Skin and the Covid-19 vaccine

30 Jul, 2021


Covid-19 vaccination numbers will be boosted with the first New Zealand mass vaccinations finally starting.  Most people are flying through the process apart from mild discomfort at the injection site.  The second vaccine has tended to have a few more side effects, but this is just your body building immunity. Skin reactions and allergic are rare and generally fortunately mild.  It is common is to have some discomfort at the injection site, plan for an early night and extra fluids, a cool compress may help.  You are advised not to massage the site.

A recent study by dermatologists included the Pfizer vaccine, this was less likely to be associated with skin reactions than the Moderna vaccine. Most reactions are at the vaccination site but rare delayed episodes of welts (urticaria), viral mimic rashes and flares of existing skin conditions are reported along with classic chilblains.  Small numbers of a viral condition called pityriasis rosea have been noted and very rarely the shingles virus - zoster was reactivated.  These rare reports are not reasons not to be vaccinated but talk to your doctor if you have been recently unwell and your appointment is coming up, a short delay might be advised until your health is optimal.  Keep up your usual treatments for any existing skin conditions in discussion with your doctor.

Vaccine reactions are encouraged to be reported, doing this builds a knowledge bank about the vaccines. Do take photos and discuss with your dermatologist or GP if concerned.  The Ministry of Health Covid-19 website has a link to report vaccine related side effects and information on what to expect after vaccination. While it mentions you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen after vaccination there is little research on this and how this changes the way the vaccine works. Do not take these before vaccination unless they are your regular medication. First aim for rest, fluids, a cool compress if needed for the day after vaccination  rather than heading out on the town or doing a marathon gym workout.

There’s still time to make a difference to lagging sunscreen standards in NZ...but you need to do it now.

24 May, 2021


Submissions are open for just two more days as the Sunscreen Product Safety Bill heads to select committee. 

Despite our fierce sunlight and extremely high skin cancer rates products can be sold here claiming to have SPF/UVA protection values without mandatory testing. Go here to find out more about how to submit and read the bill:

Dermatologists and other health professionals have endorsed MP Todd Muller's efforts to get NZ on an equal footing with Australia.  We share joint sunscreen standards for product testing and labelling but the standard is only mandatory in Australia not in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Dermatological Society has made a submission in favor of mandatory testing.  Research has shown regular use of sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer but the products used do need to meet SPF and UVA standards to achieve this.  Consumer NZ has regularly demonstrated multiple products sold in NZ fail to meet claimed sun protection values. Join the call to help us all have more confidence when we buy sunscreens or make up claiming SPF and UVA protection.

2021 Annual Conference - NZDSI

24 May, 2021

Masks are on for all public transport NZ

23 Feb, 2021


Try to embrace the mask, it’s really not that hard even to wear one all day.

Masks protect people near you from infections such as Covid-19.  Masks do not cause infections such as Staph but just like your knickers regularly washing or changing to keep them clean is the only way to go.  Masks sometimes aggravate acne and contribute to other facial rashes hence the 2020 rise of "maskne".

Prolonged mask wearing can cause some irritation for some wearers.  If you are prone to dry skin, use gentle cleansers and apply a moisturiser whenever possible.  If prone to acne, use lighter moisturisers and limited make-up under the area on your face covered by a mask. Heavier products combined with the moist air inside a mask can aggravate acne. 

Underlying skin problems may be aggravated by prolonged mask wearing. If you experience skin problems on your face, see a dermatologist. 

Wash and dry or gel your hands before putting on a mask.  This way you will not spread bugs from your hands to your face.  Avoid touching the mask once in place as this also transfers bugs. When learning to wear a mask it is common for people to fiddle with their masks, practice at home to fit it and leave it in place.  Choose a mask that fits well and fix it on reasonably firmly.  Higher on the nose is best, if it has a wire inner this is designed to mold over your upper nose – it holds the mask in position, reduces fogging of glasses and improves the fit.  If the mask falls to only partly cover the lower nose or falls to become a chin cover then something is wrong with the fit - just try again with clean hands!!

Reusable masks reduce waste but should be washed daily.  Cotton and silk are kinder to the skin than synthetics as the inner - against skin - layer.  For added effectiveness non-woven polypropylene is a good mask filter.  In NZ there is also the HELIX.iso filter.  Best evidence supports washing at 60 Celcius and with soap.  Dry outside in the sun (UV kills lots of infections) and wind unless you are pollen sensitive, hot dryers are also helpful to clean and many can be hot ironed which is another cleaning step.  Gentle lukewarm hand washing is not so effective which is a downside to silk masks which may otherwise be excellent.  If the silk mask is unable to be hot washed include an antibacterial and rinse well in fresh water. Please note there are downsides to cleaning a mask in a microwave – fire risk – and don’t try the rice cooker.  If only wearing for a very short time you can increase the time between washes but not if you stuff the mask in the same bag or pocket as your keys, coins and dog treats.  Remove the mask from your face with clean hands and carefully place in a clean bag.

Watch out - UV EXTREME

27 Jan, 2021

Extreme UV conditions persist across Aotearoa.  Dermatologists are seeing sunburns because people underestimate the power of the sun.  The commonest thread seems being caught out if it is overcast or the wind is cooler and over reliance  on limited applications of sunscreen.

People are coming into the dermatologist for post-holiday checks with tanned and freckled up skin which equals sun damage. Shoulders, necks and chests seem to be hit most by burning and this is most easily prevented with summer clothing with higher necklines and sleeves when outdoors.

These high UV days coincide with the summer sales.  A long-sleeved SPF 50 sunscreen is a great option as a summer gift.  Make the most of the sales and look for lighter weight UV protective clothes with more cover in the sleeves or legs, sarongs can be a great cover all for the beach. Avoid the potential for a fried chest and shoulders from a tank top, layer these with a good looser cotton or linen overshirt when outside.

Parents need to be alert for sun protection measures for children particularly when the sports and school swimming days are held over the next few months.  Educate the children to remember the slip slop slap shade message.  Outdoor sports days can be times of high risk especially for fairer children and proactive parents should push for Sunsmart measures in their schools.