Soothing Skincare for Medical Workers Dealing With PPE Skin Sensitivity

Soothing Skincare for Medical Workers Dealing With PPE Skin Sensitivity

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed how we live, work and learn. In hospitals around the world, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are fighting an enemy that has already killed more than 100,000 people. Medical workers who are called upon to assist or treat those with COVID-19 experience physical strain of protective equipment such as dehydration, heat, and exhaustion, as well as physical isolation. Many of us were absolutely distressed and heartbroken to see photos on social media of these everyday heroes with bruised faces after prolonged mask wear. 

In those medical workers working around-the-clock with COVID-19 patients, face masks, eyewear, facial hoods and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) have resulted in red, sore, irritated skin and even bruising and abrasions, irritant contact dermatitis. Kinesiology tape manufacturers have stepped up quickly to bring a new form of protective tape to the market. This type of tape is designed to adhere like a “second skin” that is comfortable, breathable and provides an excellent barrier between the user’s skin and their mask, eyewear and other PPE. While the tape can be placed just about anywhere on the skin to protect against PPE irritation, the most common application uses three strips shaped in a triangle, one across the nose and the other two at either end running down towards the chin to protect from face mask pressure. The gel-like acrylic adhesive on the strip maintains a seal on the skin without irritation and can be removed painlessly.

The nasal bridge is a problem area, as the mask and the eyewear both sit on it. Mask wearers have been most likely to develop acne followed by itch, rash, PIH, and scarring at the bridge of the nose. The type of acne that forms under masks is a special type of acne – acne mechanica. The biggest difference between acne mechanica and acne vulgaris is the cause – while common acne has hormonal roots, the cause of acne mechanica is completely physical and it boils down to one word: friction. Anything that traps heat against the body for a prolonged period of time, rubs or puts pressure on the skin (such as an N95 mask, and eyewear) can trigger acne mechanica. PPE traps and holds heat and sweat against the skin, causing the pores to become blocked. With continued rubbing, the pores become irritated and those tiny blemishes morph into larger, red pimples. Occlusion of the hair follicles and a warm sweaty environment predisposes to acne flares – this same scenario may also occur under the protective suits as back acne.

To treat acne, it’s recommended to wash the face as soon as possible, or at the end of the shift with a slightly drying glycolic acid cleanser. A salicylic acid wash should be used in the areas affected by acne, and a topical salicylic-based spot treatment applied only on the blemishes before bedtime. After this night-time routine, a non-comedogenic peptide-based moisturizer should be applied to protect the skin and promote healing.

For those healthcare workers that have developed bruising and abrasions, there are several ways to restore and mend the skin. Skin lesions with cuts and bruises require a corneotherapy centric approach – repairing, nourishing the barrier, restoring the skin’s homeostasis, and regenerating the tissues. After removing all PPE, at the end of the shift, it’s recommended to cleanse the face with a gentle cleanser and then layering peptide products from thinnest consistency to thickest – think water-based peptide serum followed by a light, fragrance-free peptide crème. Those with bruising or abrasions from PPE need to completely avoid any harsh exfoliation, salicylates, or retinoids because ther skin is already sensitive. For bruising, the recommendation is to use cremes and gels with arnica and vitamin K ingredients, both of which reduce bruising and inflammation. One of the best ways to treat bruises, pain and inflammation is with multi-wave LED technology. To make sure you are using the correct type of equipment to treat inflammation, check that your device’s wavelengths fall within 630nm red, 660nm red, 850nm infrared, 940nm. These wavelengths have been proven to help diminish bruising and subdue localized pain. It’s recommended to use a handheld LED for 3-5 minutes per area, or a whole face panel for 20 minutes at a 1-2 inch distance from the face.

Just a mere week ago, I was contacted by Ashley Whritenour, who asked if Saian skincare was willing to donate some hydrating and reparative products for a great cause she started along with a fellow esthetician Ciara Gutierrez. The two estheticians desperately wanted to help create and donate self-care kits for our medical workers to treat their bruised and irritated skin, and that’s how Faces on The Front Line was born. Faces on the Front Line kits include soothing and hydrating cleansers, masks, and moisturizers aimed to target these terrible friction burns, irritations, and breakouts caused by protective gear and high levels of stress. Whritenour and Gutierrez are reaching out to professional companies in the wellness industry that would like to donate products that will support the heroes from the inside-out. They also have set up a Gofund me page for the cause.

The lines currently in the Faces on the Front Line Kits
Eminence, Epicuren, Face Reality Skincare, Saian Skincare, Clarity RX, Dermodality, Osmosis, Tizo Skin, Glow Biotics, Elta MD and Hale and Hush, Mizzi Cosmetics. 

Joining the efforts, as a special thank you to healthcare professionals, LightStim, a medical device manufacturer, is donating LED Light Therapy devices to those in need. Medical workers can apply online at