The Importance of Protecting the Skin Under Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The current increased use of PPE facemasks may contribute to skin irritation or damage. Hollister Adapt skin protective wipes may help protect the skin underneath a mask1.

Learn about protecting your skin underneath a PPE facemask.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by healthcare professionals possibly leading to skin damage and the need for protection2.

PPE and skin damage

PPE is used in healthcare settings to create a barrier between healthcare workers and an infectious agent from the patient as well as to reduce the risk of transmitting microorganisms from healthcare workers to patients. There are several different types of surgical masks or face shields worn by healthcare professionals to reduce the risk of transmission and some masks fight tightly over the face. (e.g. N95)3.

The increased use of a facemask may be associated with skin irritation and breakdown resulting from moisture damage, friction and pressure1.

Why should we worry about this?

Skin irritation from a mask is very uncomfortable and unpleasant, and no one should have to suffer more than necessary.

Today, the public is focused on “not touching your face” as a way to prevent the spread of infection – minimizing the virus from coming into contact with the mucosa - eyes, nose, mouth.

“The presence of even a mild abrasion on the face caused by a PPE may increase the likelihood of face touching in an unconscious effort to relieve the source of irritation4”.

This is why good handwashing is so important. Nonetheless, you can also help protect the skin and make prevention a priority.

How can I protect my skin underneath the mask?

Several organizations have issued guidelines and position statements to help healthcare workers maintain skin integrity and prevent facial injury under PPE. These guidelines can be found at the following websites:

  • Guidance for Skin Health — Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse Society (WOCN)
  • Prevention and Management of Skin Damage Related to Personal Protective Equipment — Nurses Specializing in Wound Ostomy Continence Canada (NSWOC)
  • Position Paper on Preventing Injury with N95 Masks — NPIAP 
  • Helping prevent facial skin damage beneath personal protective equipment — NHS England and NHS Improvement

    The guidelines and position statements issued by the WOCN Society, NSWOC and the NPIAP have identified that the application of a liquid skin sealant/protectant on skin surfaces that will be in contact with the mask may help prevent friction injuries without interfering with the fit of the mask. This is considered good practice.

    Hollister Adapt skin protective wipe

    The Hollister Adapt skin protective wipe is alcohol-free and provides a protective film (liquid sealant) on the skin. The wipe may be applied to intact skin that requires protection (i.e.: cheeks, nose, forehead, ears)5.

    Here are the steps to ensure proper application of a skin protective wipe6:

    • Wash and dry skin thoroughly
    • Open skin protective package and remove wipe
    • Apply directly to intact skin area to be protected
    • Avoid eyes and mucous membranes
    • Wait until the skin area is completely dry to touch
    • Apply PPE as per product instructions

    The fit of the mask is the priority. The guidelines state that the protective wipe should not interfere with the mask integrity since it adds no additional material to the area where the seal could be impacted1.

    The protective film can remain in place without harm to the skin. If removal is necessary, it may be removed with an adhesive remover. If the barrier stays on the skin, it is protective, and not harmful. It will continue to serve as a helpful barrier for skin protection1.



    5. Hollister skin protective wipe IFU
    6. Hollister skin protective wipe care tip sheet