This Dermatologist-Approved Trick To Washing Your Face Mask Is Hiding In Your Bathroom Cabinet

updated Nov 5, 2020
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Credit: Liz Calka

Keys, phone, wallet. By now the popular checklist of belongings to grab with you before you leave home has one more addition: A face mask or other face covering to slow the spread of the coronavirus. There are plenty of stylish mask options to stock up on, and if you’ve invested in a few reusable cloth versions—or even DIY-ed your own—you’ve probably tried all sorts of ways to clean your face mask.

If you’ve opted for an all-cotton mask, you can easily throw it into the washer with other masks (just be sure to remove any filters) on a hot setting. Masks made from silk or other fabrics would benefit from hand-washing. As for detergent? Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic in New York City, recommends you try using a dab of face wash as you hand-scrub your face masks.

“Face cleanser is absolutely a good alternative to washing your face mask if you experience irritation from your normal detergent,” Engelman told Apartment Therapy. She also stressed that you should avoid using fragrant detergent at all costs, and that goes double for your face wash: “Make sure your cleanser is a simple, gentle cleanser — not oil-based or or one that contains benzoyl peroxide,” which can bleach the fabric of your mask, she said.

It’s crucial to wash your face mask after every time you use it; the World Health Organization advises doing so at least once a day, and either opting for hot water and some sort of soapy agent. The Center for Disease Control’s guidelines are pretty straightforward, too, but if you’ve been dealing with acne around your nose and mouth for months now, taking extra care with how you wash your mask might help.

“It is very important to cleanse your mask of bacteria, which could lead to breakouts if you are exposing your skin over and over to dirty fabric,” Dr. Engelman said. “Re-wearing old masks gives bacteria the opportunity to spread and flourish on the body. As a result, you risk inflammation and clogged pores,” both of which contribute to acne.

Ounce for ounce, your fancy face wash might be more expensive than your detergent. If that’s the case, you can always stick to a gentle, fragrance-free detergent like Tru Earth Fragrance Free or Seventh Generation Free & Clear, both of which Dr. Engelman recommended. But if you’re looking for a new face wash anyway, she prefers “gentle, gel-like cleansers” like Avene Oil-Free Gel Cleanser or Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which is a drugstore favorite.

As for mask-induced blemishes, treat those the way you would any other kind of acne (which is the most common skin condition there is, and nothing to be ashamed about). Wash your face regularly, try to avoid makeup if you can, and refrain from picking at the bumps.