Skin Covid mask related problems

I'm getting a rash under my mask. What should I do since I really need to wear when I'm out.

We’re starting to see this more and more at the clinic.  It will be soooo nice when the time comes that we don’t need to wear these, except in airports maybe!  But in the meantime, those of us in densely populated urban areas are pretty much stuck with them when out.  And those of us working in healthcare clinics are wearing them all the time to protect patients and other staff members.  Here are some of the problems we’ve seen so far.

Staph infection under the mask.

About 10-20% of people in the U.S. are staph carriers up in their noses.  Usually there are no symptoms from this.  With the warm, moist environment under the mask, the staph creeps out onto the skin, causing a rash.  If you’re not sure, you need a culture at your doctor’s office.  If the culture is positive, it is sometimes possible to use an ointment antibiotic instead of an oral one.  The key thing is the culture, which is just a Q-tip type swab swirled up in the nose.  This is just at the entrance to the nose, and is NOT like doing a Covid culture, which goes way up in the nose.  This one doesn’t hurt.

Flares of acne or rosacea under the mask.

This is often related to the excess moisture, and heat (more for rosacea).  And the stress of all this doesn’t help.  Be sure to stay on and keep using your prescription medication for acne or rosacea.  This isn’t the time to run out or quit using it.  If you need refills, a telehealth visit with your doctor may just do the trick.   If after several weeks of consistent medication use it’s still a problem, go see your doctor/dermatologist.  It may be a staph infection.  Alcohol really can trigger rosacea, so be careful that this extra stressful time, doesn’t lead to self medicating with alcohol.  Alcoholics Anonymous is a wonderful resource for anyone who is concerned about their alcohol use.

Allergic reactions from the mask

Some fabric dyes, detergents and fabric softeners.  Disperse blue is commonly used for denim and may cause reactions. Also, think of your mask like underwear for your face.  You probably wouldn’t keep wearing the same underwear day after day without washing it, would you?  Hopefully not.  So it’s good to have multiple masks and wash them frequently in gentle detergent like Seventh Generation, or Allfree.  All fabric softeners can leave tiny irritant fibers on fabrics, so please avoid also.

Some people are tempted to buy cortisone creams at the drugstore.  These usually masks(no pun intended) the underlying problem, but doesn’t really address it.  If you are doing this, a week might be fine, as long as it’s not getting worse.  After a week, please stop self-treating, and contact your dermatologist or doctor.

Hope this helps,

Dr. B





Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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