While it is important to wear face masks publicly to cut back the spread of COVID-19, people may find themselves facing new or increased skin complaints.
Maskne, a word that started trending during the COVID-19 widespread, describes acne caused by wearing a mask.
Wearing a face mask regularly can trap moisture, oil, sweat, and dirt, which can clog pores and cause blemishes. You will also need to constantly adjust the face mask, which may result in increased face-touching and mask rubbing. These are all optimal conditions for the growth of mask causing bacteria on your face.
Maskne normally occurs as tiny little whiteheads around the mouth and nose but can also affect the jawline and neck.
Although the problem of maskne is annoying, it's necessary to wear a mask to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
There are in total 5 steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of maskne:
1. Clean your face twice daily with a benzoyl peroxide product or mild cleansers close to the skin's natural pH (pH5). This tip is especially useful for those with oily skin, but beware: you do not want to overdo it and extract all the natural oils from your face. It's normal to have oil on the skin, and if an excessive amount of oil is removed, the skin's defense is to create more oil, which may lead to a vicious cycle.
If that doesn't work, the next move may be to try over the counter retinol products. Retinol products will, in particular, facilitate the keratinization process which allows dead skin cells to break down and replace it with new, healthy skin cells. This may cause irritation initially but it normally subsides after a few weeks. Using retinol will also make your skin more sensitive to sunburn, so be sure to use sunblock regularly.
2. Hydrating moisturizer: Drying your face out could potentially trigger further breakouts. So, keep your skin hydrated with non-comedogenic moisturizing creams.
3. Avoid makeup while wearing the mask may help improve acne.
4. Wash the cloth mask regularly. Use a fragrance-free laundry detergent and try rinsing masks for extra time to ensure anything which might irritate your skin is eliminated. It's advisable to use cotton fabrics for masks that are more breathable and less likely to cause irritation to the skin. People with a weakened immune system can, however, use surgical or other medical grade masks (e.g. FFP2) where the level of protection is higher.
5. Replace your surgical mask and N95 mask every 4 hours and three days, respectively. It’s recommended to wash hands before wearing and after removing the mask. Patients can monitor the time of wearing a mask and insert two layers of gauze within the mask to minimize the amount of water vapor from the mouth and perspiration.
Any skin breakdown that doesn't heal, despite home treatment and the same goes for rashes that spread or worsen or any signs of infection. Obtaining a professional opinion is extremely important for people whose occupations or routines require a mask to be worn for long hours.
· Changxu Han, Jialiang Shi, Yan Chen, Zhenying Zhang Increased flare of acne caused by long‐time mask wearing during COVID‐19 pandemic among general population. Dermatologic Therapy 2020,33 https://doi.org/10.1111/dth.13704
· Tamar Aliya Gomolin BSc, Abigail Cline, Ph.D., MD, Marian Russo, MD Maskne: Exacerbation or Eruption of Acne During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Department of Dermatology, Metropolitan Hospital, New York, NY 2020,4 https://jofskin.org/index.php/skin/article/view/953/pdf
· James Q. Del Rosso, DO, FAOCD. The journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 2013,12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997205/