Getting used to using a CPAP mask can be difficult for anyone. It’s even more difficult for people whose mask irritates their skin. If this is you, you’re not alone. It may be tempting to want to give up the CPAP altogether, but the significant health benefits of properly using the machine are worth getting to the bottom of the issue.
Here are a few common causes of mask rash and what you can do about them.
Your CPAP mask is too tight or too loose
One of the most common causes of mask rash is also one of the simplest to address. If your mask is too loose, it will rub your face as you move throughout the night. Eight hours of rubbing, no matter how slight, will inevitably irritate your skin. If your mask is too tight, it will press on your skin and trap the sweat and oil it produces, which will also cause irritation.
How to fix it:
Start by just experimenting with your mask. If it feels snug, loosen it up a little for a week and see if that helps. If it slides around on your face and doesn’t stay in place, try going a bit tighter. You may solve your mask problem with just a little trial and error.
Excess oil on your face
If you have too much oil on your skin, it may not matter how tight or loose your mask is. Excess oil can get trapped in between the mask and your skin overnight and cause mild to severe irritation.
How to fix it:
Be sure to wash your face every night before you go to bed. There is no shortage of face washes available, but a simple cleansing wash and water should be enough to ensure your face is clean when you put your mask on.
The mask material is causing mask rash
Some people’s skin simply does not react well to their CPAP mask material. Most CPAP masks are made of silicone, while there are some made with other materials. This is also most likely to cause the worst of the mask rash side effects, as you are dealing with an actual allergy.
How to fix it:
You could get a whole new mask, but that won’t guarantee that it isn’t also made from the same material. Instead, start by getting a pack of mask liners. These reusable cloth liners sit in between your CPAP mask and your face. In addition to protecting your skin from a potential irritant, they may also improve your overall comfort. These are usually made from a cotton/polyester blend, but there are several different kinds available.
You’ve got the wrong kind of mask
CPAP masks are not universal. There are many different manufacturers out there and each one makes at least a few different models. The most traditional form of CPAP mask, that you most likely have, is a full mask that goes over the nose and mouth. However, that is far from the only option. You can also purchase a CPAP mask that only fits under your nose. This is a perfect option if you are experiencing irritation around your mouth. The other option is to get a mask that goes all the way around the face, which tends to more evenly distribute the pressure of the mask.
Still having mask irritation issues? Talk to your doctor.
If you’ve tried everything and are still suffering from mask rash, it may be time to consult your doctor. They will be able to tell you definitely of any allergies you may have or may be able to recommend some alternative equipment to help fix the problem.
If you are having other issues with your CPAP equipment, you can learn more about how best to use and maintain your CPAP on our blog.