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The N95 Masks Take a Toll on the Skin

Healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic rely on N95 masks to reduce their exposure to airborne particles, but a growing number of nurses and physicians are experiencing redness and irritation on their face. Fortunately, in the midst of the chaos, some have discovered creative treatments to ease the inflammation.


Hospitals and clinics around the country are struggling to maintain adequate quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE), thus requiring their workers to wear the same N95 masks around the clock. Across social media and Reddit, workers are complaining about the repercussions of sweating and breathing in the same mask all day. Citing acne, irritation, bacterial and fungal infections, decubitus ulcers, and literal breakdown of the skin as common reactions to constant use of PPE.


“The very fine capillaries that are providing all of the oxygen, nutrients, and all the things it needs to be healthy [are collapsing],” Orit Markowitz, MD, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City told Allure. “In a way, you’re suffocating the skin, [so it] then starts to break down.


Yet, a few basic ointments and bandages are proving to be accessible remedies to diminishing the effects of long-term PPE use. Cavilon Barrier Film prevents friction on areas that are being affected by the masks the most. Gel-textured hydrocolloid bandages, which are commonly used to heal blisters and pimples are also helping. Soft gauze can be applied to the bridge of the nose underneath the mask to alleviate some of the pressure from PPE. Applying Aquaphor, Vaseline, and other ointments after washing, drying, and moisturizing the face can heal irritated areas and reduce irritation.

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