Face masks are a good defense against the spread of COVID-19. They’re easy to find, come in fashion forward fabrics and help keep people safe when they need to meet with others. But face masks can also cause some pesky side effects, sometimes called “mask mouth.”
Here are 5 side effects of mask mouth and how to fix them:
1. Maskne (mask acne)
Friction, sweat, oil, dirt and the stress of COVID-19 make the perfect recipe for an acne (or maskne) flare-up on the lower half of your face, including your mouth and chin.
According to a recent Healthline article, mask-wearing tends to worsen skin problems on the face, including acne, rosacea and heat rash.
How to fix it: First, wash your face with a gentle cleanser at night to remove dead skin cells and debris that cause skin irritation. Second, if you have sensitive skin prone to irritation, moisturize your face with anti-acne ingredients before leaving the house with your mask. And if you use reusable face masks, wash them after every use to remove built-up oil and sweat.
2. Mouth sores
Bacteria love to grow in a hot and humid climate like the one under your mask. This overgrowth of bacteria can cause angular cheilitis, an inflammatory condition causing the corners of the mouth to crack or bleed.
How to fix it: Avoid mouth breathing while wearing a mask because your breath is warm and moist. Try to breathe in and out through your nose. Also, take breaks from wearing your mask when you are not around others and can safely avoid meeting somebody.
3. Dry lips
Trapped moisture in the mask can irritate your lips, making your lick or pick at your lips more than normal. This daily irritation can lead to dry, cracked and bleeding lips—ouch!
How to fix it: Keep a lip balm with you and reapply during the day to prevent flaky, chapped lips. You can also exfoliate your lips by gently rubbing them with a soft-bristle toothbrush every night before bed.
4. Bad breath
With a covering over your mouth, your breath probably smells super stinky after lunch. While the mask could be playing tricks with your nose, it could also contribute to bad breath. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, 80 million people suffer from chronic bad breath, and that’s before masking became normal.
How to fix it: To fight bad breath drink water during the day. Drinking water helps wash away extra food and bacteria that saliva missed. You can also chew on mints, sugar-free gum, gargle mouthwash, and use mint-flavored toothpaste. (Check out our battle of the breath fresheners test to see which worked best.)
Tongue scrapers can also prevent bad breath by removing some of the odor causing bacteria on the tongue. Take 10 seconds to scrape your tongue after you’ve brushed and flossed. Pro tip: do it while you still have some toothpaste on your tongue for added freshness.
Until recently, only health care workers wore face masks all day. Breathing normally while wearing a mask takes getting used to, especially if you live in a hot place like Arizona.
How to fix it: If you have trouble breathing while wearing a mask, change it out for one made from more breathable material. You can also wear your mask around the house before you leave, to make sure you feel comfortable having your mouth covered. However, if you suffer from moderate to severe asthma or other chronic lung diseases, the U.S. Centers for Disease (CDC) advises limiting your contact with others because you are at an increased risk for COVID-19 complications.
No matter which mask mouth symptom you suffer from, brushing and flossing your teeth and visiting the dentist helps you stay on top of your oral health and keep COVID-19 complications at bay.
Whether you’re an all one-color kind of mask-wearer or like something with glitter, you’re doing your part to keep others safe, and that’s important.