All of that direct friction between a mask and your skin can cause inflammation, dryness, and acne breakouts, according to Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
However, mask friction isn’t the only culprit of skin irritation. The material of the mask also has an impact on skin, especially for people with a history of eczema or skin allergies. Dr. Zeichner suggests avoiding synthetic materials like polyester and plastic fibers (commonly found in N95 masks), which contain chemical additives and tend to be more irritating than natural fibers.
As a dermatologist, one of the most common conditions I treat are allergic and irritation reactions in the skin. This is commonly caused by dyes, fragrances, and elastics,” says Dr. Zeichner.
If you have sensitive skin, Sanjeev Jain, MD, PhD, allergist and immunologist at Columbia Allergy, also suggests steering clear of irritants.
When shopping for hypoallergenic face masks, Dr. Zeichner and Dr. Jain recommend sticking to masks made of natural fibers like cotton, which are softer on the skin and cause fewer allergic reactions. Be sure to choose one that has two or three layers of fabric for adequate protection.
To make mask-shopping easier, we put together this list of cotton masks suitable for everyone, especially those with sensitive skin.
Hypoallergenic COVID-19 face masks for people with sensitive skin
1. Everlane 100% Human Face Mask, $25 for a pack of five
Everlane’s double-layered cotton masks feature ear loops that have a touch of stretch so you avoid any ear pulling or discomfort. Choose from a variety of neutral shades, an all-black pack, tie dye, or a striped set. Plus, the company donates 10 percent of proceeds to the ACLU.
Shop now: Everlane 100% Human Face Mask, $25 for a pack of five
If you have a petite face, try this double-layered mask made specifically for smaller faces. Each has a pocket for a filter, and you can add an optional nose wire. The handmade masks are available in 12 colors, but we’re partial to the goes-with-anything black.
Shop now: SOKO Fashion’s 100% Cotton Petite Face Mask, $7
Stay grounded with these sustainable face masks in a variety of earth tones. The all-cotton masks feature three layers and are colored with natural dyes.
Shop now: Eloiseetmoi Reusable Cotton Face Mask, $15
If masks often leave you hot and sweaty, try this moisture-wicking mask made of bamboo. It’s breathable, non-irritating, and has adjustable ear loops for a just-right fit.
5. MLE Cotton Face Mask, $42
Make a statement with your mask in one of these striking creations made from deadstock and fabric scraps. There are 13 color combos to choose from, and you can add a metal nose piece.
Shop now: MLE Cotton Face Mask, $42
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