DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Cloth masks should be machine washed to prevent skin irritation

Posted at 1:57 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 14:57:59-04

BELLEVUE, Neb. (KMTV) — The CDC is now recommending homemade masks be worn while going to public places. While the masks can protect against the coronavirus, its important to remember that like every other article of clothing, these masks should be washed or replaced.

Dermatologist Justin Madson of Midwest Dermatology says wearing cloth masks can lead to skin irritation or breakouts because it holds oil from the face and does not allow the skin to breathe.

"For everyone who's making face masks for themselves, you have to wash that stuff," Madson said. "I mean, you wouldn't put the same pair of underwear on every single day; you get all this stuff trapped in there. You want to keep switching it over. Your face has a lot of oil glands, and you need to be sure that you get the oil removed off of all that."

Madson says its best to wash the masks in a machine instead of by hand. Those with drier skin should consider a gentler, non-scented detergent while those with oilier skin can use something a little stronger.

For those wearing N95 or paper masks, there are ways that hospitals have found to sterilize them. But if you’re trying to clean them at home, you’re probably better off using a material that can be thrown in the wash anyway.

"If you do keep wearing it, you are cutting down on the efficacy of the mask in the first place, because it's not meant to be worn all of the time every day," Madson said.

Madson said he is still treating patients for skin issues through telehealth services, or in-office for more serious cases like skin cancer. He wants patients to be aware that some medications can compromise the immune system and put them at risk during this time.

"I've had a lot of discussions with a lot of patients about, 'You can stop this medication if you want, yes, your psoriasis will come back, but your psoriasis won't kill you,'" he said.

A breakout won’t kill you, so you should definitely still be using masks when going out in public. Just remember to wash your face when you get home, keep a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep.