How to solve “Maskne” (mask acne) breakouts
Of all the skincare concerns consumers Googled this past year, there was one that topped all others: maskne. The global Covid-19 pandemic forced a worldwide population to suddenly wear face masks daily. Frontline health workers faced the biggest urgency for masking up but everyone from teens walking to school to retirees visiting grocery stores were required to slip on masks. It suddenly became a part of our daily life.
To start, maskne is a breakout of pimples primarily caused by wearing a cloth face mask. The medical term for the condition is ‘acne mechanica’ and it is the result of the friction of the mask fabric rubbing against the skin. It’s the friction that irritates the skin causing inflammation leading to acne.
Acne itself, is a skin condition that occurs when pores are clogged with sebum, skin cells, sweat, moisture or dirt. These clog propinibacterium acnes bacteria, which naturally occurs on the skin, in our pores. When trapped beneath the skin’s surface, ithe bacteria can cause inflammation and infection leading to the creation of ‘pimples’.
Not surprisingly, it isn’t just the mask friction that can lead to these uncomfortable breakouts. Sweat and humidity from your breath gets trapped in the mask. Dermatologist believe this sweat and humidity trapped under a mask for a prolonged period of time can spur these breakouts. It’s a combination of mask friction and trapped breath that causes maskne.
If you find yourself dealing with an acne breakout under your mask, there are steps to help heal and solve this skin condition quickly. To start, switch to a double-layered lightweight cotton mask if you can. Synthetic masks tend to trap moisture and bacteria more than natural fabrics. Clean it daily with fragrance-free and dye-free gentle detergents. Fragrance is the number one skin irritant so this single step could solve the issue.
If you are suffering from a bad maskne breakout, try switching to a clean face mask every two hours. This will prevent the humidity and bacteria from building up under the mask.
Try a spot treatment on your acne spots. Look for a formula that contains benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.
Wash your face twice a day using a very gentle cream cleanser. Avoid any cleanser containing sodium lauryl sulfate as it can strip skin’s moisture barrier. Use lukewarm water to rinse and apply a lightweight oil-free moisturizer. Look for one with hyaluronic acid which has soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. You may want to go light with the makeup as many foundations and primers contain oils which can clog pores when they are trapped under a mask.
Don’t forget your lips. Lips are one of the areas likely to be most impacted by mask wearing. Be sure to apply a good quality lip balm regularly to prevent mask irritation and dryness.
If you follow these simple steps, you may find that your maskne clears up in a few days. If the condition persists or gets worse, it is worth contacting your doctor or dermatologist. You may need prescription cream or treatment to bring your skin back into a healthy balance.
And to everyone who is wearing a mask daily, thank you. You are helping to prevent the community spread of this virus.