To adhere to the COVID-19 measures, wearing a face mask has probably by now become part of your daily outfit. Much as this the best defense against the coronavirus, strapping a cloth to your face is not exactly great for your skin; it can cause irritation, breakouts, or even acne. Doctors, nurses, and other frontline healthcare workers are at higher risk of experiencing mask-induced acne because they wear them for more extended periods, and their masks are tight-fitting. According to a research letter published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, at least 83 percent of healthcare workers in China suffered skin problems, mainly on the face.
Mask-induced acne, colloquially known as “maskne,” is a condition where friction force from the face mask causes skin pores to clog, leading to acne formation. The masks also create a warm and moist environment that is suitable for bacterial growth. When you add the humidity and heat in the summer, you have a breakout festival. The clinical term for maskne is acne mechanica.
What Are the Causes of Maskne?
Three things mainly cause acne Mechanica:
- Friction – the rubbing and friction force of the mask over your skin brings about an irritation; it is almost like a rug burn. The most at-risk areas are the places where the mask or face shield touches the skin closely. For a face shield, it would be the forehead. For a mask, it would be the bridge of the nose, the lower cheek area, the places the elastic bands hit behind the ears, and for some people, the chin area may be affected. Wearing a tight-fitting mask over time will put enough pressure to break out your skin.
- Irritation – there are several things on your mask that could irritate. First is the material of the mask; it absorbs the natural oils on your skin, and for some people, it will lead to skin sensitivity and dryness. If you are wearing a washable mask, the detergents and softeners used in cleaning get stuck on the mask’s surface and can cause skin irritation. When it progresses to inflammation, you will observe dry patches, redness, peeling, or little bumps.
- Occlusion – this is the blockage or obstruction of a blood vessel or hollow organ. The friction from the mask can cause your pores to clog. Clogged pores can develop to pimples or acne cysts. The conditions inside the mask are warm and moist, perfect for the growth of bacteria. This can cause regular acne while leading to a breakout known as folliculitis; this is when bacteria infect the hair follicles.
How to tell you are experiencing acne from your mask.
To know if you are experiencing acne from your mask, check for redness, a little bumpy rash around the bridge of your nose, the cheek area, the cheeks, and the places where the mask elastics hit behind your ears.
The location of your acne will tell you if it is indeed maskne or regular acne.
Tips to Protect Your Skin from Mask-Induced Acne.
- Wash your face– Always wear a mask over a clean look. The oil and dirt on the skin’s surface will easily get trapped under the mask and cause breakouts. Go for a gentle, oil-free, and fragrance-free cleanser. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing the skin. Rinse out with lukewarm water, do not use hot water.
- Moisture– Applying a good moisturizer will keep your skin hydrated and act as a barrier to friction from the mask. Some ingredients to look for in your moisturizer are protective ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramide. Like the cleanser, go for an oil and fragrance-free moisturizer. Also, avoid heavy or thick products that could clog your pores.
- Break-up with makeup– If it is possible, take a break from applying makeup when wearing masks. Suppose you cannot use every other day rather than daily. Also, tone down on the products you apply. This reduces the chances of melting if you sweat underneath the mask and decrease your pores’ chances. Makeup residue can soil your mask’s fabric; therefore, if you must apply makeup, top it off with a good setting spray to avoid the transfer.
Wear Clean Masks Only.
If you prefer wearing disposable masks, skip to tip number three. For those who prefer cloth masks, keeping a number of them is essential. Oil, dirt, makeup, and bacteria from your nose and mouth will end up getting trapped on your cloth mask. Therefore, wearing it without washing will mean wearing all these harmful elements, causing havoc on your skin. Consequently, it is advisable to have a couple of masks that you can rotate and wash after each use.
Do Not Reuse Surgical Masks.
Surgical masks are not to be reused as there is no proper way to clean them.
Protect Your Ears.
The elastic straps that go around your ears can cause friction burns. You might consider masks with alternative fastenings such as round the head tie straps or use clips behind the head for those with sensitive skin.
- Wash with fragrance-free detergent. Fragrances in a fabric can be an irritant to the facial skin. When washing your cloth mask, select a fragrance-free detergent.
- Post mask cleanse. Do not forget to wash your face after taking off the mask. Cleansing, especially with an antibacterial cleanser, will do well at ensuring your skin is entirely bacteria-free.
- Moisturize Again. If you are taking off your mask at the end of the day, applying your nighttime skincare routine after this would be ideal. In your nighttime skincare routine, make sure you do not forget to use a moisturizer as it will lock in the skin’s moisture and the products applied underneath it. A post mask routine that includes your nighttime skincare regimen is essential for those that wear masks daily: this is because it is the time to enrich your skin with nutrients as it repairs its cells.
- Bonus tip- grow a beard. This is, of course, a bonus tip for the gentlemen. Allowing a little facial hair to grow can help your skin survive to be under a mask for long hours. Having a bit of stubble could help prevent ingrown hair that could develop if the hair is closely shaven then repeatedly rubbed by a mask.
How to Treat Maskne if You Get it.
In case you are already feeling the effects of wearing masks often, here are some of the things you can do to tackle the most common issues:
- Peeling skin/dryness- these are the first signs of maskne. With time, your skin begins to become sensitive and progresses to redness and breakdown. Applying moisturizer before putting on your mask and applying petroleum ointment after taking it off will deal with this.
- Redness- if you are already experiencing redness and swelling, try icing the skin. For this, you can use a frozen pea-bag or ice cubes. Cushion the ice in a paper towel and place over the skin for a few minutes at a time.
- Acne breakouts- if you have already started experiencing breakouts under your mask, you might need to change your masks and moisturizer. Get a moisturizer that is light and non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog your pores. If the breakouts get worse, you might need to see a doctor.
The Best Material for Face Masks.
An ideal cloth mask is one made out of tightly-woven one hundred percent cotton fabric. Cotton face masks are gentle on the skin and offer an outstanding balance between protection and breathability.
With the understanding that the coronavirus is a pandemic and might be with us for a long time, it would be safe to adjust your skincare regimen for healthier and better-looking skin even under masks.