Contributed by: Rachana Arya
To curb the spread of COVID-19, health officials around the world advise people to wear a face mask. As an effective barrier against the novel coronavirus which spreads through respiratory droplets, many locations, such as restaurants, bars, and grocery stores require people to wear face masks in public. Wearing a face covering for long periods of time, however, can also exacerbate a skin condition called maskne.
First Things First, What Is Maskne?
The term “maskne” (mask+acne) was originally a reference to the development of acne around the nose, lips, and chin from wearing a mask. However, the term “maskne” is an umbrella term that now encompasses several skin conditions that wearing a facial mask can trigger, including:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Perioral dermatitis
In addition to irritating the skin and potentially causing facial flare-ups, people who are already living with skin conditions may find that wearing a mask worsens symptoms.
But What Are The Causes Of The New Acne?
Wearing a tight-fitting mask causes constant micro-frictions against the skin that leads to skin irritation in the short term. Over time, continued friction from the mask repeatedly rubbing against the skin leads to inflammation that can eventually block pores leading to a skin condition that people may refer to as maskne.
The humid and obstructive atmosphere within the mask may trap sweat, humid moisture, dead skin cells, and sebum on your skin—perfect for acne-causing bacteria to thrive.
Additionally, if you are allergic to the material in certain masks, this can also cause skin irritation or inflammation.
Using a harsh fragmented detergent to wash the mask may also trigger skin issues.
What Can We Do To Avoid Maskne?
Wearing a mask remains essential, but the good news is that there are lots of ways that we can limit the extent of mask-related acne. Here are several effective ways to prevent it:
- Select a well-fitted mask, a snug, comfortable mask that does not rub and irritate the skin and does not lead to maskne symptoms.
- Wear a mask made from breathable cotton materials, so that it does not irritate your skin, but still fulfills job requirements. Avoid masks made of synthetic fabrics, such as nylon or rayon as these are not gentle and can irritate the skin.
- Make sure to wash your mask frequently to remove excess dirt, dust, and makeup. Instead of using hypoallergenic clothes detergent, wash your face mask with antibacterial soap and leave it to dry naturally.
- Keep spare face masks with you since reusing the same mask isn’t ideal from an efficacy standpoint. If your current mask feels damp, or sweaty, immediately wear a new one to prevent acne from breeding.
- Wash your face with antibacterial cleansing pads before putting on your mask, and clean your face several times a day. This will help prevent oil build-up on the skin surface.
- Use a mild facial moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated. Use a noncomedogenic or oil-free moisturizer to help avoid blackheads and pore-clogging. Wait for 15 minutes after applying moisturizer before putting on your mask so that your skin can absorb the product.
- Use a gentle cleanser to remove the makeup and remove dead cells from the surface of your skin. Avoid scented cleansers that contain high quantities of alcohol or perfume.
- Avoid wearing makeup on the covered, lower face, as the more the products applied to the skin below a mask, the more likely are the chances of experiencing irritation and breakouts.
- Use petroleum jelly between the skin and the places the mask rubs most. Create a barrier on the outside edges of the mask to keep skin moisturized and reduce inflammation or irritation.
- Do not skimp on washing your face twice a day as part of your daily skincare routine.
Those Pesky Pimples (aka Maskne) Have Popped Up, So Now What?
If despite your best efforts and the above recommendations, you notice a maskne breakout, there is no need to despair. Most skin problems caused by wearing a face mask are manageable and can be easily controlled. Be sure to consult your dermatologist or healthcare provider.