We already know about dreaded maskne – and may even be experiencing it – but have you noticed that in addition to breaking out, your skin also seems drier, more itchy and hyper-sensitive from wearing a mask?
In fact, Dr Eileen Tan, dermatologist at Eileen Tan Skin Clinic & Associates, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, says that besides acne, she has seen a surge of eczema and skin infections on the face over the past year.
What’s causing this increase in skin sensitivity? Dr Coni Liu, consultant dermatologist at DS Skin & Wellness Clinic, says the combo of sweat, humidity and your mask continuously rubbing against your skin is a likely culprit. “It causes the skin barrier to break down and become more sensitive,” she says.
Dr Tan explains that there is no real clinical definition of sensitive skin, and that the term is generally used to describe hyper-reactive or allergic skin caused by genetic and/or environmental factors. In this instance – mandatory mask-wear.
When it comes to preventing a skin flare-up in these conditions, good hydration is an important first step – it helps maintain a healthy skin barrier and reduces the impact of external aggressors on skin.
When choosing skincare for your new-norm-sensitised skin, Dr Liu says simple formulas are the key. “The more ingredients a product contains, the more likely you are to come in contact with an allergen, like scents and oils that, while making a product smell great, may also cause contact allergies,” she says.
And remember, just because a product claims to be safe for sensitive skin, doesn’t mean that it can’t cause a reaction. Sensitive-skin triggers vary from person to person, Dr Tan says, so the best solution is to keep your skincare routine simple with a soap-less cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen.
Here’s what you can do: Moisturise your face twice or more a day, and choose a hydrator with active ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerine and dexpanthenol (a derivative of vitamin B5) to help attract moisture, repair your skin barrier, reduce moisture loss, and support skin regeneration.
Before wearing your mask, apply an emollient cream along the border where the mask comes into direct contact with your face.
Reduce the use of chemicals like retinoids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and hydroxy acids. While these are ideal for treating certain skin conditions, they can also lead to skin irritation when used excessively.
Be mindful that just because a product is herbal or plant-based does not mean it is less allergenic – many organic and natural ingredients often contain essential oils, a common source of contact allergy.
And don’t forget to wear sunscreen daily, opting for physical UV filters like zinc and titanium dioxide, as they have less risk of causing skin irritation.