Masks have become part of daily life, offering an easy way to reduce our exposure to COVID-19. Despite their many public health benefits, masks come with one unpleasant side effect: acne. Mask-related acne has become so ubiquitous that you’ve likely heard the term “maskne” from family and friends to describe the blemishes and irritation that appear under masks. If you’re struggling with maskne, Dermatology Associates of Central New York offers a few tips to clear your skin and make you more comfortable beneath your mask.
What Causes Maskne?
Maskne has several causes. Masks can make our faces sweat, increasing oil production and potentially clogging pores. Our breath also creates a warm, humid environment inside a mask where yeast, acne-causing bacteria, and the mites that naturally live on our skin flourish. As these factors increase, so does mask-related acne. If you have a beard, moisture and sweat trapped within the hairs can also cause acne.
However, mask acne can also be related to stress. There’s no denying that the pandemic is stressful, and many of us feel anxiety about our health, loved ones, and the world around us. When stress levels rise, so does production of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. Cortisol can also lead to hormonal acne, which requires a different treatment approach than acne caused by clogged pores and irritation.
If you’ve developed persistent acne in your mask area, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. Rosacea, contact dermatitis, and folliculitis all look like acne, but they should not be treated as such and must be seen by a doctor.
How Can I Prevent Maskne?
Your dermatologist will provide more specific treatment advice based on your acne, but in general, these tips can help reduce inflammation and irritation to clear the skin:
- Washing your face with a gentle cleanser: If your dermatologist has not diagnosed hormonal acne, a cleanser with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can help clear up acne. If you have sensitive skin or acne persists, a medicated cleanser may help.
- Cleansing the skin throughout the day: It’s advised to wash your face once in the morning and once in the evening. When wearing a mask, cleanse after removing it at home as well. If you can’t wash your face, using a gentle toner can help.
- Avoiding makeup: Foundation and other cosmetics can clog the pores, aggravating your already irritated skin. Skip makeup on days you’ll wear a mask, or simply use eye makeup alone.
- Creating a barrier: Using a noncomedogenic lotion can help soothe acne and creates a barrier between your skin and the mask’s fabric to reduce friction. If your dermatologist advises bacteria is at the root of your acne, a thin layer of antibacterial cream can be used instead.
Good mask hygiene can help as well. Always wash your mask after wearing, and never re-use disposable masks. Dead skin cells, oil, bacteria, and more can build up on the fabric and worsen acne. Use a gentle, fragrance-free detergent to wash your mask and rinse it twice to ensure all soap has been removed.
Finally, take a break from wearing your mask every four hours if possible. Stepping outside and away from others to remove your mask for a few minutes allows your skin to breathe and the humid environment inside to dissipate. If you’ll need to wear a mask for more than four hours, consider carrying a few so you can change them out during the day.
Get Help for Acne
If these tips fail to resolve your maskne or it worsens over time, schedule an appointment with Dermatology Associates of Central New York. Dr. Amin Fazeli, M.D. Ph.D., FAAD, FACMS and our practice’s team of experienced dermatologists can identify the cause of your acne and provide effective treatment to help you look and feel your best. Contact us today to learn more.