The recent COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed daily living around the world. Heightened hygiene measures such as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), more frequent hand washing, and other preventative measures have become the norm to avoid being infected.
One of the biggest high-risk groups in this pandemic is health professionals and front-liners. Aside from being exposed to the threats of the virus, they also face a unique concern: protecting their skin.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and the first line of defense against various types of infections. Its integrity can be compromised due to different external factors—some of which are present in medical practice.
PPE like face masks and latex gloves can cause damage to the skin, especially with prolonged use. Additionally, irritation can occur from washing hands, showering, and using disinfectants more often. Health professionals may face a series of skin maladies, including redness, irritation, itching, contact dermatitis, acne, and blistering.
Below are some helpful tips on how healthcare professionals can better manage and protect their skin under the current circumstances.
1. Moisturize regularly
The best way to prevent further breakage in the skin is to make moisturizing a key part of your skincare routine. After properly washing and drying your hands, apply a moisturizer or hand cream. Should they feel dry after a minute, apply another layer.
For the face, use a mild cleanser to wash off dirt and follow with a moisturizer. Apply a good lip balm regularly, even when your lips don’t feel chapped. Make sure to select a hypoallergenic and fragrance-free moisturizer to avoid ingredients that can further irritate the skin.
2. Use a combination of moisturizers
Excessive sweating, which is common under masks and other PPE, can irritate and dry out the skin. Combining both light and heavy moisturizers may help restore lost moisture and seal it in more effectively.
Start with a lightweight cream with ingredients like urea, glycerin, or hyaluronic acid. Use a heavier moisturizer to prevent water loss. This step can be done overnight to reduce discomfort from the greasy feeling.
3. Use a barrier ointment or bandage
Face masks and other PPE are essential for health workers. However, the constant pressure or friction on the skin can cause breakages, rashes, wounds, or even blisters. To help soothe irritation and create a barrier between the PPE and skin, use a thin layer of zinc oxide on the bridge of your nose, behind the ears, and other affected areas.
Zinc oxide is a skin protectant often used to treat diaper rash and severely chapped skin. A moisturizer or layer of petroleum jelly before wearing latex gloves can act as an effective barrier for your hands.
Alternatively, you may use a bandage or dressing between the skin and the mask’s pressure and contact points. Consult with the appropriate departments and supervisors for the right dressing or bandages that can relieve the pressure or friction without compromising the PPE’s effectiveness.
4. Treat acne breakouts
The sweat and damp conditions under a face mask can lead to an acne breakout, among other skin concerns. Effectively treat acne by washing the skin with a gentle cleanser. Avoid cleansers with ethanol as it might further irritate the skin.
Spot-treat the affected area with products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Do not try to pop or squeeze the pimples as this can contribute to further irritation or infection of the area.
5. Avoid using hot water on the skin
Washing your hands and taking showers are vital to practicing good hygiene and preventing infections. Hot water has not been proven to be more effective than lukewarm or cold water when dealing with germs. Showering or washing hands with hot water may even aggravate current skin damage. Keep your water temperature more comfortable and wash up like normal.
6. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water before and after work, as well as during breaks. Staying hydrated helps the skin retain its moisture and avoid irritation and damage. Proper hydration is also key to keeping up one’s health, especially in the face of a highly-contagious virus.
7. Skip products with specific ingredients
Due to the new standard for hygiene, the skin is more vulnerable to drying and breaking. Shifting to ingredients that are less likely to cause trouble for the skin can help maintain it better.
While using petroleum jelly is safe for your hands, petrolatum-based products can get in the way of mask functions, especially with N95 masks. Avoid products that aren’t non-comedogenic, as they can easily clog up the pores and aggravate existing skin conditions.
8. Be mindful of blisters
Blisters may form from frequent contact and friction between the PPE and the skin. Do not pop the blister under any circumstances. Instead, keep it clean and use a topical antibiotic ointment.
Prevent further pressure and irritation by covering it with a bandage or dressing. Consult with the appropriate department or supervisor for the bandages that can shield the blister without getting in the way of the PPE’s effectiveness.
Your Skin Needs Care, Too
Healthcare professionals have tirelessly worked to treat and safeguard the public from the threats of COVID-19. These tips are just ways to protect themselves and their skin from the additional risk of infection. Should you experience any worsening skin symptoms, consult with your doctor immediately.
By Penelope Martinez
who is a content marketing professional for Garnier, a skincare brand that aims to help women express their natural beauty and offers a natural way to skin so healthy that it glows. She is passionate about skincare and is an advocate of sustainability and natural ingredients. In her free time, she loves to travel, listen to music, spend time with her friends, and discover new skills.
Featured Image Caption:- Skin Care Tips
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