I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post because, to be honest, it makes me feel really sad. I hate that this has to be a part of our life right now. Personally, I’d rather just stay home, avoid public places, keep the circle of people I do socialize with in person really small, oh, and spend time with them outside. But it doesn’t look like masks are going away any time soon, and, please don’t hate me for saying this, but winter is coming so we’ll likely be wearing them more since outdoor options like patios, backyards, and farmers markets will go away. A lot of you have had to embrace masks sooner and wear them for lengthier periods of time than I have, and as more things open up and our threshold for tolerating isolation decreases, more of you have been letting me know Mascne (yep, that’s the new word for acne caused by wearing masks) has become a top skin concern.
I first want to address how we approach this new skin woe.
While culturally we can try to be quick to “fix” a problem, especially one pertaining to our body and standards of beauty, this really calls for self-compassion.
Our bodies simply aren’t designed for this; not our nervous system, not our integumentary system, not our lymphatic system, not our microbiome. Let me be clear, I am not taking a stance on whether or not they are necessary for preventing the spread of COVID-19; I’m saying, wearing a mask for long periods of time while living through a global pandemic, and all the far-reaching consequences of it, during an election year no less, is really taxing, and we need to love ourselves through it.
Angela Peck, Wholistic Esthetician and Wholistic Ally founder, has simply said it the best in response to this concern:
“Perhaps your skin doesn’t need more products, maybe your skin needs more rest, space, touch, nutritious food, water, understanding, curiosity, simplicity, tension release, gratitude, movement, love, flow.”
According to Zach Mush MD, it’s absolutely critical to your immunity and overall health, to spend as much time as you can without a mask, engaging with new environments that will replenish and fortify your microbiome. Whenever you are comfortable doing so, take a mask break, breathe fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. As a family, we’ve been making it a point to get out for a walk in different parks around the city.
So why exactly are masks creating acne, breakouts, rashes, and general irritation?
Wearing masks restricts circulation, and the flow of lymph and blood, our cells’ nutrition delivery and plumbing system for waste. The chemicals used in making or growing the material the mask is made from irritate the skin and along with the friction they create, disrupt the skin’s protective barrier, the body’s first line of defense. Synthetic materials like plastic and latex alone can cause allergic reactions. Additionally, both Cotton and Polyester masks both accumulate bacteria and move it back into the skin. Cotton pulls moisture from the skin, leading to dryness, which can cause the skin to create more sebum (oil) to compensate. Your skin is always trying to protect you! Additionally, the bacteria that causes acne, p.acne bacteria, thrives in this anaerobic (oxygen free) environment, causing acne-prone skin to flare, and even healthier skin to heal slower and be more irritable. The longer you have to wear a mask, the more disrupted your skin’s natural processes will be.
Can you appreciate all your skin is doing to maintain balance?
So, before I get to specific recommendations, I encourage you to to take a few minutes to reflect on all I’ve shared here, to slow down and invite some stillness into your relationship with your skin. Developing your skintuition is a practice that takes patience and compassion.
What does your skin need?
Invite this question into a mediation or journaling session.
I’d love to know what messages, however subtle, you receive.
I’ll be back tomorrow with Part 2.
With love, beauty, and gratitude,