Maskne is a relatively new problem that is a result of having to wear face coverings to avoid spreading and catching COVID-19. Because masks cover both the nose and mouth, moisture gets trapped in the covered part of the face. Yeast, bacteria, and other unwanted flora collects on the face and gets caught in the pores of the wearer. The result is what is become known as Maskne.
Maskne is a type of acne has been plaguing people in the medical community for years, as they have had to wear masks for surgical procedures. Now that wearing masks is part of the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem has gone mainstream.
What is ‘Maskne’ and Why Does It Happen?
Maskne is the problem that comes from bacterial imbalances from wearing a mask all day. The bacteria and friction can cause pimples and other acne-related issues to flare up under the mask. Maskne can also develop as rosacea and dermatitis with small pustules building up around the mouth.
Maskne includes more symptoms than just pimples and blackheads. The areas where the mask rubs against the skin can become inflamed, itchy, and red. Some people also develop rashes that can burn or sting. Other common problems from continually wearing masks include dry chapped skin, eczema problems, and cold sores.
The problem is exacerbated when people do not wash their masks regularly. People are more likely to develop acne when they are living in a stressful environment. If the mask doesn’t fit well and it irritates the skin, acne can be the result.
Can Makeup, Lotions, or Sunscreen Make Maskne Worse?
Many people think that wearing lotions, makeup, and sunscreen can make the skin develop acne more quickly, but this isn’t always the case. There are some moisturizers and sunscreens that help keep acne at bay. The key is to find products that keep the skin in balance. Sunscreens often contain zinc which can block friction from your mask.
It is better to use a light moisturizer instead of a heavy one. A heavy moisturizer can increase the moisture under your mask.
If you wear makeup, know that your masks will need to be washed more frequently. Also, if you wear N95 or surgical masks, you will most likely not be able to reuse them. Otherwise, a light layer of makeup shouldn’t make your Maskne any worse.
Can Certain Mask Fabrics Cause Maskne?
Some fabrics can irritate the face more frequently. Unfortunately, the lightweight fabrics that provide ventilation do not protect well against COVID-19. The most problematic fabrics are the heavier fabrics that have a tight weave because moisture builds up under them. If you have several layers and a filter, you are more likely to have moisture build-up.
One of the best fabrics to prevent Maskne is cotton because it is soft and breathable. Silk masks with several layers are also good choices because the softness prevents friction. Paper surgical masks are another good choice because they don’t irritate the skin.
Fabrics that are made from plastics tend to be more irritating for the skin. Nylon, leather, and neoprene are not as breathable as cotton. While this is good for reducing the chances of catching COVID-19, it does not help keep pimples at bay.
Why You Need to Keep Your Mask Clean
Before wearing a reusable mask, wash it to remove any coating on the fabric. If the fabric can be put in the dryer, use the heat to kill off the bacteria that can build-up on it. Wash and dry the mask after every use to kill bacteria and soften the fabric. You should also avoid using a detergent with a fragrance because that can irritate your skin, too.
Laundering helps remove any contaminants from the outside of the mask. Remember, the whole point of wearing a mask is to help stop the spread of COVID-19. So, if you are around people who have been infected, there is a chance their droplets landed on the outside of your mask. Which means you should wash your mask frequently.
If you exercise while wearing it, washing it will also help remove the bacteria from your sweat. Experts recommend washing it with a detergent, rinsing it twice, then drying it on the highest possible setting.
Skin-Care Tips That Can Help Prevent Maskne
Choosing a soft mask, wearing a skin-balancing moisturizer, and following a skin-cleansing routine will reduce your chances of developing problematic Maskne. It is tough to keep all of the pimples away, but using a foaming cleanser can help. The goal is to keep the skin in balance, so if you already struggle with acne, you might want to consider using products with salicylic acid.
Some experts recommend using a dandruff shampoo – on your face. The ingredients like ketoconazole and selenium sulfide will calm the skin and remove bacteria and yeast from around the nose and mouth. Keep in mind that dandruff shampoo treats the scalp, so it is safe to use on the face – just don’t use it every day or your face might dry out.
People who have acne-prone skin often use benzoyl peroxide to treat acne. There is nothing wrong with continuing this practice, but benzoyl peroxide will bleach fabrics. So, your mask might be a different color after you wear it.
How to Effectively Treat Maskne if It Happens
If you have acne, you should not touch it or try to pop the pimples. If you mess around with your Maskne, it will only get worse, and trying to pop it could cause scars. Instead, use a pimple patch. They act as little wound dressings and dry out the pimple. You can wear them under your mask and no one will know.
It is also a good idea to avoid using a scrub, which can irritate the skin and cause more problems. You won’t make the acne go away immediately with a scrub or face wash. Instead, use a gentle cleanser that has benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Just remember that benzoyl peroxide does bleach fabrics. The best spot treatments contain 2.5 to 5 percent of benzoyl peroxide.
To get the skin back in balance, consider a light moisturizer that contains ceramides. Avoid all moisturizers with oils or fragrances, because those will further irritate the skin. Many experts also recommend a hyaluronic acid to help bring the skin into balance. To protect the skin from sun damage, use a sunscreen that contains zinc as zinc helps to prevent moisture from building up.
Maskne Skin Problem: When To Call the Dermatologist
At the first sign of a pimple, you might be tempted to call your dermatologist. But, there is no need to rush. Maskne is a real problem and over-the-counter remedies will help. However, if you have tried everything, then you should call the dermatologist.
It is also important to call the dermatologist if you have any pain or signs of infection on your face. It can be difficult to treat eczema, so you should call your healthcare provider if you develop it on your face. The skin on your face should not experience burning or stinging, so those are other symptoms that should trigger a call to your dermatologist.
You don’t have to suffer from maskne. There are steps you can take, from using a gentle, skin-balancing moisturizer to wearing a safe, but breathable mask. If you continue to struggle with maskne, it doesn’t hurt to give your dermatologist a call.