Just because your CPAP mask is making you look like an eighth grader at a homecoming dance, it doesn’t mean you should quit treatment altogether. In fact, CPAP treatment has literally been clinically proven to increase attractiveness. However, blemishes, sores, redness, rashes, and other nominally unsightly, and sometimes painful, skin irritations are a common side effect of wearing a CPAP mask. Luckily, there are a number of ways to alleviate and sometimes eliminate these skin irritations, so that you can focus on getting a full night of sleep and not wake up with a face full of zits. Most of these skin irritations, however, happen with people who are new to CPAP treatment – sometimes it can take a little while to get used to wearing the mask and eventually these irritations will go away. Also, if you have particularly delicate or vulnerable skin, you could be more susceptible. And while most – if not all – leading makers of CPAP masks, like ResMed, Phillips Respironics, and Fisher & Paykel, make comfort a priority and use hypoallergenic, skin safe materials, regular maintenance is still critical. Here are some ways you can reduce CPAP mask irritation.
1. Be sure your mask is the right size.
A mask that is either too big or too small can cause skin irritations. For one, if your mask is too tight, it could be rubbing against your skin and causing redness, blisters or other skin irritations. If your mask is too loose, however, your mask could be leaking excess air, which combined with the mask rubbing against your skin could cause some pretty painful sores. So, make sure that when you are getting fitted for a mask you know for certain that it is not too tight or too loose. You might also want to try adjusting the straps on the CPAP mask, which could help out tremendously to customize the fit.
2. Don’t go to sleep with an oily face.
If you are a city dweller, chances are that you have a few layers of oil and bacteria built up on your face at the end of a long day. No matter where you live, though, over the course of a day, your face can become extremely oily and dirty. If you don’t wash your face before you go to sleep, your CPAP mask won’t have enough of a grip on your skin and will start sliding around. This will start to cause chaffing, which combined with the bacteria in your skin can start to cause infections. In order to avoid this, be sure to thoroughly wash your face before bed. Also, it is recommended not to wear lotion, which can cause chaffing as well.
3. Use full-face or nasal mask liners.
While allergic reactions to silicone are actually quite rare, some people can find any contact with the material aggravating. One of the best ways to alleviate this is to use a barrier of sorts between the mask and your skin. Using a barrier can also reduce the amount of air leaks in a mask, which can cause an excess amount of moisture – one of the number one culprits for irritation. Sometimes it can be really hard to find a perfect fitting mask, but people who use these barriers – for either a full-face mask or nasal mask – report that their mask fits better than ever. In fact, a company called RemZzzs makes full-face and nasal liners for masks that are made by companies, like ResMed, Phillips Respironics, and Fisher & Paykel.
4. Be sure to clean your mask regularly.
Cleaning is important because it will ensure that your mask is free from bacteria and any other germs that could potentially cause irritation or infection. Cleaning your CPAP mask is actually quite easy, but you want to be careful as to what cleaning solutions you use. Typically, a solution of warm water and soap will do the trick. However, ResMed recommends not using soap with added scents and you should never use alcohol, vinegar, bleach, or antibacterial agents, because they can dry out the mask. Like your skin, your mask is delicate too. Also, you want to leave your mask and head gear out of direct sunlight when drying. ResMed also notes that you should clean your mask daily and your headgear on a weekly basis. The AG CPAP Cleaning Wipes are a great solution. Whatever means you decide to use, remember that maintenance and cleaning is the best way to reduce skin irritations.
5. You might need a new mask.
If your mask fits perfectly and you just have no idea what is causing the skin irritations, there is a good chance that you need a new mask. Just like you need to get a new toothbrush every couple of months, getting a new CPAP mask is critical to reducing any skin irritations you might be having. One of the biggest signs that you need to get a new mask is if you start noticing any cracking, dryness or stiffness on the mask or on the mask cushions. Also, any discoloration might be another sign. Moreover, you might also be noticing excessive leaking, which is another sign that you need a new mask. All doctors and suppliers of CPAP materials recommend getting a new mask every three to six months, but if you start to see signs of wear and tear, it is important to get a new mask immediately. We recommend the ResMed Swift FX Mask System, a sleek, minimal interface that is lightweight and comfortable.