A plastic surgery face mask, also called an autologous face mask, is a specialized personal protective gear worn by medical practitioners during plastic surgery procedures. It serves the dual purpose of reducing trauma and skin damage to the face as well as covering up the physician’s medical implants. The mask has two parts: the cover, which are typically made of silicon-coated polyester; and the facial expander, which contain customized foam or latex. The cover is often made of disposable foams or sheets that can be reused throughout the plastic surgery process, while the expander is used over after the plastic surgery procedure is completed. While this saves the cost of disposing of the sheet and mask and allows for easy clean-up, it also restricts the face’s circulation.
This is problematic because face masks may help prevent trauma and blood loss from bleeding, but they also contain high amounts of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid works to maintain moisture in the skin by binding water to itself and facilitating the movement of fluids through the epidermis. Unfortunately, excess hyaluronic acid can cause swelling and pain because it tightens the skin. When a person is under general anesthesia, face masks may prevent the rapid evaporation of excess fluid that leads to tissue damage. While these side effects are rarely observed, some patients may be allergic to the sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) compound contained in most face masks.
Some masks also contain exhalation valves, which allow accumulated sweat to drain away from the face. However, many physicians discourage the use of face masks with exhalation valves because they encourage perspiration by allowing air to blow through the fabric, increasing body odor. Patients who are instructed to wear a mask with no or minimal exhalation valves should inquire about the option of using disposable valve pads, which do not have an odor and allow efficient air removal. The downside is that these pads must be replaced after each surgical treatment.
Biocompatible face coverings reduce sweating by preventing sweat glands from spreading throughout the skin. There are four types of spread-resistant materials – polyethylene (PE), nylon, sponge, and silicone. Each type exhibits unique physical properties that maximize absorption, with nylon and sponge proving the most resistant to abrasion and compression while being the least expensive. Silicone spread valves tend to have a shorter life span than other types of valves and may require the replacement of the silicone plates annually.
A plastic nose band is often used in conjunction with a face mask to further prevent nosebleeds and rhinitis. The nose band aids in maintaining the shape of the nose while allowing airflow through the nose. The plastic nose band may be removed once the patient has achieved the desired result. This allows the doctor to assess the potential for further plastic surgeries to help eliminate swelling and deformity. However, if a patient prefers to keep the plastic portion of the nose band, it must be worn during the remainder of one’s life.
Face surgical masks improve airway protection by redirecting expelled air back up into the mouth. To achieve this result, a surgical mask is used along with a full face mask or nasal guard. Full face masks are more difficult to clean and often require multiple biopsies per year. A nasal guard is designed to prevent snoring while still providing airway protection.