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How to protect your skin when wearing masks or latex gloves

The wearing of disposable, single use plastic or latex gloves has become commonplace in public places. FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) ///

The wearing of disposable, single use plastic or latex gloves has become commonplace in public places. FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) ///

Published May 15, 2020


DURBAN - No matter if you're a healthcare worker wearing a medical mask on the front lines or you're a person wearing a fabric face mask when you're in public, you'll soon discover that in addition to keeping you safe, your face mask may be causing some less than desirable side effects when it comes to your skin.

This is according to dermatologist Joshua Zeichner.

In its efforts to reduce the amount of Coronavirus (or Influenza virus) being coughed up by those with the infection thereby reducing its spread through droplets, the government has made the wearing of a face mask in public compulsory.

"Any fabric rubbing against your skin may lead to friction and irritation. Plus, oil, sweat, dirt and makeup can build up under the fabric. This can lead to rashes or even acne breakouts, especially in areas where the mask directly comes in contact with your skin," said Zeichner.

For irritation of your skin (itchy rash) under the mask, experts recommend that before wearing a mask, you apply a barrier cream with zinc oxide on the bridge of your nose and cheeks where the mask rests. Wash with a gentle facial cleanser after using a mask and moisturise with a fragrance-free moisturizer. For those with acne (pimples) under the mask, they should use a non-comedogenic moisturizer.

While the wearing of disposable, single-use plastic or latex gloves has become commonplace in public places, particularly in supermarkets and on public transport. The World Health Organisation does not recommend the use of gloves as a means of preventing Covid-19 illness and advises against wearing disposable gloves instead of washing hands.

Wearing latex gloves for long periods is considered a risk factor for developing hand eczema. Moreover, the increased hydration due to the latex glove may lead to brittle nails and can cause irritation of the skin on the hands which leads to dryness, flakiness and cracking.

To protect your hand skin from irritation it is recommended that you moisturise as frequently as possible. Use a good quality, fragrance-free moisturizer or emulsifying ointment. Avoid contact with irritant cleaning chemicals such as bleach or ammoniated cleaning agents. If you are doing housework, wear gloves with a cotton liner and try to keep your hands dry.

“We need to stop wearing disposable gloves in public as they are not recommended for daily use. Gloves should not be treated as an alternative to hand washing as regularly washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser is a better defence against the virus,” said Professor Martin Cormican.

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