Some facts about face mask use and how to avoid “maskne”

5min read

As the UK and many other countries in Europe are nearing the end of their second lockdown and preparing for the festive season, what can we do to avoid going into a third lockdown in the new year?

Well, you've heard it all before: wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, keep your distance, and wear a face mask.

Wear a mask? Here's why

I really don’t understand why wearing a face mask has become so contentious in the West, but limiting the spread of the virus does require a dose of altruism and a sense of shared responsibility. And by that I mean, wearing a face mask when being in the presence of people outside of your household. “Why should we do that?” I hear you say.

Well, interestingly, there is some evidence that shows that widespread use of face masks would be more effective than lockdown. That’s a pretty compelling reason in and of itself!

"If everyone was wearing a mask we probably wouldn't need to go into lockdown..."

But also, scientific evidence continues to show that masks do work. Research not only shows that face masks cut down the chances of transmitting the virus, but they also reduce the chances of catching it!

It’s not that surprising really when you think about it. The transmission of COVID-19 is thought to occur via respiratory droplets that are released when people speak, sneeze, or talk. If these land on someone else's mouth or nose (and they do!), they can contract the virus.

And what do face masks do? They create a physical barrier that catches your spit hence preventing it from landing on other people's faces. It is really as simple as that! If you're still in any doubt, the illustrations below might convince you. Funny but to the point!

Wear Your Mask: The Urine Test from r/funny

What's more, a high number of infected people don't even know they are infectious. If they go about their business not wearing a face mask, they might unknowingly be spreading the virus around and potentially infecting other people and their loved ones.

If you still have doubts, it’s worth having a look at the data from countries where their population follows the rules and overwhelmingly complies with wearing face masks. In Malaysia, for example, over 90% of the population use face masks, and so far, there have only been 354 COVID-19 deaths (as of 28/11/20).

To be clear, no one likes to wear a mask! Most of us find them uncomfortable or they make our skin break out 😒. Luckily, for anyone willing to protect others and themselves, there are ways to mitigate the annoyances of wearing a face mask.

How should you wear a face mask?

First, you must wash or sanitize your hands before and after putting on and taking off a mask. Then, place the mask over your mouth and nose and tie it around your head or place the ear straps around your ears.

When removing the mask, do it via the straps and make sure not to touch the front of the mask or your face. Try not to touch your mask at all while wearing it. To be sure, wash or sanitize your hands whenever you need to touch your mask.

If your mask gets wet or dirty, avoid throwing it in your bag or your pocket. Instead, put it in a sealed bag until you can wash it.

These guidelines can seem a bit daunting, but it's a matter of habit. Just try to get used to the routine. One way to adjust to wearing a face covering is to start slow and practice at home first, perhaps while watching TV or reading. Then, wear it for a short stroll. Increase the use until you feel more comfortable with it.

Consider trying another type of mask if the one you have isn't very breathable or is too uncomfortable. If you still can't get used to it, talk to your doctor about how to protect yourself and others during the pandemic.

NB: It's important not to put a mask on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or otherwise unable to remove it without help. It's not recommended to put face masks on kids under the age of 2.

What about face mask acne or "maskne"?!

What is "maskne"?

“Maskne” covers a wide range of facial rashes, including redness, irritation, and breakouts. You may have noticed that when you wear a mask, that area of your face becomes a bit humid. The friction of the mask against your skin coupled with dirt, sweat, oil, and bacteria build-up can clog your pores and lead to mask-induced acne.

6 tips to prevent "maskne"

  • Wash your mask properly (see below).
  • Regularly wash your face, ideally after each use.
  • Avoid using thick moisturizing creams (this can also clog your pores). A lightweight, water-based moisturizer will work just fine.
  • Avoid clogging your pores with dead skin cells by exfoliating regularly. 
  • Avoid wearing make-up if you can. It may seem obvious, but most foundations, especially oil-based, and powders, are not really pore-friendly.
  • Avoid touching your face and mask (see also above). If you really need to touch your face (it's hard not to after all), sanitize or wash your hands properly before you do so.  
  • Wear the right type of mask. Soft fabrics such as cotton are less likely to cause friction than synthetic fibers. Make sure that your mask fits your face snugly and doesn't rub your skin too much.

Hopefully, you will be using a reusable cloth face covering and not a disposable one as these are contributing to plastic pollution and have already been found littering beautiful beaches around the world.

Gary Stokes, co-founder of OceansAsia, holds up the masks he found strewn across beaches near Hong Kong in February 2020 (OceansAsia)

Gary Stokes, co-founder of OceansAsia, holds up the face masks he found scattered across beaches near Hong Kong in February 2020 (OceansAsia) - From www.1ocean.org 

How often should you wash your face mask?

Ideally, you should wash your mask after each time you wear it. For that reason, we would suggest that you have at least two face masks that you can rotate. If you wear a face mask irregularly and only for a few minutes, you can probably do with washing it a little less often. 

Having said that, you must wash your masks as often as possible. That's because the mask itself can become contaminated, which in turn could contaminate you. This is particularly relevant if you come into contact with vulnerable people. If you are infectious, your mask will be heavily contaminated hence increasing the risk of infecting others. So wearing a clean mask every day will lower that risk.

How should you wash it?

If you can, wash your masks at 60C although they can be washed with your normal laundry. Make sure that your mask is fully dry before wearing it because damp or moist cloth masks can be more porous and therefore be less effective.

Hopefully, this post will shed some light on the use of face masks and how to avoid some of the annoyances.

If you're looking for a good, eco-friendly face mask, check out our shop. We have a small selection of reusable face masks here at Roamwide. Our double-layered face masks are hand-sewn sustainably from leftover fabric (a blend of hemp and organic cotton). They are durable and soft and very comfortable to wear. Hemp is a strong and highly sustainable material that is super breathable, UV-, and mold-resistant.

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