After the outbreak of the Covid-19, wearing face masks has become an essential part of our everyday routines. While it’s crucial to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus, many of us, especially those with sensitive skin, are experiencing a new type of skin problem, maskne. If you’re a doctor, front-line worker, or belong to any other profession that requires you to wear a face mask regularly, you must be familiar with this skin woe, and it might not come as a surprise to you that a face mask can wreak such havoc on your skin.
As covid-19 doesn’t seem to go away any time soon, the problem also appears to stay with us for an indeterminate period and requires immediate attention. Here’s all you need to know about preventing and treating maskne:
What is Maskne?
Acne Mechanica is the medical term used for Maskne, showing that maskne isn’t a new or imaginary skin problem. It’s caused by prolonged use of facial protective equipment or faces masks. However, acne isn’t the only skin problem you may notice due to wearing a face mask regularly. Some other issues reported by mask wearers include rosacea, contact dermatitis, folliculitis, and seborrheic dermatitis. All these skin issues are characterized by irritation, redness, and flakiness of the skin.
What Causes Maskne?
Let us now decipher the science behind the formation of maskne on the face. Wearing masks generates friction, heat, and occlusion on the skin, which combines with moisture or humidity produced as we talk, sweat, or breathe. This synergy can prove to be noxious for your skin, paving the way for bacterial growth and clogged pores, which, ultimately, leads to acne breakouts. Acne resulting from wearing face masks can even take the form of pimples or acne cysts. Furthermore, inflammation and allergic reactions can also cause rashes, excessive dryness, itching, and inflammatory skin conditions, such as seborrheic dermatitis, folliculitis, contact dermatitis, and rosacea. Perioral dermatitis is also common in maskne, in which you’ll see pimples and pustules appearing around your mouth and nose.
How to Prevent Maske?
Are you new to the world of maskne or mask-related skin woes? Well, many of us are struggling to adjust to here’s what you can do to maintain healthy skin without dumping your face masks:
Keep Your Skin Cleansed and moisturizedThorough cleansing and moisturization are imperative to keeping the skin in its best health. It removes all the impurities along with protecting and strengthening the skin’s outer barrier. So, don’t forget to follow your twice-daily cleansing routine followed by a moisturizing lotion, gel, or cream that suits your skin. This step will prevent mask-related problems by drawing out impurities, including bacteria, from the pores, reducing acne breakouts, and relieving dryness. Don’t forget to moisturize and protect your lips with a lip balm.
- Use Gentle Skincare Products
Another important step towards preventing maskne is switching to milder skincare products. Swapping your mainstream products with gentle, non-comedogenic, and chemical-free products can reduce your likelihood of getting maskne. Use a gentle cleanser, preferably formulated with natural ingredients, like tea tree, vitamin E, green tea, and aloe vera. Similarly, look for a moisturizer made with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, Coenzyme Q10, vitamin E and C, glycerine, or fatty acids.
- Simplify Your Skincare Routine
We are all aware that wearing a mask on a daily basis can make our skin more vulnerable to irritation and dryness. Even using your usual skincare products can exacerbate your sensitive skin. Hence, it’s time to cut back on your skincare products that can potentially harm your skin. Avoid acne treatments with salicylic acid, abrasive scrubs, chemical peels, chemical exfoliators, aftershaves, and other perfumed products. Stick to a few gentle products that will cleanse, moisturize, and protect your skin, i.e., a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Also, now isn’t the time to experiment with new products. Therefore, don’t add new products to your skincare routine to avoid unforeseen side effects on the skin, which can worsen due to wearing a mask.
- Go Easy on Your Makeup
When you wear makeup under your face mask, it can combine with sebum, dead skin, and other impurities and accumulate into your pores, paving the way for acne and may also flare up your inflammatory skin problems. So, consider breaking up with your makeup, especially if you have sensitive, inflamed, or acne-prone skin. In case you can’t break your habit of wearing, opt for non-comedogenic and alcohol-free makeup products. Tinted moisturizer with sunscreen is a great alternative for a foundation.
- Keep Your Mask Clean
If you choose to wear a cloth mask instead of one-time-use disposable masks, it’s essential that you keep your mask clean. Oil, bacteria, dead skin, and moisture can build up on the inner surface of the mask, which may lead to various skin problems. Hence, it’s highly recommended that you wash your cloth mask after each use to get rid of all the impurities collected on it. Follow washing instructions that come with your mask and use hypoallergenic and fragrance-free laundry products to clean your mask.
- Use the Right Type of Mask
Another way of reducing the possibility of maskne is to use the right kind of face mask. Look for a cloth face mask made with a breathable layer of soft cotton on the inside to rule out the probability of friction and irritation. When cloth masks made of synthetic fabric rest or rub against your skin, it can damage the skin. Additionally, a too tight or too loose mask can also irritate the skin. So, buy a face mask with a comfortable and snug fit. A snug-fit mask will help to protect you and those around you from the virus.
- Avoid Touching Your Face
It may seem to be quite challenging not to touch your face throughout the day, but this simple-looking habit can help prevent acne, itching, and inflammation on your skin. Touching your face may add extra dirt, bacteria, and oil to your skin, adding to your skin problems. It’s imperative that you wash your hands properly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching your face or applying skincare and makeup products.
- Avoid Harsh Skincare Ingredients
There are many ingredients used in skincare products and medications that can irritate the skin, aggravating your skin problems due to wearing a face mask daily. Some of the ingredients to stay clear of include retinol, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and other ingredients that make your skin sensitive, scaly, and dry. Applying these ingredients under your mask can make your problem worse. So, watch out for the concentration you use and apply these products before your bedtime to prevent any harsh effects.
How to Treat Maskne
If you have ended up with maskne due to improper skincare or unhealthy habits, you need to take special measures to treat and manage it. Unlike regular acne, you can’t just go gangbusters on your maskne. Here’s what you can do:
- Since acne treatments and face masks themselves can be irritating to the skin, you should use the right concentrations of acne treatments to achieve desired results without further damaging the skin. If you choose to use benzoyl peroxide, start with products formulated with 2.5 or 5 percent of benzoyl peroxide instead of 10 percent as you would in the case of regular acne. Also, use a benzoyl peroxide product as your spot treatment. You can also combine it with retinol and apply them on alternate nights.
If you are noticing scars or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation due to maskne, a topical product with glycolic acid is your best bet to get rid of both acne and hyperpigmentation.
- If you are seeing rashes instead of pimples and blemishes on your skin and you feel the urge to scratch your skin, you’re dealing with something other than acne. It’s possible that you have contact dermatitis, which may result due to the rubber, fabric, metal, or dyes used in your face mask. Using a hydrocortisone cream can help to relieve the problem.
However, to make sure you don’t harm your skin while treating maskne or mask-related inflammation, it’s always the best course of action to take advice from your skin specialist.
- If none of the treatments appear to be effective in treating your maskne, you might need to look at other factors that may be leading to acne and flare-ups of your inflammatory skin issues. The real culprit may not be your face mask. Stress and diet are two of the prominent reasons that can lay the grounds for acne and exacerbation of inflammatory skin problems.
Maskne or acne mechanica has been around from a long time, but the onset of the Covid-19 has led to an increase in the cases of maskne. This skin problem manifests in the form of acne, raw, itchy, dry, inflamed, and reddened skin. It’s an established fact that ditching your face masks is not an option. There are various effective ways of preventing and treating maskne to ensure integrity and health of your skin. You can do so by making some changes to your skincare routine and daily habits. If your skin problems persist despite all the efforts, call your dermatologist.