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18 September 2020

Guidance on Face Coverings for COVID-19

Information includes tips for preventing face coverings from irritating your psoriasis.

As part of the gradual changes in restrictions, people across the UK are now being asked to wear a face covering (something which safely covers the nose and mouth) in certain circumstances. However, the specific guidance varies in different parts of the UK.


In England, you must now wear a face covering by law in the following settings:

  • On public transport (e.g. aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses)
  • Transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • In shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • Shopping centres
  • Auction houses
  • Premises providing professional, legal or financial services (post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses)
  • Premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
  • Premises providing veterinary services
  • Visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • Libraries and public reading rooms
  • Places of worship
  • Funeral service providers (funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels)
  • Community centres, youth centres and social clubs
  • Exhibition halls and conference centres
  • Public areas in hotels and hostels
  • Storage and distribution facilities
  • In NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries

You are expected to wear a face covering immediately before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it.

You are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other indoor places where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet. They are advised to be worn in care homes. Individual settings may have their own policies and require you to take other measures.

You are not required to wear a face covering in restaurants with table service, bars, and pubs).

From 1st September, new advice will apply to the use of face coverings by staff and pupils in some schools, and to learners in further education. This guidance is for schools and other education institutions that teach people in years 7 and above.

More specific information about circumstances in which the law does not apply or where you can remove your face covering, and legitimate reasons not to wear a face covering can be found here. You do not need to wear a face covering if you are under the age of 11.

Exemption card templates are available for people who may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering.


The Scottish Government is supporting the use of face coverings in enclosed spaces, where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household.

In Scotland, you must now wear a face covering by law in the following settings:

  • Any premises which open to members of the public and used for the retail sale or hire of goods or services, such as shops, takeaway restaurants, estate agents, beauty parlours. This includes hospitality premises such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants except when an exemption applies.
  • Aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, and any other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural site
  • Banks, building societies and credit unions
  • Cinemas
  • Community centres
  • Crematoriums and funeral directors premises
  • Libraries and public reading rooms
  • Museums and galleries
  • Places of worship
  • Post offices
  • Storage and distribution facilities, including collection and drop off points
  • Bingo halls
  • Casinos
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Amusement arcades and other leisure facilities (such as snooker and pool halls)
  • Indoor funfairs
    • Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres
    • Indoor skating rinks
    • On public transport (including travel by train, subway, bus, tram, ferry and airline services as well as when using taxis and private hire vehicles) and in public transport premises (including railway and bus stations, airports. and open-air railway platforms), but NOT bus stops

The use of a face coverings in public and customer toilets is advised as they are often crowded and less ventilated spaces.

Exemptions to this guidance in Scotland include children under 5 years of age, and people with a reasonable excuse, examples of which can be found here.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, it is now mandatory to wear a face covering in the following settings:

  • Any indoor place where goods or services are available to buy or rent (e.g. shops, shopping centres, bookmakers, food takeaways, dry cleaners).
  • On public transport, including on buses, coaches and train services, indoor areas of ferries (and outdoor areas where it's not possible to keep 2 metres apart), and in public transport stations. This law does not apply to tour coaches and taxis or private hire vehicles but some operators may have their own rules you should follow.

It is not mandatory to wear a face covering in a business that is able to maintain social distancing by using a system of ticketing or appointments. This might include, for example, a cinema, a hairdresser or a solicitor. You do not have to wear a face covering in a bank or a business that operates like a bank, or in a gym or other place where the purpose of your attendance is aerobic exercise.

Exemptions to the face coverings guidance in Northern Ireland include children under 13 years of age, and people with a reasonable excuse, examples of which can be found here.


    In Wales it is now mandatory to wear face coverings in all indoor public places, this includes both customers and staff working in those indoor public areas. This includes a wide variety of settings such as:

  • Shops and shopping centres
  • Places of worship
  • Hairdressers and salons
  • Cinemas and museums
  • Gyms and leisure centres
  • Anywhere that is open to members of the public. This includes any public areas within buildings that are otherwise closed to the public – for example a reception area of an office building.
  • It is recommended that people use a three layer face covering. The only indoor public areas where face coverings will not be required are where you are inside a place to eat or drink, for example, cafés, restaurants and pubs. But where food and drink is only being served for consumption in part of the premises – for example, a café which also offers take away services – you will need to wear a face covering in the parts of the premises where people are not eating or drinking.

    Exemptions to the face covering guidance in Wales includes children under the age of 11 and people who have a reasonable excuse, examples of which can be found here.

It is now compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport in Wales. This requirement applies to all enclosed public transport vehicles including buses, coaches, trains, trams, ferries and aircraft (where they take off or land in Wales). It also applies to taxis and to tourist services, such as mountain railways and excursion buses.

Face coverings should be worn for the duration of the journey on public transport, however there is no legal requirement to wear a face covering while waiting for transport to arrive.

Exemptions to this guidance in Wales include children under the age of 11 and people who have a reasonable excuse, examples of which can be found here

The Welsh Government is advising passengers to carry information if possible which demonstrates why they have a reasonable excuse (for example a prescription or evidence such as a hospital appointment letter relating to a medical condition), while some transport operators provide the facility for those who have a reasonable excuse to download and print a card from their website.

Why are we being advised to wear a face covering?

While evidence suggests that face coverings will not protect you against COVID-19, when used correctly they may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others if you are infected but do not know it. Please note that face coverings do not replace social distancing and if you have symptoms of COVID-19 your whole household must stay at home.

Young children or individuals who find it difficult to wear face coverings, such as people with breathing difficulties or primary school children who cannot use a covering without help, are not advised to wear them.

Wearing a face covering

A face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face. The government has provided advice on how to wear and make your own face covering, which can be found here.

When applying a face covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face. After each use, you should wash or sanitise your hands before removing the covering, using only the straps or ear pieces, and put it in a plastic bag for washing or safe disposal. You should then wash or sanitise your hands again. If you plan to re-use the face covering, it should be washed in soap or detergent first, at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric.

You can find more detailed instructions on how to wear and remove a face covering here.

Face coverings and psoriasis

If you feel that your face covering is irritating your psoriasis, you could try the following:

  • Make sure that the covering is made of a breathable fabric that your skin can tolerate. As with many aspects of psoriasis, this may be a process of trial and error.
  • Whilst the covering needs to be secure, make sure that it is not rubbing or causing injury to the skin as this could trigger psoriasis through Koebner’s phenomenon.
  • Finding the right face covering to lessen irritation may be a process of trial and error. Some people may find wearing a scarf more comfortable if it is for short periods. Or, if you have psoriasis behind your ears it may help to use an extender or adapter to relieve the pressure and attach the covering behind the head. Alternatively, a face covering which ties around the back of the head may be helpful.
  • Keep your skin clean and well moisturised.
  • Wash the covering after each use with a detergent that doesn’t irritate your skin.
  • Try to take regular breaks from wearing the face covering.
  • Try to avoid wearing make up in the area under the face covering.
  • If your psoriasis worsens speak to your doctor about your treatment options.

  • For further information and advice on scalp or facial psoriasis, please do get in contact with us.

    Further information about COVID-19 for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can be found here.

    Please note, this information was first published on 21st May 2020, and last updated on 18th September 2020.

The Psoriasis Association is the UK's leading national charity and membership organisation for people affected by psoriasis – patients, families, carers and health professionals Read More >

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