You’re finally getting out of the house for a get together with your friends and you take one quick glance in the mirror before heading out- you have your wallet, phone, house keys and the new OOTD essential- your face mask. Face masks have become the new normal and getting out of the house without one is unthinkable. However, after spending a few hours outside, you start to notice your face feels itchy and sweaty. The minute you get home and take out your mask, you see something that wasn’t there earlier - a big pimple staring back at you. These kind of pimples have officially got a name now- Maskne. While people are still learning about it, this is exactly your guide on what you need to know about what maskne is and what you can do to avoid it.
Maskne can be described as the skin irritation caused due to wearing face coverings
As the name suggests, maskne is the type of acne that appears on the lower face, under the area where you would wear a mask and can be caused due wearing one for a long period of time. In medical terms, it is called ‘Acne mechanica’ which is the skin condition that is the result of wearing a personal facial protective equipment for prolonged periods.
While maskne may be a new issue to us, it has been a problem for many since even before the pandemic. “It has always been an issue in professions where you have to wear a mask regularly, but now that the general public has to wear masks, the incidence of it has certainly increased” Amy Kassouf, dermatologist, tells Cleveland Clinic.
There is a science behind what is causing maskne
Since masks are made to keep out a lot of dust and germs from entering our mouth, it also traps in a lot of sweat and warm air that is caused when we breathe or talk. This warm air is the perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria to grow.
“Masks impose heat, friction and occlusion on the skin and when combined with a moist environment from breathing, talking or sweating, this is a recipe for breakouts. Pores get clogged and can become pimples or acne cysts. On top of that, the prolonged occlusion, heat and sweat can cause the skin to become dry, itchy and raw.” says Harry Dao, a dermatologist.
These bacterial imbalances and friction cause the skin to become irritated and break out with acne as well as other skin conditions
Face masks may sometimes cause skin problems besides acne too
As if the pandemic wasn’t a big enough problem, apparently skin breakouts need to be added to the list too. Apart from acne, some common skin issues that are frequently reported by face mask wearers are -
- Allergic contact dermatitis: Manufactured masks like the N95 mask which many of us use, may sometimes contain chemicals that do not suit the skin. Formaldehyde and bronopol are some of the common chemicals that are found in surgical masks. These chemicals do not agree with certain skin types and may cause an allergic reaction that could result in dermatitis
- Rosacea: It is a common skin condition that causes the skin to fear up with redness and tiny bumps. Trapped heat, friction and stress are known to be the worst aggravators of rosacea.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis : Inflamed skin that has the appearance of scales or flaky dandruff could also be a potential side effect.
- Folliculitis : As the name suggests, this condition occurs when hair follicles become trapped with yeast or bacteria causing the skin to become inflamed and break out.
After reading this, you may think that it’s better to stop wearing face masks altogether to avoid all of these skin problems, however that is not an option. One can take extremely simple but effective steps to prevent mask breakouts from happening.
What can one do to prevent maskne?
- Choose the right face mask: Choosing the right kind of fabric for your face mask is crucial as it is the most import accessory right now. Most dermatologists suggest choosing a 100% cotton, non-woven and nicely ventilated face mask allows the skin to breathe and prevents clogged pores. Choosing the right kind of face mask while exercising is also crucial, as many people have resumed going to gyms and sweating while working out could be a significant contributor to acne.
- Frequently washing your mask is advised: Someone had once said ‘Treat your mask like your underwear, it needs to be changed frequently to prevent infection’. While this may sound quirky, many doctors agree. Dr Kassouf suggests washing the mask with a fragrance-free detergent followed by rinsing it twice and then allowing it to air dry. Changing and frequently washing masks can prevent irritation caused due to buildup of bacteria and will also leave your mask smelling fresh and not of your sweat when you wear it next time.
- Break up with your makeup (just for now): If you wear makeup you already know how irritated your skin gets after spending a day out under the hot sun. Add in factors of a mask and it a recipe for disaster. Even the American Academy of Dermatology insists on minimising the use of makeup products if you absolutely have to wear it, as it will cause clogged pores and breakouts. Not to mention, can you imagine the stains that your foundation may leave on your mask? that’s an embarrassment that you could very well avoid.
Even if one may take all these precautions while wearing a mask, a few breakouts are bound to happen. However, following these few remedies could make your skin spotless again.
How to treat maskne if it happens?
Since wearing a mask is mandatory when you step out of the house, these are a few tips and tricks that you could add to your skincare routine if you do find your skin breaking out with maskne-
- Pimple patches or spot treatments: These have absolutely changed the skincare game. They use hydrocolloid (which is also used in band-aids) and drains the pus and oil off your nasty pimple. You could put one on at night and find yourself waking up to baby smooth skin in the morning. Some good over the counter spot treatments contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid and can be effectively used to combat acne
- Moisturiser that hydrates: A dry face could be more prone to itchiness and breaking hence making sure that your face is well hydrated could prevent skin acne. Choosing a moisturiser that is non-comedogenic hydrating and suitable for all skin types can keep your skin healthy.
- Facial toners: Adding a facial toner to your skincare routine will not only leave your skin glowing but it will also help trap excess dirt and bacteria that your face wash may have missed. Choosing a toner that is made with natural ingredients will replenish your skin.
- Do not forget the sunscreen: While using skin makeup may clog pores, sunscreen can be an effective barrier against your sensitive skin and the friction of the face mask. It will not only protect your face from the UV rays but a sunblock that contains zinc or titanium can help your skin by serving as a barrier against any friction or irritation that develops.
- Exfoliate your skin: A once in a week exfoliation of skin should not be skipped as it will unclog your pores and leave it, baby smooth. However, it should not be done more than once a week as over-exfoliation may irritate the skin further making it more prone to breakouts.
Ditching your mask is NOT an option
While you may be wondering if wearing a mask is worth all the skin problems that may come with it, it is non-negotiable. Look at it this way, if you do find yourself breaking out, you can easily use a few pimple creams and spot treatments to make them go away but if you inadvertently end up with COVID 19, a few bumps on the skin will be the least of your worries. Besides, if you do find yourself waking up to a new pimple, what better way than to cover it up with a face mask!