Summer heat brings new coronavirus complication: mask rash

(NBC News)  Summer weather has arrived in much of the country, and that’s adding a new COVID-19 complication. Dermatologists are seeing an uptick in skin conditions related to face coverings.

Matt Brown swapped out his n-95 mask for a cotton bandana. “I thought I’d give it a try and see how it’s working,” he says.

Health experts say he’s on to something. Breathable fabrics, like cotton, in lighter colors will be more comfortable in the summer, but even they can trap sweat, oil and moisture.

“Sadly there is no perfect mask for everyone,” says Dr. Adam Friedman, a dermatologist with the George Washington University School of Medicine.  “It’s more of a how do you take care of your skin.”

Dr. Friedman is seeing more cases of skin irritation caused by face coverings, from rashes to discoloration to exacerbation of pre-existing conditions.

He suggests building a barrier by washing your face with a mild cleanser, then applying a moisturizer with sunscreen to damp skin.  Repeat if you wear a mask for an extended period.

“During the day, try to step into an empty room into the bathroom, remove the mask, dampen the skin with a little water- not dripping wet, and put another thin layer of facial moisturizer on that damp skin,” he advises.

If those steps don’t help or the irritation is getting worse, it may be time for an appointment with a dermatologist. But don’t ditch the mask.

“The risk of the risk of transmitting COVID-19 certainly outweighs any local irritation or inflammation or exacerbation of primary disease, especially given that we have great ways to mitigate this,” Dr. Friedman says.

For those who wear makeup, Dr. Friedman suggests using mineral-based or oil-based cosmetics under masks to avoid potential skin issues.

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