If you have eczema, topical steroid withdrawal, asthma, or any other condition that may hinder the wearing of masks or make it uncomfortable, cause anxiety or exacerbate symptoms, here’s some observations, tips and advice.
If you really do not want to wear a face mask there are many reasons that you may be exempt.
To download and print an exemption card visit the Government website here:
Reasons for exemption
- Severe Eczema – if a mask will be uncomfortable, make your skin inflamed, hot and cause flares, itching and irritation
- Asthma – If prolonged wearing of a mask may hinder breathing and make asthma worse
- Anxiety – If wearing a mask will make you overly anxious due the consequences of wearing one.
There are many other valid reasons so check the link above to see if you qualify. Don’t suffer in silence if they are really causing you pain and suffering.
So there is hope and relief if you are really struggling, particularly now we are facing more prolonged need for mask wearing when perhaps we thought it might be over.
I’ve been finding it really hard, as the skin on my face has been healing from TSW and has been dry, excessively flaky, sore and irritated. Wearing a mask has been causing me a lot of anxiety as it can trigger itching and be very uncomfortable.
When you cover your mouth and breath into it, moist warm air gathers on your face and can really trigger a flare up of facial eczema.
They can also cause hot flushing which is another trigger for sore skin.
Benefits of mask wearing and tips for doing it well
It’s not all bad, there can be some great benefits of wearing a face mask
- Safety – we know that face masks cannot protect us 100% from catching Covid, but since doctors and surgeons wear them every day to keep themselves and vulnerable patients safe, it still make sense to me that wearing one could help keep you safe from catching the virus.
- Anonymity – Whilst wearing a mask CAN make me uncomfortable and itchy, it can also help me feel like I can hide my face and not have to deal with people staring, asking questions about what is going on etc. That can feel like a huge weight off and reduce anxiety about being seen with such a different and shocking facial condition.
- Mask material – Be careful what material of mask you buy. Sometimes the disposable paper ones can be good as they are thin and may not make you feel so hot. However they are dry, rough and scratchy. Look for masks made from materials that are kind to sensitive skin, such as silk, tencel or bamboo.
- Wash regularly – It goes without saying, but make sure you have a few masks so you can wash them after wearing.
- Get the right type – Make sure you get one that fits snuggly, doesn’t rub, preferable has two layers for added comfort and doesn’t have elastic against the skin.
- Moisturise – Make sure you use a good quality natural moisturiser before going out when you have to wear your mask.
So there are ways of making this mask wearing less of a trial and I many of my skin warrior friends love being able to hide their skin behind a mask. I might get some huge big dark glasses and a huge brimmed hat for added disguise.
Here is Dr Lio talking about Eczema and Covid and wearing a mask
It’s been a really tough time for everyone but it really struck me how many triggers and traumas it’s brought into my eczema life at my recent booster vaccine appointment.
It really was horrible for the following reasons
- Masks – They wouldn’t let me wear my own comfortable cotton mask. I had to remove it and put on a horrible paper scratchy one. Why is this? What possible difference does the kind of mask make?
- Anti bacterial gel – I hate the stuff. It stings, gets into the cuts in my hands, is so wet and disgusting and I have to wipe it off on my clothes every time. The woman on duty was giving out the antibac to each person so you had no control of how much, and lets just say she was putting way too much onto everyone’s hands, as if this makes any real difference. Through this whole time of Covid I’ve managed to avoid most of the antibac by not going out much, washing my hands in real water and proper soap when I get home and also by wearing gloves and avoiding touching common things like buttons, door handles etc. Every time I see that gel I’m thinking… no, no nooooo it’s going to hurt, it will sting, it will be tooo much, will I touch my face with it by mistake and set of an itch fit? NOOOO. It’s horrible stuff. Does it really help remove a virus?
- The vaccine – I’m realising that I am now quite medication phobic. I don’t trust anything or anyone. If someone tells me something is completely safe I don’t believe them. Topical steroids and Protopic damage have done that to me. But I have had to bite back all that fear and take the vaccine… three times now. I don’t like it. Not one bit. But it feels like the right thing to do. All the fear mongering is not helping me one bit.
- Anxiety – Before Covid I was learning how to live with panic attacks and know how to breathe through one, calm myself and remind myself I am safe, I am OK. But nothing really feels 100% safe at the moment does it? All my worries about catching covid, antibac, wearing a mask and getting super itchy and damaging my already sore skin pile up and I’d much rather stay at home. Anxiety is just there, ready to pounce and has a direct link to making me itchy and particularly my face. It’s the perfect melting pot of horrors.
- Anaphylaxis – this was my third vaccine. I’d had the first two and this was the booster. So I was pretty confident I wouldn’t go into anaphylaxis but I had my adrenaline ready anyway, just in case, and still had a small doubt in the back of my mind. This was my first Pfizer vaccine, the first two being AstraZeneca. Needless to say it was fine.
- Being seen with poor facial eczema – I can’t quite shake it. I just always feel self conscious when my face is inflamed, covered in visible flakes and full on TSW. I know I am beautiful and I should not care what people think but I hate being stared at and strangers asking about it. It happens more than you’d realise. And I hate it every time.
I think they thought I was having a manic episode or something as I was sitting in my allocated chair (due to the potential risk of anaphylaxis I had to sit for 15 minutes after my vaccine to be observed, just to be safe) going through my face tapping on my brow, under my nose, my chin, my chest.. gently rocking and then holding my mask gently on my face, trying to avoid being itchy and going into a frenzied scratch attack. They came over and sat with me and were very concerned. I nearly burst out laughing, trying to explain this was what I did when I was anxious because all my least favourite things were happening to me right here: masks, antibac, vaccine, anaphylaxis risk (albeit small) and the challenging TSW on my face which was sore that day.
I got offered a sticker for my bravery 🙂
Where to find a soft mask that won’t irritate your skin
- Clover Skincare – Tencel mask – Your face needs soothing. This light and lovely face mask makes it easier to breathe. It also absorbs twice as much moisture as cotton, making it super cool to the touch. I have just ordered one of these after the scarf I won was soft and cooling for my neck.
- The Big Silk face masks – currently buy 4 and get one free! Silk is really soft and also should be cooling yet breathable for your skin. Get good quality silk and shop around. I’ve not tried these one but they have fantastic reviews.
- HugHugUK – also recommended by a friend Mel – she says their silk masks are wonderful
- You Got Eczema – cotton face mask from Redubble – for the laughs. I don’t know how this one actually is but it made me laugh.
The Allergy and Asthma network have some tips on Face Masks and facial eczema
The National Eczema Society has this advice – Eczema and Covid19 – wearing a face mask when you have eczema
So how are you finding it wearing face masks? Is it difficult? or do you find is soothing and great to hide behind? Or is the bane of your life? I wish I could just hide behind mine without so much irritation. But I do feel a little safer wearing one, protected and hidden. Do they protect us from Covid? I’d love to hear your thoughts.