moisture build up under the mask: take a short mask break. If the skin under the mask is sweaty, rinse with lukewarm water or wipe or wipe gently.
- Don't overdo it. Too frequent and intensive cleansing procedures, application, especially of covering cosmetics, application of alcoholic/disinfectant products stress the skin more than they help it to tolerate the mask. Better to use few, but good quality, non-perfumed products.
- "Finger off": squeeze out blackheads and pimples, please avoid scratching and "nibbling".
- Get out into the fresh air, take an evening walk.
What do you recommend to those who are already affected by skin changes?
This question cannot be answered in a general way. There are different skin reactions under and through the mask. A distinction must be made as to whether it is a new skin reaction, the aggravation of a pre-existing skin condition, or a combination of both. If more severe or persistent symptoms are present: seek dermatological advice.