Without doubt, 2020 has been a difficult year, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused thousands of deaths and affected millions of lives around the world. And the continuous rise of cases, and with no cure or vaccine available, we have had to adapt to a different way of living.
The new normal requires strict health protocols, including physical distancing and wearing of face masks. But, while using face masks can help prevent the transmission of the virus, it can also cause a few minor health conditions among some people. For one, the wearing of face masks has resulted in a surge of skin health issues which has been dubbed as
What is maskne?
A portmanteau of mask and acne, maskne is actually a form of acne mechanica. It is a type of skin irritation caused by mechanical friction and occlusion, particularly excessive rubbing, heat, or pressure applied against the skin.
Like most acne, acne mechanica varies in appearance. It can range from non-inflamed comedones, such as whiteheads and blackheads, to reddish inflamed pustules and papules. In severe cases, it can even progress to nodules and cysts. It can erupt anywhere on the face and the body, and it is especially common among those who are prone to acne breakouts. Several teens, athletes, and soldiers also suffer from this skin condition.
Today, however, acne mechanicahas become a more common condition for a lot of people due to prolonged use of face masks and personal protective equipment. Acne breaks out in the perioral oral covered by required masks. This is what we now know as maskne.
What triggers maskne?
Whilemaskneand acne vulgaris have similar symptoms, their causes are quite different. Acne vulgaris has more potential causes, such as hormonal imbalance, emotional stress, and environmental factors. On the other hand,masknehas a more physical root that’s mainly brought on by the use of face masks.
Maskne is caused by a combination of friction, occlusion, oil, and sweat. As the face mask rubs against your skin, micro-tears are created where bacteria and dirt are able to enter the skin and clog pores. For health care workers who have to use N95 masks during long shifts, the friction can even cause skin ulcers that are painful and cause bleeding.
Friction created by the mask is compounded by moisture trapped by the fabric. Humidity, heat, and sweat increase the amount of moisture trapped underneath the mask. Even just breathing and talking contributes to creating a warm and moist environment that becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If you have fairly sensitive skin, wearing a face mask for just a couple of hours can already trigger maskne.
Treatment and Care for Maskne
Until a cure or a vaccine for COVID-19 is made available, we may have to deal withmasknefor a long time. Thankfully, it is a skin condition that can be treated and prevented with appropriate medication and proper skin care.
Maskne Skin Care Treatment
Masknereportedly responds well to salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and similar medication. A common treatment for mild cases is the daily use of facial cleansers or body wash with salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide creams or lotions are also effective in fightingmaskne. Just be wary of how much and how often you apply it to prevent excessive dryness or peeling. Use sparingly at first, then gradually increase application to no more than twice a day.
The occasional use of dandruff shampoo with ketoconazole or selenium sulfide has also been found helpful in calming inflamed skin and removing yeast buildup around the nose and mouth. You can try using dandruff shampoo once or twice a week to see if it will alleviate your symptoms.
Some have also reported good results with diaper rash ointment, since mild symptoms of maskne are pretty much the same as that of a diaper rash. Whatever products you want to try, avoid those with powerful acids, such as alpha hydroxy acids, chemical peels, and retin A. These can further damage your already fragile skin barrier and make it even more sensitive.
Maskne Skin Care Routine
To help keepmaskneat bay and prevent further breakouts, simplify your skin care routine and avoid the overuse of skincare products.
Cleanse your face twice a day using mild soap. You can also try using medicated cleansers with benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid for moderate to severe cases. Just make sure they are in low concentrations to avoid irritations.
After cleansing, pat your face dry with a clean towel and put on light sunscreen or moisturizer. During the day, wait for your skin to fully absorb your sunscreen before putting on a face mask. This would take an additional 15 minutes or more of your routine, but it’s important to do it. At night, use moisture-rich cream to help repair the skin barrier and hydrate your skin.
Tips to Prevent Maskne
Aside from applying the appropriate treatment and changing your skin routine, here are more tips to help you avoid maskne: 1. Avoid masks made from synthetic fabrics. These can trap heat and moisture which triggers maskne breakouts.
2. Use face masks made from tightly woven soft cotton fabric. Cotton is breathable and reduces the amount of moisture trapped underneath the mask. Its smooth texture also prevents chafing and irritating the skin.
3. Ensure proper fit to reduce friction. Your mask should be neither too loose nor too tight. Use masks with adjustable ties and a nose bridge for a better fit.
4. Wash your cloth masks after every use with mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely. Avoid using heavily scented detergents or softeners that can irritate your skin.
5. Change masks often if you have to wear one for long hours. Bacteria can easily grow on masks that are moist with sweat or droplets of saliva.
6. Avoid skin care products with fragrances or those that are oil-based. Heavy ingredients, such as cocoa butter, coconut oil, and petroleum, can trigger inflammation. Skip makeup entirely to avoid clogged pores.
7. When using lotions or creams, wait until they are completely absorbed before putting your mask and clothes.
8. If possible, shower immediately after taking off your face mask and PPE. Try to at least clean your face with water and mild soap when you remove your mask to kill bacteria that may have started to grow.
Stay Safe but Keep Clear
Having maskne can be frustrating, but don’t stop wearing masks to protect yourself and your loved ones. It’s easier to deal with maskne than the coronavirus. Just follow the necessary precautions and apply proper treatment to alleviate symptoms and prevent more severe breakouts. If your maskne continues to worsen, book an online consultation with your dermatologist.
With the current health crisis across the globe, wearing face masks would be an ubiquitous part of our lives until the pandemic is over. Do what you can to stay safe while keeping your skin clear.