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Besides social distancing, wearing face masks in public has become obligatory during the coronavirus pandemic. However, wearing a protective mask has taken its toll on our skin in the form of maskne – inflamed acne mostly around the nose, mouth, and chin.
Although maskne have been around for a long time – basically since the emergence of clinical face masks – they only recently became a public health concern as wearing masks came to be a must in all sectors of society. So, maskne aren't new, but the question remains – How do I prevent them and treat them?
Well, you probably won't be able to get rid of your mask any time soon. So, you'll have to find other ways to combat those pesky breakouts.
In this article, we're going to share some tips and tricks to help you manage your mask-related breakouts and prevent them from happening in the first place.
What Causes Maskne?
Maskne, mascne, or as derms call them, acne mechanica, is a specific type of inflammatory acne that occur on the lower half of the face – essentially any part of the face covered by a protective mask. However, maskne refer not only to mask-caused acne but also to an array of skin conditions caused by wearing a mask. These include:
- Acne: Whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples caused by clogged pores;
- Rosacea flare-ups: If you're already battling with rosacea, wearing a mask can worsen the problem, causing redness and breakouts;
- Folliculitis: A mask wrapped tightly around your face can cause your hair follicles to get inflamed, causing pain, itchiness, or breakouts;
- Contact dermatitis: If you're sensitive or allergic to the materials of your face masks, you might develop irritation, rash, and even blisters.
These skin issues can be caused by a single or a combination of these two factors:
- Physical friction between the mask and the skin. Friction can potentially disrupt the skin barrier and facilitate the process of inflammation and clogging of the pores by piling up dead skin cells, yeast, and bacteria. If you have sensitive skin, this can cause skin rash, redness, and itchiness;
- Moisture, dirt, sweat, and sebum that remain 'trapped' between the mask and your skin when you wear it for an extended period of time. The humid environment is an ideal base for the growth of various acne-inducing microorganisms.
But, since taking your mask off is not an option (and we strongly encourage you to keep wearing your mask and cover your nose and mouth with it for your own and the safety of others), try the following tips on how to prevent and treat already existing maskne.
Tips on How to Manage Maskne
The key to preventing maskne can be summed up into three simple steps – proper skincare, hygiene, and hydration. So, let's see what these include.
Tip #1: Tweak Your Cleansing Routine
Besides your regular a.m. and p.m. cleansing routine, wash your face each time after wearing a mask. Use gentle cleansers without any harsh sulfates or alcohols as these can be even more irritating. The goal is to gently remove all the bacteria, sweat, and oil and prevent your pores from clogging.
If your maskne problem is more severe, you might want to include cleansing products meant for oily and acne prone skin, containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. However, if this is the case, you should visit your dermatologist and ask them about the best type of products and treatments for your skin type.
Tip #2: Tone Down Your Makeup
It would be best (if you could) not to wear any makeup while you're treating your maskne. Foundations, setting powders, and other beauty products tend to be a bit heavy on your skin, clogging your pores and prolonging the healing process.
However, if you can't skip the makeup, we would suggest using lightweight, water-based, and non-comedogenic foundations. Or even better, replace your foundation with a tinted moisturizer or sunscreen.
Tip #3: Change Your Mask Regularly
If you're using disposable masks, don't reuse them. Instead, throw them away after each use. It would be best to have several masks with you always in case you need a switch.
On the other hand, if you prefer wearing a fabric mask, wash it before putting it on again. In this case, consider washing your mask with a fragrance-free detergent and steer clear of using fabric softeners. These compounds are known to be irritating, and you don't want these in anything touching your face. This way, you'll keep infection under control and prevent contact dermatitis from developing.
In addition, it would be ideal to find masks with different ear loops and ties and alternate between those every day to prevent sores behind your ears.
Tip #4: Use Lighter Skincare
Proper hydration is essential for preventing mask-caused irritation and preserving your skin's natural barrier. Use light and non-comedogenic products that will let your skin breathe.
Choose ingredients like niacinamide, aloe vera, and Centella because of their calming and anti-bacterial effect that will protect your skin and relieve any redness or itchiness. Likewise, for that much-needed hydration and nourishment, go for hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin. These won't burden the pores but will give your skin the optimal dose of hydration.
Tip #5: Apply Topical Antibiotics
If dermatologist-approved (and prescribed), make use of topical antibiotic creams and apply them before putting your mask on. Antibiotic-based gels and creams will help keep the bacteria at bay even under your mask where warm and humid air gets trapped. Therefore, these will prevent the build-up of bacteria and bacteria-induced maskne.
Tip #6: Exfoliate Weekly or Biweekly
Unless your maskne are caused by contact dermatitis or rosacea, you might benefit from mild exfoliation. Use glycolic or salicylic acid-based exfoliants to remove the build-up of dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. This will ensure your pores are clear and free, preventing maskne from forming.
However, be mindful not to over-exfoliate, causing more irritation and potentially exacerbating the problem. So, limit your exfoliation routine to once or twice a week.
Tip #7: Take a Break From Your Mask Every 4 Hours
According to the AAD (The American Academy of Dermatology Association), you should take 15-minute breaks after every four hours of continually wearing a mask. By doing this, you're letting your skin breathe, and you're minimizing the moisture and humidity piling up under your mask.
However, remove your mask only when you're outside, keeping a safe distance from other people (at least six feet), or when you're alone in your car.
It's also important to note to wash your hands each time before putting your mask on or removing it from your face.
Additionally, only touch your mask by its loops or ties. This way, you're ensuring the safety of your friends, family members, co-workers, and your own.
Tip #8: Choose the Right Fit and Materials
The AAD also states that it's essential to find the right mask for your face – comfortable enough to prevent any skin problems, but, at the same time, snug enough to provide you (and the others) effective protection from coronavirus. It should sit snuggly across your nose, your chin, and the sides of your face. Likewise, it should have a comfortable fit. Still, it shouldn't be too loose to prevent sliding around your face and irritating your skin even more.
The fabric also plays an important role in preventing maskne. Go for natural materials (like cotton) and avoid synthetics like polyester, nylon, or rayon, as these are more likely to irritate your skin and cause issues.
Tip #9: Boost Your Oral Hygiene
If you haven't been using a mouthwash before, now would be the time to start. As Dr. Elisa Mello of NYC Smile Design explains:
When you breathe out, whatever is in your mouth gets aerosolized—which is the whole issue you have with COVID. It's going to get on your mask, and then it's going to rub on your face.
Wearing a mask creates a small incubator on your face, keeping everything in. When you breathe through your mouth, cough, or sneeze, the bacteria collects on the mask and your skin, wreaking havoc. Therefore, it may be helpful to swish an antiseptic mouthwash every time before putting your mask on to minimize the build-up of irritating bacteria.
It's been more than a year and a half since the pandemic started, and we're all very well familiar with the challenges it brought. For most people, maskne is probably only a minor problem at the bottom of their priority list. However, these mask-induced acne can be quite bothersome and ruin your self-esteem.
So, keep on wearing your mask during the pandemic whenever you step outside your home—and battle maskne by applying some of the tips we recommended, if not all. Regular face cleansing, changing your mask every day, and choosing suitable materials are some of the essentials to keep maskne at bay.
However, if the problem with your skin escalates, seek help and advice from your dermatologist or healthcare provider.
How do you stop maskne?
To avoid maskne, or mask-related acne, try following these tips: Wash your face before and after wearing your mask, change your mask every day, choose masks made of cotton and avoid artificial materials, use lighter makeup, exfoliate your face two times a week, take your mask off every 4 hours for about 15 minutes.
Why do I get pimples after using face mask?
Wearing a mask causes physical friction between it and your skin, leading to the damaging of the skin barrier, clogged pores, and inflammation. In addition, sebum, dirt, sweat, and bacteria get trapped between your skin and the mask, further causing acne.
What kind of mask is best for maskne?
It would be best to choose natural materials, such as cotton or silk. Also, pay make sure that the mask isn't too tight or loose. If it's too tight, your skin won't be able to breathe. On the other hand, a mask that's too loose will cause friction on your skin and irritate it.
Should I wash my face after wearing mask?
Yes, you need to wash your face every time after wearing your mask to remove all the dirt and bacteria from your skin and prevent pore clogging and inflammation. But, make sure to use gentle face cleansers without harsh soaps as these can be pretty irritating.