Mask Wearing Complications

There is a thought that we have more microbes on our body skin than we have human cells. The human skin provides the largest surface area for microbial growth and is host to millions of microbial organisms. The skin microbiome is dominated by members of 4 phyla: firmicutes, actinobacteria, bacteroidetes and proteobacteria.

There is a thought we should start perceiving the skin as an ecosystem composed of physical and living biological components occupying diverse habitats. When the skin’s microbiome is out of kilter, disruptions may occur resulting in an aged appearance, infections, skin disorders, reactive skin, redness and acne.

When it comes to the microbiome of the skin and mask-wearing there are 3 main factors disrupting the balance. These are friction, changes to the microbiome and an alkaline environment. These 3 factors are also seen in another common skin condition, nappy rash.

Friction from mask-wearing results in loss of the barrier function – which we discussed in last month’s article. Each day our skin endures the rubbing of our masks from talking and general moving throughout the day which results in the gradual sloughing of the outer layers of the skin. This is accelerated by the moisture on the skin from our breath. As the barrier of the skin is eroded, a greater amount of water is lost through the skin and it dries out and creates sensitivity, redness or an aged appearance. Remember to change your mask daily sometimes a few times a day if necessary. Also, review the quality of your mask. Friction may also be reduced by using a topical like Rhonda Allison’s Drop of Essence in your daily skincare routine. This emollient is plant-based which is also a good food source for a healthy microbiome.

Our skin is naturally slightly acidic on the pH scale, around 4.5-5.5. At this level, the skins barrier system functions optimally and the immune system is operating at an optimal level for healthy skin. The condensate of the breath has consistently been measured around a pH 8 – alkaline. When the skin is exposed to long periods of an alkaline environment with mask-wearing, it’s natural buffering, becomes overwhelmed and the skin starts to become unhealthy, and the microbiome and skin barrier is less effective. Ensure your skincare products at home are all pH balanced and suitable for your skin condition. These should be reviewed each season and perhaps more often in these challenging times we are living in, as stress also creates imbalances in the skin.

When we keep our skin cells healthy, we rely on external microbiotic life forms to work in harmony with and support our own healthy cells. These healthy cells form the human microbiome. The human microbiome is kept at the same slightly acidic level as the skin. As the skin becomes more alkaline the prevalence of overgrowths of various harmful kinds of bacteria and bacteria on the skin increases. Skincare products for home use and a healthy lifestyle both contribute to assisting a healthy skin microbiome which will in-turn assist with less irritation from mask-wearing.

Some of the benefits of a healthy and balanced skin microbiome are:

  • Enhancing the skin’s ability to become and stay properly hydrated
  • Visibly improving signs of pigmentation, aging, dryness and reducing a dry, taught sensation
  • Strengthening the skin’s surface against environmental threats and enhancing the skin’s natural defence
  • Diminishing factors that trigger reactive skin
  • Restoring a healthy pH balance to the skin’s surface

Looking after the microbiome of our skin is an extremely important consideration when it comes to caring for the health of our skin. As a result of preventative measures for Covid-19, our mask-wearing has benefits but it also comes with side effects for our normally healthy skin. Come into, or call the Clinic and ask us how we may be able to assist you with your skin concerns, we are happy to help.

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