A recent Zoom call with top Manhattan dermatologist Dr Dendy Engelman won me a family argument. The posh, black silk face covering I’d switched to wearing, much to the amusement of my loved ones who dismissed my claims of greater comfort as “just Mum being fancy”, is, she says, the best thing for our skin. Engelman (consultant dermatologist for Elizabeth Arden) coined the term “maskne” after seeing a surge in private patients – particularly those who wore PPE at work – with breakouts, friction sores, congested pores and irritation during the Covid-19 crisis.
Her first recommendation (before nightly use of a beta hydroxy acid: I swear by Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (from £10 for 30m), swept over after cleansing) is to switch to a silk face covering wherever possible. It causes the least friction of any fabric, which helps to prevent those minor skin wounds on the cheeks and nose that heal over, clogging pores and causing spots in the process (Engelman calls this “acne mechanica”).
Silk is also cool and breathable, which is of significant help around the chin area. My aforementioned dermatologist-approved mask is by Slip (£39), makers of my favourite hair ties. It’s pricey but beautifully made, multilayered (two or more layers of silk are required to be safe) and, helpfully, has a removable bendy wire across the nose bridge that all but eradicates skin indentations and stops it creeping up to my eyes. I love it, or as much as you can love a mask in a pandemic.
But you needn’t spend so much. Comfortable, skin-friendly face masks should be available to all. The British independent brand Golden Hour makes masks domestically, available in heaps of colours and at £9 (less if you buy several). Also extremely comfortable are Gingerlily’s mulberry silk face coverings (£25) in beautiful, muted tones of charcoal, blush pink and sand. These have secure elastic loops that can be whacked on quickly as you enter a shop – essential if, like me, you can’t be bothered with the faff of tying the straps you see on many fancier masks.
There are countless patterned silk versions on the market, too – florals, dots, Liberty prints, cartoons, stripes. But I take against them, perhaps unfairly, as they are hard to match with outfits, and remind me of those wacky masks paediatricians wear to cheerily distract a child who’s about to lose an appendix.
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