Masks protect us against the spread of Covid-19 – not many people disagree with that. But it’s important to wash reusable masks and give the skin they cover some TLC. Here’s more.

Washing masks is a chore, especially after months of doing it. Have you been doing it? Some people don’t at all, most of us not often enough.

Masks catch the droplets coming out your mouth and nose and that includes any bacteria, fungi and viruses that might be lurking in your body. Most of these will be harmless, experts say, but carrying around the bad stuff in a piece of cloth over your face can be a health risk. It can also mess up the covered skin.

Enough reason to take better care of masks.

You should wash your mask after every wear. That might not be practical, so the best is to have more than one mask and to rotate them. But try to wash one mask every day.

Best is in hot water of around 60 degrees Celsius. That means you can put it in the washing machine, but the question is if the rest of the laundry could stand the heat.

If you’d rather do it by hand, start by cleaning your hands. Go easy on the soap and any fabric softener. Fresh laundry may smell nice, but a fragrance on the mask might irritate your nose.

Masks must be completely dry before you wear them again. A damp cloth will be more porous and offer less protection.

Spraying a mask with alcohol or disinfectant might sound like a plan, but you could end up inhaling chemicals. And it can’t get rid of other things such as mucus and dust in the mask.

You can’t just stick your mask in your pocket or handbag. There is a small chance it could contaminate other stuff. Carry around a plastic bag or container to keep your mask in. These have to be disinfected or replaced regularly as well.

Always take off or put on the mask without touching the front that goes over your nose and mouth.

Facial skin might not like being trapped in a damp little tent for long periods. Friction and humid air can cause outbreaks. The medical term for these is acne mechanica and the nickname is “maskne”.

Here are some of the problems caused by wearing masks often:
* Contact dermatitis: Chemicals in some masks can cause allergies.
* Rosacea: flares made worse by heat and stress.
* Seborrheic dermatitis: causes scaly plaques, inflamed skin, and stubborn dandruff.
* Folliculitis: hair follicles get infected.

Gentle care can prevent problems. Wash away oil and dirt with a mild, fragrance-free cleanser and rinse with lukewarm water. A moisturiser forms a protective layer that can reduce dryness.

Chapped lips are a common face mask problem. Treat them with petroleum jelly after washing your face, before you put on your mask, or at bedtime. Make sure the jelly doesn’t get on the skin, where it could lead to breakouts.

Make-up under a mask will smudge the cloth and can also lead to breakouts. If you must, look for options that say “non-comedogenic” or “won't clog pores.” Use leave-on products when you won’t be wearing a mask. This is also not a good time to try new skin products.

A good moisturiser will work for dry skin before you put on a mask. Afterward, use a mild cleanser.

After shaving, rinse off your face with cold water to close the pores, and don’t put on the mask while the skin is still damp.

Get a mask that fits snugly and has a natural, breathable fabric such as cotton as the inside layer. A tip from health-care workers: take a 15-minute mask break every four hours. Your skin will thank you.

Jet Club members get discounted rates on clinic services at Dis-Chem and Clicks pharmacies. For more information call:

Pharmacy and clinic services helpline
SA & Namibia
0800 00 45 45

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YOUR MASK AND YOUR FACE: KEEPING IT CLEAN YOUR MASK AND YOUR FACE: KEEPING IT CLEAN Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on November 09, 2020 Rating: 5
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