Editor’s Note: Oakland Voices alumnus and Editor-in-Chief of The Peralta Citizen, Ryan Barba was an essential worker during the pandemic, requiring him to wear a mask many hours out of the day. Now that California is slowly re-opening, and masks can come off for those who are vaccinated starting June 15 based on state guidelines, Barba shares how he feels.
I never had an acne problem during any phase of my life, but all of that changed with the COVID pandemic. I began wearing a mask one month before lockdown last March and immediately started to see a change in my skin. I would wear a mask for hours each day, only taking it off for a quick meal or a drink. I initially enjoyed wearing a mask because it allowed me to maintain some privacy, but after months of it becoming the new normal, I grew sick of it.
Being an essential worker required me to wear a mask for roughly 10 hours of a day. For the longest time, it felt like there was no such thing as a breath of fresh air — and the only time you could take the damn mask off was when you were at home or in a vehicle. It’s easy to eliminate daily routine in place of safety protocols, but I never thought my near perfect complexion would be a part of that price.
Month by month, hours upon hours — having these masks glued to my face gave birth to these little blemishes. I did a bit of research hoping to bring it to a halt, but the tips and recommendations I received weren’t anything I hadn’t already been doing or didn’t already know. Having to work and constantly leave my place of residence, there was no escape. I had to accept the reality that there wasn’t much more to be done.
The little bit of peace I found was discovering the term “mask-ne.” Although I have a strong dislike for social media, that finding brought me some solace. I wasn’t alone in this universal frustration despite knowing my complexion, until further notice, was doomed.
These scars are permanent and costly. I don’t go anywhere without some concealer and now wear makeup regularly to cover these open wounds. While it is justified how these new imperfections came to be a part of me, I am forever annoyed. However, on a more serious note, I’m grateful to be wearing these COVID scars instead of being six feet in the ground.
I feel that in a lot of ways this news is exciting, yet also very concerning. In what world do elected officials not take the initiative to ensure all of their people are vaccinated to keep everyone safe? Nevertheless, I am thrilled to no longer need to carry a mask on me at all times and have every intention of making the most of this new facial freedom. My scars will heal and serve as a reminder to a broken point in history.