Look Good

Skincare saviours for frontline workers, and the brands giving back

We’re sharing the official NHS guidelines to help frontline workers protect their skin, the ways healthcare staff can access free toiletries and the best moisturisers that won't irritate sore skin.

Written by High Life North
Published 24.04.2020

Jenny Brownlees

Each day in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, courageous healthcare workers are putting themselves at the forefront of the battle against the virus – working on hospital wards, in care homes and helping those most vulnerable nationwide. PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) is necessary to be worn at all times, in order to shield from infection – but wearing these for often 12+ hour shifts is leaving many frontline workers with painful skin sores.

Fighting the ongoing pandemic in a truly heroic fashion, healthcare staff are not only facing incredibly stressful and trauma-inducing working conditions, overcrowded wards and supply shortages, but on top of this are experiencing painful pressure marks from medical masks that can cause bruising, chafing, acne and dry cracked skin. On top of this, frequent hand washing from strict sanitation measures is also causing painful irritation, making their already unimaginably tough jobs even more difficult.

The NHS has provided an official guide to preventing and dealing with skin damage from PPE which you can read in full.

They suggest:

“Taking regular breaks, (recommended every two hours) from wearing a mask to relieve the pressure and reduce moisture build-up.”

“Drinking plenty of liquid as well as applying simple moisturisers. When applying moisturisers, it is advised that they are used at least half an hour before the mask is applied to ensure they sink into the skin and do not damage the material of the mask.”


Title image credit: @katiedraws

Whilst that is the advice given on-ward, we wanted to share the products that will help hydrate skin, to be used in the all-too-short period of time frontline workers are at home.

Whilst no cream is going to entirely prevent marks on the skin when it’s under such intense pressure for long periods, (although the NHS recommends wearers removing PPE masks every two hours, this isn’t always possible in the current circumstances.) Using what little time workers have between shifts to ensure skin is soothed and hydrated will prevent skin becoming as dry or irritated as going without.

If you usually undergo a skin-care routine that treats existing conditions like acne, ceasing using ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and retinol is advised for a short period, as these could irritate the skin further.

When it comes to extremely dry or irritated skin, pharmacy derived brands commonly used to treat skin conditions like eczema are a blessing, as they don’t contain fragrance or chemicals that can further inflame the skin.

We’ll share our picks of the best available. If you’re an NHS worker however, The Beauty Banks charity has pledged to send free products wherever they are needed. They have stated: “If you would like beauty products for yourself and your co-workers please drop us an email at [email protected] from your NHS email account with location, contact number, number of staff, wishlist and we’ll reply as quick as we can.”

Alternatively, if you’re a friend or family member of a healthcare worker, consider the below suggestions a practical thank you that you could gift. We’ll also be sharing the many beauty brands offering free products to healthcare staff, and those shifting their production practises to support the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration

First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream is an intense moisturiser, praised for its ability to sooth even the most distressed skin. Formulated with Colloidal Oatmeal, Shea Butter, Ceramide 3 and the FAB Antioxidant Booster, it is clinically proven to increase hydration by 169% upon application. Not just for use on the face, this head-to-toe moisturiser provides long-term hydration. The whipped texture means this rich cream is instantly absorbed with no greasy after-feel. Safe for sensitive skin, First Aid’s Ultra Repair is so gentle it can even be used on babies. Apply after a long shift to soothe and nourish tired skin.

Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

This super-rich cream is formulated with a blend of botanical oils and natural wax to protect against moisture loss. Kiel’s Ultimate Strength Salve is the best hand cream we’ve found to repair dryness in a gentle yet effective formula that’s non-greasy. If you’ve been using hand sanitiser more often, or are constantly washing, this hydrating cream will help replenish the skin.

Batch 001 Eco-Cert Prickly Pear Seed Oil 

Batch 001 was founded after the creators own struggles with skin allergies, and witnessing the trouble her eczema-prone children had using regular over the counter skincare products. In turn Batch 001 was born, creating a range of completely natural, all-organic products to soothe and repair inflamed and irritated skin. Batch 001’s Eco-Cert Prickly Pear Seed Oil is a wonderful multi-use investment – it works to calm inflammation and redness, protects the skin against ageing by neutralising free radicals, helps stimulate collagen production and brightens under-eye dark circles, all whilst deeply moisturising to restore the skin’s elasticity. Plus, you only need to use a tiny amount to reap the benefits. This Prickly Pear oil contains the highest amount of vitamin E of any other available and is extremely rich in omega 6 and 9, antioxidants, amino acids and Vitamin K. This will be a welcome treat for tired skin, without the harsh chemicals.

Vaseline Intensive Care Body Lotion Cocoa Radiant

To ensure your body gets a boost of moisture, Vaseline have added micro-droplets of their world-famous, nourishing jelly into their Cocoa Radiant Body Lotion. This lotion is clinically proven to deeply hydrate and heal from the first application, thanks to the rich cocoa butter formula. For thirsty skin, there’s no better affordable buy.

Dr. PAWPAW Original Balm

If you’re after a do-it-all balm, cult favourite Dr PAWPAW is just the ticket. The main ingredient is fermented PawPaw, the fruit of the Carica Papaya plant which boasts a plethora of natural healing properties. It’s ideal to use as a skin protector, moisturiser, lip balm, on sun burn or any skin irritations, and is so versatile you can even use it as a hair conditioner. This formula is fragrance free, made in Britain and the perfect size to pop in your handbag.

La Roche-Posay Nutritic Intense Rich 

The best break your skin gets is overnight, when it can replenish and heal. Picking a night cream that works to intensely moisturise as you sleep is a must. The reason La Roche-Posay’s is a superior pick for irritated, sore skin is that it’s 100% hypoallergenic, contains no parabens, is non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores) and uses minimal ingredients and fragrance in its formula. It has been proven to reduce sensations of tightness and help to reinforce the skin’s natural barrier function. As you catch forty winks, it’s working to repair and regenerate.

MALIN + GOETZ Lip Moisturiser

If you’d like to invest in a dedicated lip balm, this is the most nourishing buy around. Whilst some lip balms seem to simply sit on the lips or work only temporarily – this hydrating moisturiser offers long-lasting hydration thanks to absorbent fatty acids that act as a protective barrier against dryness.

Bio-Oil Dry Skin Gel 200ml 

Bio Oil has long been the go-to brand to help scarring, stretch marks and hyperpigmentation. In this specialist formulation, their Dry Skin Gel has been made to absorb easily and help the skin to retain moisture. Clinically proven to improve dry, flaky or itchy skin, 82% of users reported that they saw a difference in just two days. You only need a small amount of this restoring formula, less than if you were using a regular cream. Able to be used on both the face and body, simply massage in in circular motions until fully absorbed.

The Body Shop Hemp Overnight Nourishing Rescue Mask

When it comes to intense hydration, The Body Shop’s cult Hemp range really packs a punch. Parched skin will drink-up the replenishing moisture – with no greasiness in sight. Using ultra-rich community grade hemp oil, this mask will get to work whilst you sleep, leaving skin softer, relieved from tightness and with a moisturising veil to keep it hydrated for up to 72hrs.

Egyptian Magic All-Purpose Skin Cream

Egyptian Magic is a legendary, multi-purpose natural balm that can be used to calm dry skin from head to toe. A real all-rounder, this gentle yet intense moisturiser can be used as a face cream, eye cream, a scar treatment, a hair mask, a baby cream, a shaving balm and as pretty much anything else you can think of. You only need a small amount, as a little does a lot. To apply, rub the cream in your palms until it becomes an oil.

E45 Shower Cream for Dry Skin & Sensitive Skin

For a skin quenching treatment in shower, turn to E45’s Cream for dry and sensitive skin. It is completely non-drying – unlike many other soap and gel detergents, and actively cleanses and moisturises to leave skin soft and comfortable.

Eucerin Dry Skin Relief Face Cream 5% Urea 

For lasting hydration, apply Eucerin Dry Skin Relief Face Cream after cleansing. Proven in extensive clinical studies to be suitable and effective for very dry and eczema-prone skin, this cream is rapidly absorbed and supports the regulation of the skin’s moisture content. To fight dry, tight, rough and flaky skin, this wonder cream contains 5% Urea. Urea is naturally present in healthy skin, but in many dry skin conditions these levels are reduced, leading to further moisture loss. This face cream actively helps replenish the Urea lost, whilst being fragrance and colourant free – further minimising the risk of allergies or irritation.

Beauty brands pledging to help in the COVID-19 pandemic:

The LVMH Group has worked hard to alleviate the risk of shortages of hand sanitizer gel, mobilising production facilities at several of its renowned Perfumes & Cosmetics houses including Guerlain, Parfums Christian Dior and Parfums Givenchy, to create hand sanitizer. Large quantities have been gifted to Paris hospitals and other healthcare establishments, something they say they will continue to do as long as it’s needed.

L’Oréal is another company mobilising its plethora of beauty brands to create hand sanitiser. Both L’Oréal-owned Garnier and La Roche-Posay will equip all partner hospitals, care homes and main partner pharmacies in Europe with sanitiser.

Clarins meanwhile has aimed to make over 200,000 bottles of hand sanitiser by the end of April. The brand has also donated 30,000 moisturising creams to French hospitals and 50,000 toiletry kits to NHS workers in the UK.

Beauty brand Oskia has begun using its Wales-based lab to create hand sanitisers for local care homes, and are donating their Renaissance Hand Creams to NHS hospitals.

Medik8 is now using its Hertfordshire based lab to create ‘Hygienic Hand Rub’, an 80% ethanol-based hand sanitiser made according to the published WHO guidelines. They have gifted these to the most vulnerable in their local community.

Tan-Luxe has also turned their attention to sanitiser, the first batch is being donated to Beauty Banks charity, before being given to NHS workers, care homes and supermarket staff across the UK.

Molton Brown has donated 25,000 of its best-selling soap to Beauty Banks charity as well as distributing 3,000 bottles of hand lotion to NHS hospitals.

REN Clean Skincare has provided over 3000 products to both the Beauty Banks Helping Hand Appeal, and directly to the NHS.

Luxe beauty brand favourite 111Skin has started production of a hand cream especially for NHS workers, as well as sending its Y Theorem Day Cream to frontline workers in order to combat irritation caused by wearing protective masks for long periods.

This Works has created a wonderfully heart-warming scheme, opening its customer service line to support anyone who is feeling lonely during the lockdown period.

Pai has begun a ‘Buy One Give One’ campaign, where you can purchase a hand sanitiser and your order means an NHS frontline worker, care home, homeless charity or beauty bank will receive a donation of one, too. So far they have donated over 3000 units.

L’Occitane en Provence was one of the first brands to donate to the NHS, they have gifted thousands of hand creams and toiletries to healthcare workers – with over 10,000 units donated so far.

Filorga has donated its nourishing beauty products to a local NHS team, to help combat the dry skin caused by PPE face masks and frequent hand washing.

The Body Shop has donated over 255,000 toiletry items to frontline NHS workers, with the aim to help workers having to shower onsite in between long shifts. A further 100,000 bars of soap and 1000,000 hand creams are being sent to the temporary hospitals currently being created, including the Nightingale at London’s Excel Centre.

Revlon, through its brand Elizabeth Arden, has donated over 4000 of its soothing Eight Hour Cream® products to the NHS.

Boots has partnered with The Hygiene Bank and FareShare to give both NHS staff and vulnerable people access to the toiletries they desperately need. Over 200,000 essentials are being donated by the retailer from the brand’s best-selling N07, Soap & Glory ranges and more.

Avon meanwhile is campaigning to the government to act now in order to protect the vulnerable under lockdown, especially the women and children who are more likely to be victims of abuse. They have donated £150,000 to the UK national domestic abuse charity, Refuge, helping them keep their 24-hour helpline operating. The brand has also announced a $1 million commitment to support frontline services tackling the issue.

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