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Top Tips for Reducing the Irritation Cause by PPE

By Karen Goodman, Head of Beauty

As if battling heroically at the frontline of COVID 19 wasn't enough, key workers are doing so in discomfort due to the essential, but irritating, nature of increased handwashing, harsh antibacterial chemicals and long period of wearing PPE.

See below for the best ways to reduce this irritation and other good practices.

1. Calm irritations from chemicals through regular cleansing

Experiencing irritated skin from all of the aggressors in disinfectant products at work? When at home, use a soothing cleanser on face and hands.
Choose a cleanser that doesn’t foam as it will cleanse without causing any further dryness. Products with oatmeal and green tea intensively nurture the skin, strengthening the barrier function and offering calming benefits to the epidermal layers.

2. Keep your face and hands supple with soothing moisturisers

Moisturise your face with an ultra-soothing moisture cream. Borage seed oil and comfrey are particularly good for soothing the skin whilst reducing redness and inflammation. Many face moisturisers are also excellent for hands which have become cracked and damaged through excessive hand washing and alcohol gel.

Face moisturisers can often be less greasy and can penetrate the skin quicker, having longer lasting results.

3. Prevent cracked lips with moisturising lip balm

Lips are becoming dehydrated and dry behind masks – cracked lips are painful! To keep it at bay, you need to seal and protect the lips. A moisturising lip balm is just the tool. Shea butter and beeswax are particularly effective for keeping the lips soft and crack free.

4. Say "NO" to blackheads and spots caused by face masks and coverings

The restriction of face masks can lead to increased perspiration and the build-up of bacteria, comedones (blackheads) and pustules (whiteheads) around the mouth and nose. A simple cleansing routine with a light moisturiser can help prevent this! Exfoliators are great for removing dead skin cells but please use with caution if your skin is sore or cracked as these products will only make the condition worse.

5. Replenish nails overnight to maintain strength

It’s often overlooked that nails also become weak and dehydrated through the need to continually sanitize the hands. Before going to bed apply a small amount of oil (almond or olive for example) to each nail, this will soak in whilst you are asleep, replacing natural oils that have been lost whilst at work.

6. Tie your hair back comfortably and safely

Keep long hair tied back with a suitable bobble or clip, so that it is not interfering with PPE. Elastic can be very damaging on the hair, causing breakage and split ends. Make sure you are following good practice in fitting your mask. If you are able to safely adjust your mask, ensure it is not overly tight to prevent the elastic cutting into the hair.

Bonus tip

Top-up your roots with eyeshadow! If you are trying to disguise grey roots try using some eyeshadow or powder of similar hair colour along your hair line, this not only masks the grey but will also absorb excess moisture, prolonging the hair between washes.

You can download the full PDF here.

Remember, skin irritation can affect everyone, regardless of gender! These tips are designed to help the comfort everyone who is wearing PPE. After a long day of helping others, perhaps a little moment of peace for self-care may help to replenish the soul, as well as the skin?

Related links

You can find out more about the York College Hair and Beauty courses.

This blog was originally posted on