Cover Gaia Gozzi attends the Etro fashion show during Milan Digital Fashion Week on July 15, 2020 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Alessandro Bremec/NurPhoto)

Recommended by a dermatologist who specialises in acne and skin irritation, this type of Covid-19 and coronavirus-era face mask can help protect the wearer from bacteria... and breakouts

It's nearly October—and if you've been keeping track in the year of Covid-19, that means many of us have been wearing face coverings and face masks for the better part of ten months, and likely suffering the consequences (hello, maskne). With mask-wearing, and taking other preventative measures, not going anywhere soon, mask manufacturers have been busy coming up with ways to make face coverings and coronavirus face masks fun (or, at least interesting) and useful—see LG's air-purifying face mask and Uniqlo's sold-out Airism mask.

But what about beautifying? According to Dr Yoram Harth, a board certified dermatologist in the United States and chief medical officer at MDAcne, conventional blue surgical face masks aren't very good for preventing acne—in fact, it may encourage skin irritation and breakouts. 

"The common single-use surgical masks and N95 masks are actually made from polypropylene, a type of plastic that is very similar to polyethylene in our trash bags," Harth tells Tatler. "This dense synthetic material traps hot air and humidity under the mask, creating the perfect breeding environment for bacteria and fungi—cause for more acne breakouts."

Not only are conventional disposable face masks potentially irritating to your skin and a breeding ground for yuckies, tossing millions of face masks every day can have a deleterious effect on our environment in the long run.

"Polypropylene, the main ingredient of single-use masks, is a fossil oil derived plastic that can take hundreds of years to break down," Harth says. "Thrown into the ocean, they shed microplastic particles which are consumed by fish—and then us when we eat seafood. Since it costs more to collect, separate and recycle single-use masks than the value of the resulting recycled material, there's no business incentive to recycle those masks."

Related: Maskne is real—Face mask breakouts and how to prevent them 

Harth's solution? Consider reusable cotton face masks infused with special nanoparticles that help fight bacteria growth.

"One possible solution for the skin and environment concerns caused by single-use masks is a new type of mask made of natural cotton impregnated with copper and silver nanoparticles," Harth suggests. "These reusable masks are breathable, recyclable and, most importantly, infused with metal ions that reduce bacteria and fungi under the mask."

You know those athletic apparel companies that infuse silver into their clothing to prevent sweat from stinking? This is the same idea—copper and silver in masks nix bacteria proliferation and help tamp down on face mask-related acne and breakouts. Sounds good to us.

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