As a dermatologist doing laser procedures every day, as well as a skin cancer surgeon, Denver, CO dermatologist Joel Cohen, MD is certainly used to wearing a mask for in-office safety measures.
Likewise, as an avid outdoorsman who enjoys spending time skiing, fishing and kayaking, Dr. Cohen says he’s rarely without a balaclava or a buff that he pairs with a zinc sunscreen for skin protection.
One positive side effect he’s found during the COVID-19 era: Wearing a mask—that exact same cloth face covering the CDC recommends for slowing the spread of the virus—provides a level of sun-safety.
“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.”
Coral Gables, FL dermatologist Dr. Janice Lima-Maribona agrees that anything that gives your skin coverage does add an extra layer of sun protection. “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.
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Plus, as Dr. Lima Maribona points out, the absorption of the SPF chemicals, even in physical ingredient like zinc or titanium, may also come into play now that there’s a mask in the mix—so you still want to be sure to follow the regular rules when it comes to application. (The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying to dry skin 15 minutes prior to going outside and lists the magic time slot for reapplication as every two hours when outdoors, or after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.)
Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD offers this tip: “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.”
And, as Studio City, CA dermatologist Gene Rubinstein, MD sums it up: “Sure, it has protection. But it’s still very important to wear sunscreen because the tan lines aren’t going to be pretty.”