Face masks are the most unexpected accessory of 2020. But let’s face it, there’s a learning curve for wearing them and the issues they bring. So we asked experts and scoured the internet for tips and hacks that can help.
Dr. Jill Salyards of Advanced Dermatology in Clearwater said she has seen an uptick of patients with acne that is related to wearing a mask. She said masks trap dirt, oil and bacteria that builds up and clogs the pores, especially along the chin line.
“The first thing I tell everyone is to wash their mask every day,” Salyards said. A cotton mask is probably the best material to help keep “maskne” at bay, but she emphasizes that wearing a clean mask every time is key for preventing a breakout.
She thinks the level of stress created by the pandemic is also a contributing factor to the rise in breakouts.
Salyards also recommends washing your face twice a day. For oily skin, she advises using a gentle foaming acne cleanser, like the one Neutrogena makes. For dry skin, she says to use a hydrating cleanser, like Cetaphil. All skin types should follow that up with an appropriate moisturizer (oil free for oily skin, hydrating for dry skin) with an SPF, which will create a barrier from the bacteria in the mask.
If the breakouts are severe, Salyards recommends using Differin, an over the counter retinoid acne treatment line.
Applying a benzoyl peroxide acne treatment before wearing the mask can also help prevent breakouts, Salyards said. She recommends Neutrogena’s On the Spot acne treatment.
Exfoliation with a product that contains glycolic or salicylic can also help keep the skin clear.
Kids and masks
Dr. Allison Messina, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, said she understands why some preschools are letting the younger ones go mask-free, “but I’m still in favor of at least trying to get them to wear that mask.”
“It’s obviously at that developmental stage, it’s probably not going to be perfect. But as much as you can get them to wear the mask it reduces risk.”
Another tactic to get kids to cooperate is for parents to practice positive role modeling, Messina said. “They should see their parents wearing them. Just like we tell parents to also wear bike helmets and seat belts, it’s that modeling. All of the important leaders in their lives, their teachers, their principals, their parents if they are all seen wearing those masks, the kids will follow. And I think that as they get used to wearing the mask it’s probably going to be less of an irritation.”
Tips and hacks to help make masks more comfortable
What about filters?
Equipping a face mask with a filter should increase its effectiveness in filtering out particulate, experts recommend, according to Today.com.
The best face mask filters include PM 2.5 activated carbon, HEPA (High Efficiency Particulant Arrestance) and MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) filters that increase the efficacy of filtering out particulates. Many of these kinds of filters are re-usable.
Experts say that paper towels and coffee filters can be used, but would have to be thrown out after each use.
If the ear loops dig in and hurt, there are options. Find a mask style that ties around the head, like the ones from baggu.com. They have a strap that goes around the head and ties around the back of the neck.
Another option are “ear savers,” straps of fabric with buttons to hook the ear loops onto that sit across the back of the head. Similarly, there are a lot of fashionable headbands with buttons to hook the loops on. Or people have been sewing buttons on the favorite baseball caps to hook straps onto.
Mask is too big
Disposable masks are one size fits most. If you’re not one of the most, the lack of a snug fit compromises effectiveness.
To adjust the mask, fold it in half lengthwise, then tie a knot with the ear loops on each side as close as possible to the mask. Open the mask. There will be an opening on the sides next to the ear loops; tuck the excess fabric in underneath the ear loops.
Voilia! A mask that fits. This hack works on cloth masks, too.
Glasses fogging up
This common issue can be resolved easily. Simply pinch the mask’s fabric up around the nose and put the glasses on over it.
Household items, including Dawn dish detergent or shaving cream, can help prevent glasses from fogging. Optometrist Joseph Allen told NPR’s All Things Considered that applying a single drop of dish soap on both sides of the lenses, rubbing it with your fingers, then rinsing it off will create a transparent layer that’s resistant to temperature changes. The same concept applies with shaving cream.
People who have to wear a mask all day combat smelling their own breath by keeping breath mints handy.
A more lasting approach is to dab essential oils into the mask. According to an article on the Health Focus San Antonio, healthcare workers from the intergrative medicine department of San Antonio’s University Hospital came up with the idea because they give essential oils to their patients for therapy. Not only do the pleasant smells cover up smelly breath, but they also have an effect on mood and can have an effect on the respiratory system, opening up the lungs and making it easier to breathe.
Essential oils are extremely concentrated, so they should be used sparingly, just one or two drops on either side in the cheek area, not the nose. Some may need to be diluted.
Which oil to choose?
Orange is associated with calming, as is lavender, which is known to help with anxiety. Lemon is bright and clean and eucalyptus opens the lungs and mind. Peppermint promotes energy and can relieve nausea, but it should be diluted first.
Dry lips are a side effect from wearing the mask, so it’s important to keep them hydrated. The Huffington Post spoke to medical experts who said that it’s important to find a long-lasting lip balm. They also recommended wearing a lip product that contains SPF.
Avoid lip balms that contain camphor, eucalyptus, menthol, fragrance or flavors like cinnamon, citrus and mint, because they might cause an allergy or be very irritating to the lips.
Keeping the mask handy
It’s easy to forget to wear the mask, then have to scramble to put it on. So Liz Rogers, gallery manager at St. Petersburg’s Florida CraftArt, came up with a mask accessory for easy access. The “masklace” is a chain with two hooks to attach to the ear lops and keep hung around the neck. It adds another fashion element to the mask and is reminiscent of badge leashes or eyeglass holders. They’re available for $18 at Florida CraftArt, but Rogers also encourages people to make their own. The gallery is only open by appointment, which are taken over the phone at (727) 821-7391. Bib clips do the same job for kids.
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