With the outbreak of COVID-19 impacting the majority of the globe and changing the way we live our everyday lives, wearing a mask, or some sort of face covering, has become the norm in order to avoid the virus.
And while the main goal of wearing a mask is to slow down or halt the spread of the virus, it may also provide another positive effect according to some dermatologists.
Joel Cohen, MD, a native of Denver, CO, for example, is accustomed to wearing a mask during his daily routine as a skin care surgeon and dermatologist.
He also, however, enjoys the outdoors and activities such as skiing, fishing, and kayaking that, at times, require him to wear some sort of face-covering in addition to sunscreen to prevent damage from the sun.
Because of his experiences outdoors, he’s come to realize that the exact same mask recommended by the CDC to avoid COVID-19 can actually be used as a protectant against the sun.
“Some people complain that masks are hard to wear,” he says. “Honestly, now that I have a mask on me at all times for COVID, I take it out and put it on when I’m in the sun as well. It works well when I’m walking to and from my car or whenever I’m outside for brief periods of time.”
And while this is certainly true, there are also other factors to consider according to Dr. Janice Lima-Maribona, a Coral Gables, FL dermatologist, who believes wearing a mask could potentially have a negative impact on the absorption of SPF chemicals in a sunscreen product.
“However, I would take into consideration anything occlusive you may be wearing under the mask, which can contribute to ‘mask acne’ or ‘maskne,’” she says.
Kally Papantoniou, MD of Melville, NY shares a similar feeling, pointing out the importance of reapplying sunscreen if it is removed by the mask or if it wears off.
“They will not be on all the time, so you should still make sure to have a nice layer of sunscreen covering the full face,” she says. “The mask can wipe off sunscreen, just like it wipes off makeup, so remember to reapply when it is removed. This is especially important when you are going to be out for prolonged period such as the beach, outdoor exercising, etc.”
Ultimately, Gene Rubenstein, MD, acknowledges that a mask can offer protection, but he isn’t willing to downplay the importance of sunscreen.
“Sure, it has protection. But it’s still very important to wear sunscreen because the tan lines aren’t going to be pretty.”