Deep Blue Med Spa’s clinicians found themselves frequently being asked about potential scarring and other dilemmas related to personal protective equipment. Now the skincare PAs and cosmetic surgeons are sharing their expertise with essential workers nationwide. 

By Tonya Johnson

Long Island, NY-based Deep Blue Med Spa, affiliated with the plastic surgeons of Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, recently launched an initiative to support essential workers who are struggling with pressure injuries, “maskne” (face mask-related acne), and other skin issues linked to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for many consecutive hours.

In an effort to give essential workers—including those in healthcare, grocery stores, airlines, and more—a place for personal, professional skincare attention, Deep Blue Med Spa is offering complimentary virtual consultations to any essential workers in need.

When COVID-19 hit the New York City and Long Island area, Thomas Davenport, MD, FACS, a partner at Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, spent four weeks in a local hospital working as a medical intensivist in an intensive care unit. He noted the severe impact on the hospital, as well as how quickly folks “rose to the occasion.”

One of the most physically difficult aspects of caring for COVID patients was the many hours of wearing PPE, specifically the face masks, he says, as it would often result in very noticeable and painful pressure injuries across the nose and face (some so severe they had the potential to cause scarring).

As a plastic surgeon, Davenport found himself fielding the same questions over and over about the care and treatment of facial injury issues. He realized Deep Blue Med Spa could be a part of a greater effort by addressing this problem. With the combined effort of the skincare physician assistants (PAs) and cosmetic surgeons, the group devised an optimal plan for PPE-related injuries. 

[RELATED: How to Treat “Maskne”]

Melissa Colletti-White, board certified plastic surgical PA and lead PA-C at Deep Blue Med Spa.

“I’ve had healthcare workers tell me that they never experienced acne or skin irritation to the degree they are experiencing it now. They are also dealing with discomfort every time their N95 mask makes contact with blemishes caused by the mask itself,” says Melissa Colletti-White,a board certified plastic surgical PA and lead PA-C at Deep Blue Med Spa.

Virtual consultation with a Deep Blue Med Spa provider consists of one-on-one personalized assessments and solution recommendations, product suggestions, tips on what to avoid and how to treat skin issues, and even administering prescriptions when necessary.

Plastic Surgery Practice recently interviewed Colletti-White to learn more about Deep Blue Med Spa’s complimentary offer. The interview has been lightly edited.

PSP: How do the virtual consults at Deep Blue Med Spa work?

MCW: People needing a virtual consult can either call us directly or contact us via our website. From there, a patient relations representative will be in touch to set up the appointment and send a link for video conferencing.

PSP: How many and what type of essential workers have you consulted so far?

MCW: Around 20. Most essentials workers in need of a skin consult work in healthcare, particularly hospitals and urgent care facilities.

PSP: What types of skin issues and irritations are essential workers concerned about?

MCW: Patients that generally have good skin are experiencing increased oil production and acne from long hours in PPE, particularly the N95 masks.

A frontline essential worker who is a nursing manager of a COVID unit completed a session with the spa to address skin issues she encountered from wearing PPE. This included increased oil and dryness and indentations causing hyperpigmentation. 

A physician assistant who wears an N-95 mask with a surgical mask on top, plus goggles during her 12 hour long shifts, experienced acne, pustules, and long-lasting indentation on the cheeks.

A few healthcare workers that I’ve spoken to only had to make some tweaks to their daily skin care routines to find relief. Exfoliating every three days to remove extra debris (there is often significant sweat build up underneath all that PPE) and quality acne spot creams are both proven to be effective. I also placed one patient on antibiotics to help eliminate residual blemishes.

PSP: What product suggestions and tips are you providing in terms of what to avoid and how to treat the skin?

MCW: First, we recommend that those struggling with their skin because of PPE not jump into anything too drastic. So, if you aren’t on a skin care program currently, then implement only the basics for now. If you are following a specific skin care program with more powerful products, then stick with it.

Always start your routine by washing with a gentle cleanser that won’t irritate your face. Then tone and exfoliate based on your skin type. For those with a dryer complexion, opt for a refreshing toner spray. (You may want to follow this up with exfoliating a few times a week.) If you have oily skin, you’ll want to utilize clarifying pads that have ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid. Stay away from heavy moisturizers. These can slow down your natural cell turnover. Instead, go for a light cream that contains antioxidants to keep your skin healthy. Continue to apply sunscreen daily.

If you aren’t already on retinol, avoid using it for now. You can also consider adding extra hydration around the eye area with an under eye cream, preferably one with hyaluronic acid.

Protect your skin by placing a medical-grade 100% silicone sheeting under your mask. These can be reused and washed daily and are typically safe for those with allergies. Apply the sheeting to clean, dry skin before putting your mask on to avoid indentations around the face. This will also help with the discomfort caused by placing a mask on active breakouts.

PSP: What type of feedback have you received since the free virtual consults started?

MCW: It’s been very positive. The virtual visit is convenient for us and for the patients. I know so many essential workers amongst my family and friends, and there is a legitimate need for skincare assistance due to the extended wear of PPE.

PSP: Who else qualifies for the offer?

MCW: We are mostly consulting with local patients—the people who know about us and are in the communities we serve. But we offer a free virtual consultation to anyone in need from anywhere. We ship the ProBLUEMD line of skin care product to other states, so it would be no problem to help someone who lives further away. 

PSP: How often can essential workers receive free consultation?

MCW: One to two visits are usually necessary. We welcome a virtual follow up visit to check-in and make sure patients are making progress with their skin care issues.

PSP: What are the hours of operation?

MCW: Monday-Friday 10 AM – 8 PM; Saturday appointments available as needed.

PSP: When does the free offer end?

MCW: We are offering complimentary virtual skin consults indefinitely until there is no longer a need.

Tonya Johnson is associate editor of Plastic Surgery Practice.