How to limit skin damages during Covid-19

During a global pandemic, as we are facing today, it is essential to wear a mask and wash our hands as much as we can. In this way we are avoiding the spread of virus, keeping the contamination as low as possible. 

However, over-washing of hands or keeping our face covered with a mask for long periods can affect the superficial layers of the skin and deplete it from its healthy microbiome. Health workers and people working in environments that require frequent hand washing and wearing face masks for long periods are obviously more affected. 

Don't worry, we are here for you to guide you through a series of measures that can prevent skin irritation and discomfort caused by over-washing of hands and wearing a face mask. However, if you experience persisting or aggravating lesions, you should consult your doctor. 

Here are science backed tips on how to protect your skin while protecting yourself from COVID -19.

Protecting your face from skin irritation caused by face mask:

Wearing a mask for a long time, especially during warm days, can cause redness and pore dilation, making the skin more vulnerable to dirt buildup and bacterial infections. Sebum production can also increase, clogging pores and causing acne. 
No need to panic, there are a few things that you can do to maintain healthy skin and avoid any irritation or acne secondary to wearing a face mask. 
The main key is to let the skin breathe, not overload it with heavy makeup and keep dirt away. 

Make sure the fabric in the mask is right:

Materials used in face masks are variated. They can range from simple multiple-layered cloths or may include professional filters. 
The best fabric recommended for homemade face masks is a combination of organic cotton and natural silk. Cotton alone is not as efficient in filtering air particles, but if you want, you can include professional air filters that are now commercially available. However, don't build or wear a mask that makes breathing difficult.

Don’t share your mask

Masks are meant only for individual use and should not be changed with other people, not even family members, loved ones, or people you live with. Switching masks from one person to another can increase the risk not just for viral contamination, but also for skin bacterial and mycotic infections.

Wash your mask frequently

Wash your fabric mask after each use  with hot water and antibacterial detergent. If your skin is more sensitive to soaps, than you can go for the hypoallergenic type. Also, if the fabric allows it, you can iron it to kill all germs. 


The way you put on and handle your mask is just as important

Before putting on the mask, you need to make sure you have washed your hands, that the mask is clean and does not have any damages. Adjust it by the straps and avoid touching it unless your hands are clean.

Before taking off the mask, you need to thoroughly sanitize your hands. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth and pull the mask off by the straps. This will definitely sound like a lot, but after taking off your mask, you need to sanitize your hands again.

Keep your mask as clean as possible

Deposit your mask in a clean zip-lock plastic bag if you want to use it again. We all find it easier to just throw the mask in our purse or put it in a back pocket. However, this can easily cause the mask to get dirty, dirt that we will later place directly on our face skin. 

Avoid using a mask that is wet, dirty, or damaged. Not only it will not protect you or those around you, but it could also cause irritation or acne.

Always wash and clean your face at the end of the day.

Wash your face with lukewarm water and opt for gentle cleansing solutions to prevent dehydration and preserve the skin's natural microbiome such as an essential oil free face wash or micellar water. 

Bioderma Micellar water & Avène Gentle Cleanser Lotion

Apply a microbiome-friendly moisturizing serum daily

Using a Microbiome-friendly moisturizer is essential to nourish and reestablish a healthy lipid barrier. This is especially important with skin that is actually touching the mask.

Dr. Elsa Jungman Moisturizing Serum is the first US Microbiome-friendly certified skincare line. 
Formulated with just 3 clean, plant-derived & efficacy-proven ingredients: Squalane (From Sugar Cane), Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil (Sacha Inchi Oil) & Tocopherol (Vitamin E). 


Prevent skin irritation caused by over-washing of hands

Handwashing is an essential measure in preventing COVID-19, and for many, it is also the root of significant discomfort. Health organizations advise us to wash our hands "as often as possible" with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Although this may protect us from getting infected with the novel virus, it can lead to itchy, cracked and flaky skin. Try not to worry, there are still a few things that you can do to repair the damages caused by overwashing or harsh hand disinfectants. 

Gentle Soap

Wash your hands with a soap-free pH-balanced hydrating cleanser. Regular hand cleansers contain soap and have an alkaline pH, which strips the skin from its natural barrier and accentuate skin dryness (CETAPHIL Gentle Skin Cleanser). A hydrating pH-balanced hand cleanser will clean your hands from dirt and germs while nourishing and preserving a healthy skin barrier. 

Water temperature

Don't wash your hands with hot water, as it will strip your skin from its natural protective lipid barrier, causing irritation and skin dryness. Lukewarm or even cold water work just as well in washing harmful microorganisms away, but also preserve the natural lipid layer, which is essential for skin hydration.

Moisturize your hands

Use a moisturizing hand lotion after washing hands. Applying a hydrating lotion right after washing hands will help reestablish the lipid barrier and prevent skin dryness. Lotions with natural-based ingredients nourish healthy microbiome and can work wonders for damaged skin (GiDDY Unscented Vegan-Friendly Hard Lotion).  

Create your routine
Creating a hand sanitizing routine, especially if your work requires frequent hand washing. Make sure you always have your personal hand cleanser and lotion with you. You can go for the smaller reusable recipients that are easier to carry in a purse, place in your work desk drawer, or in your car. 
Hand sanitizers can also cause skin damage

While washing hands is the best way to get rid of germs, soap and water are not always readily available. In these situations, health organizations recommend that we use alcohol-based sanitizers with a content of at least 60% alcohol, either in the form of gels or sprays. Unfortunately, most hand sanitizers will not discriminate against microorganisms and will kill the skin's microbiome, together with the harmful bacteria. No worries, here too, you can counteract the long-term damaging effects.

Use a hydrating hand sanitizer

We know it is easier to just pick something up from the shelf, but take a few minutes to read the labels and your skin will thank you. There is a wide variety of products containing Aloe Vera, honey, or oatmeal. Another excellent ingredient to look for is sugar cane, or olive derived squalane (PIPETTE Hand Sanitizer). This is a natural, intensely hydrating lipid that is also produced by our own skin cells.

Moisturize your hands

As with the soaps, if necessary, you can use a hydrating lotion after the hand sanitizer. There are many solutions for maintaining healthy skin and at the same time, protect yourself and loved ones from germs. Take all precautions recommended by world health organizations against the novel virus and make sure that you use the products that best fit your skin type. Current medical research is highly advanced, and surely, a new vaccine will allow us to soon go back to our normal life. 

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Winnefeld, M., et al. "Skin Tolerance and Effectiveness of Two Hand Decontamination Procedures in Everyday Hospital Use." British Journal of Dermatology, vol. 143, no. 3, 2000, pp. 546–550., DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2000.03708.x.

Wollina, Uwe. "Challenges of COVID19 Pandemic for Dermatology." Dermatologic Therapy, 2020, DOI:10.1111/dth.13430.

Xu, Xiao-Wei, et al. "Clinical Findings in a Group of Patients Infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) Outside of Wuhan, China: Retrospective Case Series." BMJ, 2020, p. m606., DOI:10.1136/bmj.m606.

Zapka, C., et al. "Comparison of Standard Culture-Based Method to Culture-Independent Method for Evaluation of Hygiene Effects on the Hand Microbiome." MBio, vol. 8, no. 2, 2017, DOI:10.1128/mbio.00093-17.

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