27 Aug 2020

Taking care of your skin while wearing a mask

With around-the-clock hand washing and hand sanitising, increased collective anxiety, PPE and more time at home, the pandemic has undoubtedly contributed to changes in our skin. 38% of women claim that their beauty regime changed since the pandemic.

Hands, cheeks, and the nasal bridge are the most commonly affected areas, with skin dryness, maceration, papules, and erythema being the most common problems.

Wearing a face mask can lead to increased flare ups of inflammatory skin conditions eg. Rosacea. Exposure to detergents and other allergens/irritants that can cause water loss from the skin can resulting in:

  • Dehydration
  • Redness
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Imperfections/breakouts
Tips on how to minimise irritation
  • Wash reusable masks frequently but avoid perfume.

  • Increase hydration in the skin barrier.

  • Carefully consider actives e.g. with retinoid.

  • Don’t over-exfoliate.

  • Protect areas of pressure.

  • Avoid materials that trap heat and moisture e.g. cotton vs spandex.

  • Use a gentle cleanser. If your skin feels tight after use, change the cleanser.

  • Spray skin with protection between PPE changes – the protective film helps to alleviate pressure and chaffing, and results in less skin damage. Apply 30 minutes before a protective mask is worn.

  • Hyaluronic Acid is incredibly gentle and phenomenally helpful for all skin types, even the most sensitive, oily or redness-prone skin. It has a natural calming benefit. It binds water to help retain moisture and helps to create a protective film over the stratum corneum. The product we recommend would be the Vichy Mineral 89.


In extreme cases, for those working long shifts with heavy PPE, it is recommended to use a barrier cream on the fragile areas - bridge of the nose, behind the ears, on the cheeks - where the skin may be experiencing rawness.

A La Roche-Posay product very suited to this concern that can help protect and repair is the Cicaplast Gel B5. It is high in silicon and lubricates the skin. It provides a barrier effect to help relieve rubbing and pressure. It also contains Vitamin B5, which is pro-recovery and healing.

The ingredient neurosensine targets hypersensitive and inflamed skin, working to counteract aggressors. It is identical to that of natural substances already secreted by the body and is able to help the skin stimulate the release of messengers that work against inflammatory aggressors, like the presence of too much histamine. La Roche Posay’s Toleriane range would be suited best for people with any irritation.



Acne breakouts as a result of PPE have been referred to as ‘Maskne.’ There have been many reports of healthcare staff breaking out in imperfections. Why?

This can be as a result of repeated pressure or friction on the skin. The pilosebaceous unit is obstructed, causing pimples. Intense heat and moisture under the mask. Stress levels may be higher. Diet habits may have changed.


There are a number of things you can do to help prevent and treat these breakouts:

DO gently exfoliate the areas where you are breaking out with a Salicylic Acid product to counteract this obstruction. E.g. La Roche Posay Effaclar gel or Vichy Normaderm Photosolution cleanser.

DO consider products specifically designed for oily to acne-prone skin. La Roche Posay’s Effaclar clay mask can be used 2-3 times per week (leave on for 5 minutes!) - it contains kaolin clay and panthenol to decongest, detoxify and heal.

DO remove any make-up or sunscreen before bed.

There’s also some important things to avoid:

AVOID exfoliating with harsh products, as this creates microtears.

AVOID using heavy make-up, as this further occludes the pilosebaceous glands.

AVOID eating large amounts of inflammatory food (e.g. pastries, pizza, and candy); such foods tend to be high glycaemic index and have been linked to acne.

To control breakouts we recommend using the following ingredients:


Soothing with anti-oxidant benefits. It is an anti-bacterial agent in powder form and can help clear breakouts of mild acne.


A compound that encourages the skin to carry out its own exfoliation process. Salicylic Acid works by penetrating your pores and dissolving the waste matter which might otherwise block them and lead to whiteheads, blackheads and/or imperfections. It also works as an anti-inflammatory, to reduce redness and irritation.

Product recommendations

The products we recommend for morning and evening are:

The new La Roche Posay Effaclar gel with 2% salicylic acid to unclog pores. La Roche Posay Effaclar duo - Anti-imperfections moisturiser for inflammatory acne.



Vichy Normaderm Photosolution cleanser – a gentle cleanser with 2% salicylic acid with zinc and bifidus to help unclog pores, reduce bacteria and breakouts Vichy Normaderm Double Correct Care – a moisturiser to hydrate revitalise the skins natural barrier while reducing imperfections. Img


Throughout the day we recommend La Roche Posay Serozinc spray. Apply between PPE changes – it keeps the area clean with anti bacterial action, helps remove oil (anti-Shine) and promotes healing (zinc & sodium chloride).


Caring for our Hands

Hand washing has been an essential step in the fight against COVID-19. It is extremely important in helping to stop the spread.

Frequent exposure to soaps, detergents and water can reduce the natural oils in your skin and can weaken the skin’s barrier, leading to the skin becoming dry, irritated and cracked. The following ingredients can help strength our skin and reduce dryness and irritation:


Glycerin is a humectant, meaning that it attracts moisture to the upper layer of the skin where it is applied. In this way, it prevents dryness and scaling by maintaining the skin’s barrier against the elements, and is often used to treat medical conditions, such as psoriasis and dermatitis, as well as dry skin. It can also be used to promote wound healing. In as high as 30%, it can create an effective film of protection on the skin.


Panthenol is best known for its ability to act as a moisturising ingredient - which attracts and retains moisture in the skin. ‘Pro-Vitamin B5’ stabilises the skin’s barrier function, reducing the amount of water lost through the skin. This, in turn, improves skin texture and elasticity, making Panthenol ideal for treating dry, scaly or coarse skin.

The products we recommend are:

For Washing

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Lavant B5 - a soothing foaming gel to soothe and cleanse irritated dry skin for babies, children and adults with sensitive skin.


To Nourish

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Mains - a repairing barrier treatment for dry damaged hands that is soothing and anti bacterial.


Vichy Nourishing hand cream – a soothing and nourishing hand cream with allantoin and shea butter.


CeraVe Reparative hand cream – a deeply moisturising hand cream for dry, rough hands. This fragrance-free hand cream protects the skin barrier and contains hyaluronic acid.


Don’t hesitate to visit your local Hickey’s Pharmacy for expert advice on how to care for your skin.