WHAT IS “MASKNE” AND HOW TO PREVENT IT
Since the Covid pandemic hit us last year, we have been living quite differently, including the way we take care of our face. The use of face coverings, although essential for our safety, brought a new skin issue: maskne.
What is maskne?
This is a type of acne that you get in the area where the face mask is worn. The area where the acne appears is called “O zone” and covers the area around the mouth and chin. It is important to note that maskne is an umbrella term, that includes skin irritation, redness, and bumps, in addition to acne.
What causes maskne?
Although we are not sure about the exact cause, there are few theories. Based on scientific research, I found out that one or more of the following could contribute to maskne:
- a disruption of the normal skin microbiome, PH and temperature, due to a change of the local environment to a hotter and more humid one. This is particularly true during the hot months and during physical exercise, when higher temperatures can affect the microenvironment even more.
- The friction of the mask on the skin, also known as acne mechanica. Masks are supposed to fit snugly, however this can increase the likelihood of rubbing and chafing.
- Increase in clogged pores, due to build-up of oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. As a result, we are more likely to develop acne and skin infections.
- Certain chemicals present in the mask or in the detergent we wash it with, could irritate the skin, increasing redness.
How to prevent maskne?
Here are some tips that you can follow to help prevent the incurrence of maskne, while still wearing a mask.
- If you are using a fabric mask, wash it often, with mild, unscented detergent. Research found that aggressive or heavily scented detergents can worsen irritation. If you use a disposable mask, ensure that you change it regularly, ideally every 4 hours.
- Wash your face every morning and evening, and after you remove your mask. This will help to remove dirt, excess oil, and bacteria from your skin, that otherwise could build up and cause eruptions. Because you are washing your face more often than usual, make sure you use a delicate wash or a cream cleanser.
- Try to take a break from make-up because it can clog your pores even further. You can still wear eye make-up if you like, but I would avoid foundations and powders until your maskne clears up.
- Apply a light moisturiser before wearing a mask, ideally a non-comedogenic one, to add a protective layer on your skin. This is particularly important if you suffer from dry skin, however I recommend it for all skin types.
- The American Association of Dermatologists suggests that, if possible, removing your mask every 4 hours for about 15 minutes, would help your skin “breathe”.
You must ensure to follow the government guidelines regarding when you can remove it and wash your hands thoroughly before you do it. Visit the gov.uk website for more information and advice.
While we still need to continue wearing a face mask, it is important to understand what we can do to reduce the likelihood of skin reactions and maintain skin health. If you struggle with a skin condition, speak to your healthcare practitioner for personalised advice.
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Damiani G, Gironi LC, Grada A, et al. (2021). COVID-19 related masks increase severity of both acne (maskne) and rosacea (mask rosacea): Multi-centre, real-life, telemedical, and observational prospective study. Dermatologic Therapy, e14848. doi: 10.1111/dth.14848. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33533563.
Teo WL. (2021). Diagnostic and management considerations for “maskne” in the era of COVID-19. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84(2), 520–521. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2020.09.063
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The American Association of Dermatologists (2021). www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-secrets/face/prevent-face-mask-skin-problems. [online].