With the CDC asking Americans to wear face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, people are stepping up to cover up. This means that mask-wearing is quickly becoming a normal part of life. Unfortunately, the new facial accessory has one downside (only a slight inconvenience compared to the potential alternative that comes with not wearing a mask). Cue the cute name for the not-so-cute side effect: maskne.
Maskne, or mask acne, is an uncomfortable skin irritation that targets those with sensitive skin. Following are a few tips for preventing, identifying and treating it:
What is maskne?
Simply put, maskne is a type of skin breakout from wearing a face covering for an extended period. It comes with a variety of unpleasant symptoms, which can make you more inclined to touch your face, adjust your mask – or not wear one altogether. This is exactly what we’re not supposed to do.
Maskne typically flares up around your mouth, cheeks and jawline in the form of:
- Redness, itchiness and irritation
- Rashes, and even peeling skin
Causes of maskne
One of the following (or a combination of the two) typically causes Maskne:
- Pressure, friction and rubbing from where a mask sits on the face (also known as acne mechanica)
- Sweat, oil, moisture and bacteria getting trapped between the mask and the skin
To avoid the first cause, switch to a softer, better-made and properly fitting mask.
The second cause, however, is not quite as easy to treat. According to Ife J. Rodney, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founding director of Eternal Dermatology Aesthetics in Fulton, Maryland, it’s a recipe for acne.
“In healthy skin, there are normal amounts of bacteria and yeast that live there, but when pores become clogged because of excess sweat and moisture from the mask, these organisms overgrow, leading to pimples or acne cysts,” Rodney says.
The solution? Get a little stricter with your skincare routine (keep reading!).
How to prevent maskne
Just like practicing good hygiene helps to slow the spread of COVID-19, adopting a solid, hygienic skincare routine will also help to prevent maskne flare-ups.
To prevent mask acne, be sure to:
- Wash your face regularly (ideally before and after wearing your mask) to keep pores clean
- Regularly apply a facial moisturizer to keep skin hydrated and to help replenish your skin’s natural protective barrier
- Cut out makeup entirely, or opt for non-comedogenic products to allow your skin to breathe beneath a mask
- Choose a snug, soft cotton mask to reduce rubbing and irritation
- Wash your mask after each use to keep bacteria at bay
- Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated from the inside out
How to treat, relieve and get rid of maskne
Maskne is a highly treatable skin ailment, and so, responds well to common acne treatments and medications.
To treat maskne, make sure to:
- Exfoliate and hydrate (and choose protective products): Clear your skin of dead skin cells with an exfoliant, then apply a rich moisturizer containing powerful ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or ceramides to help seal in hydration, and block out bacteria and other skin irritants from your pores.
- Spot-treat problem areas: Elizabeth Mullans, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Uptown Dermatology in Houston, Texas, recommends spot-treating problem areas with products (including cleansers) that contain salicylic acid, sulfur, zinc, or 2.5% benzoyl peroxide to help unclog pores and reduce inflammation.
- Use retinol: Because retinol speeds up cell turnover, applying it means you’re able to peel away dead skin cells so they can’t clog up your pores. Dr. Mullens recommends using a pea-sized amount of retinol several nights a week before gradually increasing the frequency.
As long as we’re all wearing face masks, maskne will continue to be a problem to manage – especially for those with sensitive skin. However, adopting a stricter skincare regimen to accommodate your skin’s current needs will have added long-term benefits you might just come to love!
To find out what not to do when your skin breaks out, click here.