Cosmetics and the COVID-19 Face Mask

February 3, 2021
Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a consulting professor of dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. She is investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C., and a Dermatology Times Editorial Advisor and co-medical editor.

Dermatology Times, Dermatology Times, February 2021 (Vol. 42, No. 2), Volume 42, Issue 2

In this month's Cosmetic Conundrums column, Dermatology Times Chief Medical Editor Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, shares her tips for using cosmetics under face masks.

Q: Do cosmetics compromise face mask protection from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2?

The current shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) has left many dermatologists and their patients wearing single-use face masks multiple times. This means that facial oils, moisturizers, sunscreens, foundation, and so on are present on the internal surface of the mask. These substances can get into the woven materials and decrease the mask’s ability to filter viral particles. So, after cleaning the face, it is probably best not to apply products in the area covered by the mask.

Cleaning and reusing masks is not optimal and should be done only if fresh masks are not available.However, some at-home methods can be used to gently clean and reuse the standard blue ear loop procedure masks, if necessary.

The best way to clean a mask is with micellar water, which can be purchased online or at drugstores for under $10. Be sure the micellar water you select is clear, fragrance free, and for sensitive skin. To clean the mask, saturate a round cotton facial pad with the micellar water. Using a back-and-forth motion, gently rub the pad over the inside of the mask. Heavily soiled areas may require several rounds, using a fresh pad each time. Micellar water does not require rinsing, and the mask can be air-dried. The mask must be thoroughly dry before being worn again. This method can be used only for masks that will be worn by the same individual; cleaned masks are not appropriate for wear by others. This cleansing technique does not replace using a new mask.

Q: How can you wear cosmetics under a mask?

It is very difficult to wear cosmetics under a mask, and they do shorten the mask’s wear life. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it is probably best to wear only upper-face cosmetics, because the rest of the face should be covered at all times when in public.Facial foundation, moisturizers, and sunscreen can be applied from the lateral canthus on the right and left face over the forehead. Apply eyeliner and mascara only to the upper eyelid; lower eyelid cosmetics will smear onto the mask. Upper-eyelid shadow can be worn without a problem. Consider applying a bold line and glittery eye shadow to diminish the COVID-19 doldrums. sunscreen can be applied from the lateral canthus on the right and left face over the forehead. Apply eyeliner and mascara only to the upper eyelid; lower eyelid cosmetics will smear onto the mask. Upper-eyelid shadow can be worn without a problem. Consider applying a bold line and glittery eye shadow to diminish the COVID-19 doldrums.

Q: Can you wear lipstick under a face mask?

Yes, you actually can wear lipstick without it smearing all over your face if use a new 16-hour lip color (Provocalips; Rimmel) that does not rub off under a mask. The product creates a waterproof film over the lip surface, adding color without a waxy film that stains the inside of mask. Using the sponge-tipped applicator in the tube, first apply the color, coating the lips to the vermilion border and then inside, just to the mucous membrane. Smooth the color coat with the brush to deposit a thin, even layer. Then immediately use a second brush, also included, which contains a clear setting gel. Allow the products to dry thoroughly before a mask is worn.

Because the lip product is waterproof and rub proof, it can be difficult to remove. This is another job for micellar water. Saturate a round cotton facial pad with micellar water and rub it vigorously over the lips until the film loosens and can wiped away. Divide the lips into quadrants and work on one quadrant at a time until the color is removed. The lip product can cause dryness, so make sure to wear lip balm overnight to minimize peeling. quadrants and work on one quadrant at a time until the color is removed. The lip product can cause dryness, so make sure to wear lip balm overnight to minimize peeling.

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