Dear Derm: How Can Medical Staff Care For Their Skin While Wearing PPE?

At the end of long days, when medical professionals finally remove their masks, many of them are seeing breakouts, rashes, and skin irritation. Here's how to treat (and prevent) said side effects, according to an expert.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reports a 97 per cent rate of skin damage enhanced by PPE among front line medical workers in Hubei, China.

Just over 70 per cent of those workers cited dry skin; 56.8 per cent faced tenderness, and 52.5 per cent felt itchy skin.

Others noted desquamation (peeling skin), erythema (redness due to burst blood vessels) and papules (pimples).

The nasal bridge, where a mask rests, was the most common area of irritation.

To help promote the protection of one's skin while adhering to infection prevention measures, Dublin-based skin specialist Ciara Darcy has shared some tips.

1. Choose gentle hydrating cleansers for morning and evening use

Micellar water will dehydrate your skin further and overtime cause redness, sensitivity and irritation. Avene has a full range of products that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, they are also easy to find in your local supermarket or chemist. 

2. Wear SPF every day

Your skin barrier is the outermost layer of the epidermis; its job is to protect us from pathogens such as bacteria, fungus and fungi. When your skin barrier is compromised, skin conditions such as sensitivity occur. To rebuild any damage can take time, SPF every day – even indoors – is important because it will create a protective barrier for your skin.

3. Avoid all exfoliating products on any areas that are irritated

Friction from the masks can cause damage to the skin. When the skin is broken it is not advised to use any products containing Lactic acid, Glycolic acid or Retinol. 

4. Layer your moisture

Depending on how dry your skin is, layering serums and moisturisers before your shift is a good idea. Apply if possible 30 minutes before wearing PPE so they are fully absorbed. A barrier cream around the edge of your mask will help to reduce some friction to that area.

5. Clean skin thoroughly 

If possible, apply your products straight after your working day. Cleaning your skin with a gentle cleanser will stop any bacterial infections that may occur from dirt entering your skin through a damaged area. This can lead to spots and infections.

6. Swap one mask for another

Seoulista Super Hydration sheet masks are great for dehydrated skin, keeping them in the fridge will also help to cool irritation. 

7. Drink lots of water

Your skin is the last organ to benefit from any water that you drink. It may not be possible to drink a lot during the day but it could be an idea to have a two-litre bottle ready to drink after your shift.

Main image by @terriemcevoy

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