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A non-binary black person with short cropped hair wearing a mask. Around their ears and nose are flames from irritation.

Wearing A Mask With Face And Ear Psoriasis

We are now nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and one thing is certain: Masks continue to be our most powerful tool to stop the spread of coronavirus, along with washing our hands and social distancing.1,2

Even after people get vaccinated, masks will still be part of our daily routine when we are near people who are not members of our household.

How masks can affect these sensitive areas

While many people have gotten used to wearing masks, people with plaque psoriasis – especially those with ear and face psoriasis – have a unique challenge. That is because masks can rub against sensitive areas and cause irritation or flare-ups of psoriasis symptoms.1,2

Members of our community have shared stories about finding masks that fit well, as well as helpful tips to reduce irritation. In this article, we explain how masks can affect sensitive areas, and what you can do about it.

How can masks trigger psoriasis symptoms?

Wearing a mask can irritate these sensitive areas:2

  • The skin between the nose and the upper lip
  • The skin around and behind the ear
  • On or inside the mouth and nose

These are all considered delicate or sensitive areas. That is because the skin in these places is thinner. It also tends to fold or rub against itself.2

It is easy to see how masks can trigger psoriasis symptoms in these areas. They can rub against an area, or trap moisture or dirt. And if the mask material is rough or harsh, it can make these symptoms even worse.2

If you ever have psoriasis symptoms inside your mouth, ears, or nose, call your doctor. The skin cells that build up can make it hard to eat or hear. A doctor will need to take care of it to prevent further damage.3

Find a mask that works for you

There are now many different types of masks available. The most common design loops behind the ears. However, this design may not work for people with psoriasis.

A case study from December 2020 showed that using a mask with ear loops caused a flare-up of plaque psoriasis that had been in remission. This person was given topical corticosteroids and was told to stop using face masks that loop behind the ears.3

The doctor who treated this person thinks that the flare-up happened because the mask did not fit properly. Masks that do not fit well can rub and itch. Scratching these itches can irritate the skin even more. The doctor recommended using masks that tie around the head or using an extender or band that wraps around the back of the head and pulls the ear loops away from the ears.3

When you find the type of mask that works for you, be sure to buy a few and keep them clean and dry. When you go out, carry a back-up mask if the mask you are wearing gets wet or dirty.1

If you have a flare-up, call your doctor

If you do get a psoriasis flare-up on your face or ears, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Flare-ups in sensitive areas may need special treatment.2

Your doctor might recommend using an over-the-counter medicine, such as an emollient or moisturizer to help keep the skin comfortable. Vitamin D creams or ointments can also be used. A low-strength topical steroid may also work, but listen closely to your doctor’s instructions. If you suddenly stop using a topical steroid, your psoriasis might flare up again.2

When using medicine, less is more

Be very careful when applying medicines to these delicate areas. They can be more sensitive to treatment because the skin is thinner. This means it absorbs more of the medicine, which could mean more side effects. Side effects of psoriasis drugs can make this skin even more thin or delicate and cause more irritation.2

Also, do not wear makeup on the area until it has healed. Make-up can keep your treatments from working as well as they could.2

Take mask breaks, but do it safely

The National Psoriasis Foundation understands that you may need to take off your mask a few times a day to give your skin a break. If you do that, be sure to protect yourself and others by doing it when you are alone or only with your household “bubble.” If you are outside, be sure to stay at least 6 feet from other people.1

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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