Is your PPE putting your skin at risk? Here’s how to help prevent pressure injuries and keep skin safe.

Maybe you’ve seen the images of medical professionals with injuries caused by wearing face masks for extended periods 1-or maybe you’ve simply looked in the mirror.

While caring for patients suffering from COVID-19, you’re likely working longer hours and using personal protective equipment (PPE) that’s not always kind to your skin. Remember that, even during challenging times, your own health and safety are important too.

Headshot of Dr. Cassandra Quave.

“Mask materials mechanically indent and damage facial skin, an effect that is further compromised by perspiration.”
– Quoted from the editorial “Skin Tears, Medical Face Masks, and Coronavirus” (Wound Management & Prevention, April 2020 issue) by Amit Gefen, PhD, professor, Tel Aviv University, Medline consultant

In a timely guest editorial published as an update to follow the 2020 International Consensus Document on Device-related Pressure Injuries, for which Professor Amit Gefen was chair of the Global Panel of Experts, he explains, “Mask materials mechanically indent and damage facial skin, an effect that is further compromised by perspiration.” 2 This skin damage can put you at greater risk for medical device-related pressure injuries (MDRPI) as well as infection, as Dr. Gefen goes on to say, “Loss of facial skin integrity creates a portal for penetration of pathogens, including the coronavirus itself, as well as other hospital-acquired bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.” 2

Prep your skin for PPE

There’s a range of products available to you that can help keep your skin safe. For example, a properly trimmed, low-profile, thin foam dressing behind your ears is a simple way to help protect the skin against abrasion and reduce your risk of MDRPIs. Just be sure to apply it the right way and wear it consistently to get the best results and make sure that the product does not affect the efficacy of the PPE.

Follow the step-by-step process in this downloadable poster to properly prepare your skin to help protect it from your PPE.

Key takeaway

Skin breakdown under a face mask can compromise the skin’s natural barrier against bacteria that may enter the skin. Before taking care of your patients, take time to take care of yourself – and lower your risk for further skin damage that can lead to MDRPIs.

Prep your skin for PPE

More resources to help keep you and your team safe

Share this poster on proper hand-washing and moisturizing practices that help maintain your skin’s natural barrier.

Check out this helpful product guide for tools you can use to help reduce medical device-related pressure injuries.

Amit Gefen, PhD, is a professor of biomedical engineering at Tel Aviv University, former president of the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, and a Medline consultant.

Please note: If using a prophylactic dressing or other skin protectant product under PPE, double-check to make sure that there is no interference with the efficacy of your PPE. Check out this guide to properly put on and take off a disposable respirator.