If it is not already mandatory to wear a face mask where you live, then it is probably strongly recommended like it is here in Sydney. Unless you work in a healthcare setting like me where it is not possible to socially distance yourself from patients, making it mandatory to wear one. If your do find yourself wearing a mask you may want to know about maskne.
So what is 'maskne'?
A brand spanking new category of acne, thanks to COVID-19. #ISOSKIN is caused irritation caused from face coverings. Whether that be disposable or reusable masks. Often you will find this type of acne in places where your skin has had direct contact with a mask or places covered by the mask such as the chin, cheeks and around the nose.
What causes ‘maskne’?
Maskne is a result of sweat, condensation from your breath, oils, moisture and bacteria that are trapped under your mask, causing clogs. Creating a perfect moist environment for bacteria to flourish. The design of the masks is to stop the transmission of droplets. These droplets are in turn trapped under that mask and rubbing against your skin. The fibres of the mask can also irritate the skin causing further breakouts.
Like the golden rule in skincare, it is best to prevent rather than to treat.
So, what can you do to prevent maskne?
- Like preventing COVID-19, hand hygiene is everything! You often touch your face without noticing. Especially when you sweep your bangs behind your ears, scratch an itchy spot, or go to push your glasses up. If you have dirty hands then you are introducing all that bacteria onto your face. As a nurse I am constantly washing my hands and making sure I only touch my face with clean hands.
- Avoid wearing makeup, or wear less makeup. All the products that you have applied is trapped under the mask and has nowhere to go but deeper into your skin. No one asked but I personally only wear eyebrow products daily and actually haven’t experienced maskne.
- Thoroughly cleansing your skin with a gentle cleanser. You don't want to further compromise your skin barrier, so avoid anything that is stripping. I would suggest double cleansing if your skin allows.
- Minimise your skincare routine (especially during the time you have to wear a mask) and work on protecting and strengthening your skin barrier. Use ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides and anti-inflammatory ingredients like cica (centella asiatica), colloidal oatmeal or azelaic acid.
- Avoid lip products when wearing a mask. Many lip products are usually quite thick and has added fragrance. All of this will be transferred onto the mask and then onto your skin. This can lead to further congestion of the pores or the sebaceous glands, resulting in breakouts.
- Be wary of the types of mask you wear. If you are wearing disposable masks, make sure you replace often. The hospital that I work at encourages all staff to replace their (provided) face masks every four hours as this ensures the efficacy of the mask. If you are using reusable masks ensure that you have more than just one. Wash them daily or after every use with a non-irritating and fragrance free detergent. As for material, use a gentle type of fabric like cotton or silk if you can. Hard and synthetic fibres rubbing against your skin will cause irritation, which may lead to maskne.
If you do have maskne try using pimple patches under your mask to prevent further irritation and spread of bacteria.
Putting maskne aside, I really hope you are all staying safe. Put on a mask if it is recommended or enforced, you much rather deal with maskne than COVID. Stay a safe distance from others, wash your hands and isolate if you are sick!
With love always,