Mavens Under the Mask

On occassion, I dream about seeing patients in the office while wearing a well tailored white coat and a great pair of kitten heels, my hair bouncing off of my shoulders with each step and makeup that is subtle yet flawless. Yes, the vision of my always so-put-together childhood dentist, Dr. Lafayette, is still embossed in my mental dictionary as the ultimate image of a Maven in Medicine. Her bedside manner, skill as a Dentist and overall presence was all so entrancing, and all of this while still looking fabulous.

Then my alarm goes off! Its usually about 5:45am when that magnificent dream is cut short by the reality of my day. I work in an operating room, so my career path has led me to trade in my white coat for unisex scrubs, my flowing tresses get wrapped up under a scrub cap and any attempt at makeup gets covered by surgical masks, so I rarely even bother. Luckily, I absolutely love what I do and the opportunities for style and individuality in my colorful scrub hats and clogs are more than enough for me. That being said, good skincare goes a long way, even under the mask.

under the maskSurgical masks are a standard in the operating room setting. Most cover the nose, mouth and chin to protect you and your patients against large airborne particles or splashes from bodily fluids. Modern surgical masks are made from paper and other non-woven material. Some people notice increased dryness or irritation of their skin under the mask. Contact dermatitis or acne can also occur for those with sensitive skin due to allergic reactions to the masks contents or the constant rubbing and friction of the mask on the skin. Most companies even offer a hypoallergenic mask alternative to minimize skin irritation.

Unlike our colleagues in offices or on the floors, Mavens in the operating room have an added skincare concern when wearing surgical masks. Not only do we have to adjust our regimen for the skin concerns posed by wearing a mask daily, but for those ladies that enjoy a dusting of makeup, we also have to figure out how to look just as good at the end of the day as we did at the start. Here are a few skincare and makeup tips from our fellow Mavens under the Mask.


One of the major issues that surgical masks pose is dryness of the skin under the mask. I generally have dry, combination skin with an oily forehead and dry cheeks and lips. The combo of the cold operating rooms and oils from my hair/scrub hats only exacerbates this issue. To combat this, I make a slight change in my skin care regimen which usually consists of serum, moisturizer and sunblock, opting to leave the moisturizer off of my forehead and apply serum and a moisturizing sunblock only on my forehead. Newer skincare routines even advocate for area specific skincare regimens, as notes in one of their most recent articles on “Multi-Masking”. This practice has helped tremendously.

Another suggestion is to try a refreshing mist for hydration under the mask like the Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist or the Fresh Rose Marigold Floral Water. These products help hydrate, balance and soothe the skin under the mask and can be quickly and easily applied for a dewy look and feel.

Duckbill and cup-shaped masks may also be useful as they have less direct contact with the skin. Change your mask daily and throughout the day to ensure you don’t have any unwanted residue inside. Also, if you wear personalized scrub caps, be sure to change and wash them regularly to avoid oil buildup on the forehead. And of course, basic skin care rules of cleansing and moisturizing still apply. Be sure to continue to drink lots of water to keep those skin cells well hydrated.


The investigative journalist in me (in my dreams) truly enjoyed this part of this blog post’s research. Time constraints and shear laziness at 6am generally limit my morning makeup routine to mascara and lip gloss so the challenge to find the perfect under mask make-up was quite fun and certainly did not go unnoticed by my work colleagues.

The overall consensus from most Mavens is that all make up will come off onto the mask in some way, but there are a few that seem to outlast the others as well as some tricks of the trade to help keep your look looking fresh.

I surveyed many women in the operating room and the top recommended products where Revlon Colorstay, Estee Lauder Double Wear, Urban Decay Naked, and Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24hr Longwear. After a week of personal trials, I found that the Lancôme Ultra 24hr stood up to the mask the best. Indeed, some make up will inevitably wipe off inside of the mask but this foundation left me looking the closest to how I started the day. This is a blendable, smooth and velvety matte foundation which features specially coated pigments that maintain a consistent pH level with skin so color stays true all day. It is dermatologist-tested, oil-free, fragrance-free, transfer free and is noncomedogenic and suitable for sensitive skin. While it’s transfer-free claims are not completely accurate, it seems to come pretty darn close and certainly offers the widest color selection of all the brands I tested.

If a full face of foundation is not your cup of tea, the Nars Tinted Moisturizer is a great choice. This line also has a better color selection than the usual light, medium and dark that other BB creams offer. It comes in a Pure Radiant or Velvety Matte finish for dry or oily skin, respectively. I found that because it is a moisturizer, it seems to blend and set into my skin better than a foundation so it looked pretty good by days end. BB creams do not give as much coverage as a foundation but I think they are certainly good enough for a daily work look under the mask.

Now for the tricks! Whether you choose foundation, tinted moisturizers or powder, a base primer is the key to making your makeup of choice go the distance. In general, primers neutralize the skin, minimize shine and create a smooth, uniform canvas to help keep makeup looking fresh and prevent fading. You can choose primers that suit your needs including hydration, mattifying, pore minimizing, redness correction, etc. Makeup Forever offers a wide array of primer choices. Lastly, a setting spray, like Mac’s Fix+, is absolutely essential for a long lasting finish, especially if wearing foundation. This lightweight water mist soothes and refreshes skin and finishes makeup. This also doubles as a primer and if you’re going beatless for the day, can be used simply as a hydrating mist. Mac Fix+ is probably the best all around purchase of the products tried.

So, after a fun week of trial and error, great girl talk in the OR and a few minor makeup blunders, my go-to routine still remains to be a hydrating moisturizer, well groomed eyebrows and mascara to accentuate my eyes. If I’m feeling zealous in the morning, I add some under eye concealer with powder to the mix for a more finished look. The Nars tinted moisturizer did make me feel the most polished with the least amount of effort so I may consider setting the alarm clock back by a few minutes to add this products to the regimen.

Ultimately, whether under the mask, rounding on the floors, rocking a flawless foundation finish or going bare-faced, the old adage still holds true… good skincare is the foundation of any daily routine.

How do you adjust your daily skincare routine when wearing surgical masks? Leave us a comment!