Doctors Told Not to Wear Makeup With Surgical Masks and N95s During COVID-19 | Allure

by beauty expert

If you’re wearing a cloth face covering, it’s important to follow CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of droplets during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, make sure your mask covers both your nose and mouth, that you wash your hands after taking it off, and that you dispose of (or re-use) it properly.

In medical settings, where the stakes of potentially transmitting an illness are usually higher, many health care workers follow another principle to make sure their masks are an effective barrier for droplets that could spread potentially harmful pathogens: taking off their makeup before wearing a mask, or skipping the makeup altogether.

One of the reasons medical providers are taking this extra precaution is to conserve masks, which are already in short supply. Anne Liu, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, says once makeup gets on masks, it’s considered contaminated — which poses a problem when many health care facilities are finding ways to clean masks for reuse.

“A lot of places are collecting N95s for sterilization, but if there’s makeup on it, it’s considered soiled or contaminated, and we can’t sterilize them,” Liu tells Allure.

Makeup worn directly under a mask may also damage the fabric, making it a less effective barrier, according to Cassandra M. Pierre, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center.

“For surgical masks and N95 masks, and possibly for cloth masks, makeup does cause soiling of the masks and can lead to decreased air filtration,” she says. “You need to protect yourself from the potentially harmful pathogens in the air, and the debris from soiling will cause less efficiency in the mask or respirator’s ability to filtrate.”

Pierre says any makeup that touches the mask could impede the mask’s ability to filter out droplets, including lipstick, blush, foundation, and even tinted sunscreen. But it’s not just makeup: Men’s products like aftershave that cause visible soiling could also make a mask less efficient. So can skin-care products, like sunscreen or heavy, cream-based lotions that could cling to the mask.

Pierre recommends avoiding anything that could cause visible soiling to the mask’s fabric. If you apply sunscreen or a skin-care product like sunscreen or lotion, she recommends using thinner formulations or waiting to put on a mask until the product is totally absorbed into your skin. “If you can brush it off with your fingers, it can get onto the mask,” she says.

Theoretically, she says makeup could also hinder the effectiveness of a DIY cloth face covering or a bandana, but those are easier to wash at home. Just keep in mind that repeated washing of fabric masks could thin the fibers over time, also impacting its effectiveness.

It’s not an official CDC guideline, but Pierre says as a general rule, if you’re venturing out in public, the safest bet is to skip anything that could soil the mask on any part of your face below your nose. But applying skin-care and makeup products above the nose is totally fine — and encouraged, if it boosts your mood. “Do up the eyes, and do the mascara and eyebrows, but don’t have makeup around your mouth,” Liu says.

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