Face masks have become an essential part of our everyday lives thanks to the recent Covid-19 pandemic. While it is crucial to wear face 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 are a doctor, nurse, front-line worker, or belong to any other profession that requires you to wear a face mask on a regular basis, you are likely familiar with maskne, and it might not come as a surprise to you that a face mask can cause your skin to breakout. Unfortunately, as face masks don’t seem to be going away any time soon, maskne also appears to stay and cause irritating skin issues. This guide contains all you need to know about preventing and treating maskne.
What is Maskne?
Acne Mechanica is the medical term used for maskne. It is caused by prolonged use of facial protective equipment or face masks. However, acne isn’t the only skin problem you may notice as a result of wearing a face mask regularly. Some other issues reported by mask wearers include rosacea, contact dermatitis, 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 pave 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 folliculitis, contact dermatitis, and rosacea. Finally, perioral dermatitis is also common in maskne, in which you will see pimples and pustules appearing around your mouth and nose.
How to Prevent Maskne
Many of us are trying to adjust to wearing masks every day and how it affects our skin. Here is what you can do to maintain healthy skin without dumping your face masks:
- Keep Your Skin Cleansed and Moisturized - Thorough 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. Also, 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 gentler skincare products. Swapping your mainstream products with gentle and non-comedogenic 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 and serums with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, Coenzyme Q10, vitamin E and C, glycerine, or fatty acids.
At Sundree, we have formulated gentle and mighty products that nourish the skin while enhancing your glow. Our RYSE+SHYNE Facial Serum is a vegan formula that includes hyaluronic acid for added hydration, vitamin c for brightening, and niacinamide to help improve skin texture while minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- 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. It’s time to cut back on your skincare products that can potentially harm your skin. Avoid abrasive scrubs, chemical peels, chemical exfoliators, and other perfumed products. Stick to a few gentle products that will cleanse, moisturize, and protect your skin. 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 from 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 going makeup-free, especially if you have sensitive, inflamed, or acne-prone skin. In case you can’t stop wearing makeup, opt for non-comedogenic makeup products.¹ Also, a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen is an excellent alternative for a foundation. Many choose this option to help hydrate the skin while evening out their complexion.
- Keep Your Mask Clean - If you choose to wear a cloth mask instead of one-time-use disposable masks, it is 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 is 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 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 mask that is too tight can also irritate the skin, so make sure to buy a face mask that fits properly.
- Avoid Touching Your Face - It may seem to be quite challenging not to touch your face throughout the day, but this simple habit can help prevent acne, itching, and inflammation on your skin. Touching your face may add extra dirt, bacteria, and oil to your skin. It is 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. Certain active ingredients can make your skin sensitive. So, watch out for the concentration you use and apply these products before your bedtime to help prevent irritation.
How to Treat Maskne
If you have maskne, you need to take special measures to treat and manage it. Here is 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 less than 5 percent benzoyl peroxide instead of 10 percent as you would in the case of acne.² Also, use a benzoyl peroxide product as your spot treatment. You can also choose retinol for breakouts and apply it 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 from the rubber, fabric, metal, or dyes used in your face mask.³ Using a hydrocortisone cream may help to relieve the problem. However, to make sure you don’t harm your skin while treating maskne, it’s always best to consult a dermatologist.
If none of the treatments appear to be effective in treating your maskne, you might need to look at other causes that may be leading to acne and flare-ups. The real culprit may not be your face mask. There are other factors that can lay the grounds for acne and inflammatory skin problems, such as stress and diet.
Maskne or Acne Mechanica has been on the rise now that more people are wearing masks. This skin problem manifests in the form of acne, itchy, dry, inflamed, and reddened skin. The use of masks will likely be a part of many people’s daily routine, but not to worry because there are effective ways of preventing and treating maskne to ensure healthy 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, consult a skincare specialist.
- Harris, Jessica. (2020). ‘#SkinSchool: Everything you need to know about non-comedogenic skincare’, Accessed September 30, 2021. Available at: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/beauty/skincare/a32263943/non-comedogenic-skincare/
- ‘Benzoyl Peroxide Gel’, Webmd.com. Accessed October 1, 2021. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-1344/benzoyl-peroxide-topical/details
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). ‘Contact Dermatitis’, org. Accessed October 2, 2021. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/contact-dermatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352742