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Tips on how to Keep Maskne at Bay

Post-covid, the humble face mask has become the new norm. As we begin to emerge from the safety of our homes, health experts and government authorities urge the use of face masks as the most effective protection against the pandemic. However, constantly wearing the masks, has resulted in a new skin problem – pimples, redness, irritation, peeling, and inflammation of skin in the areas surrounding the mouth. To put it more specifically, the acne breakouts can be seen on around the lips, on cheeks and the jawline that get covered up by the face mask, when you don it constantly.       

This unique skin condition that imitates acne, is being widely reported by people who have started wearing the face mask, thus establishing the link between the two. By combining the words ‘mask’ and ‘acne’ a new term ‘maskne’ has been coined for this new skin condition. 

Maskne Explained

Acne develops when elements such as sweat, moisture, oil or dirt clog the skin pores, and trap bacteria under the skin, in maskne, the acne is caused by similar conditions caused by wearing the face mask constantly. The acne breakouts are primarily observed in the areas that get covered by the face mask, or in places where the skin surface actually comes in contact with the mask material. 

Although, “maskne” is an acronym derived from mask and acne, the term itself can manifest in the form of any of several skin conditions. Apart from acne symptomized by pimples, and blackheads or whiteheads, some of the other skin problems that can develop under the maskne umbrella, include:

  • Rosacea: Donning a mask constantly, can cause eruptions of pimples and redness in people suffering with rosacea. 

  • Contact dermatitis: The material used in the mask, can trigger allergies or contact dermatitis.  The condition is characterized by a red rash, coupled with irritation and blisters. 

  • Folliculitis: Basically, an infection associated with your hair follicles, appearing as bumps that resemble an acne breakout. Itchiness or pain could also be part of the problem if affected by folliculitis.  

How Maskne are formed 

  • Moisture: When you wear a mask, the area it encloses turns humid due to the trapped moisture from your breath. Such environments caused by wearing a face mask, creates the apt setting for acne to develop.  
  • Weather: As high ambient temperature leads to excessive sweating, and oil secretion by the body, which are breeding grounds for bacteria and acne.   
  • Bacteria:  Under the face mask, when the pores get clogged by sweat, oil, and makeup, conditions turn conducive for bacteria to settle down and multiply. On top of this, your hands add to the infection whenever you handle the mask or adjust it on your face. The net result could be acne.   
  • Hygiene: Unclean and dirty face masks also become potential bacteria carriers, that can aggravate the conditions on your facial skin, leading to acne. Additionally, unclean hands also are catalysts for acne breakouts.    
  • Friction: Throughout your working day, your mask’s occasional shifts on the face, end up rubbing the skin’s protective layer. With the protective layer eroded, the area becomes raw and susceptible to bacteria deposits, building up the situation for acne to form. 
Risk of Maskne and How to Better Control Them

If not treated in time, mask-induced acne can be further aggravated, causing a further breakdown in the skin barrier, and leading to scars. Focusing on preventive measures can be immensely helpful for people grappling with maskne or mask-caused skin conditions, says Dr Chiam at the Ensoul Medical Clinic. 

1) Keep your mask clean

If you don’t prefer disposable face masks, ensure that you regularly wash your mask with hot water and a good detergent with antiseptic properties. As we have seen, the hygiene factor is crucial to prevent the buildup of bacteria in the accumulated sweat, oil and dirt. A clean and disinfected face mask goes a long way to reduce your chances of developing maskne. 

2) Mask size matters

Make sure to select a mask that fits your face snugly. Do not wear a mask that sits too tightly as it will put pressure and create friction on the skin surface at the contact points. Skin barrier at the contact point will be compromised when the pressure is not reduced. 

3) Give your skin occasional mask breaks

Wherever possible and safe to do so, a 15-minute mask break once in two or three hours, helps reduce the build-up of humidity and moisture in the area. Exposing your skin to fresh air, helps dry the area naturally and prevent congestion of the pores. 

4) Say no to make up under the mask

Avoid applying heavy makeup on the areas that get covered by the mask. Heavy make-up can clog the pores leading to a buildup of infection and thereafter it’s only a matter of time before maskne develops in the area. 

5) Keep fingers off zits

Absolutely avoid touching, feeling, scratching at, squeezing or picking at pimples and lesions because this will only aggravate the condition. Apart from causing injury and scars, by touching those pesky zits, you could infect the skin further.

6) Safety in simple skincare regimen

For tackling maskne, adapt a simple skincare routine and use products that are gentle on the skin. People with acne-prone skin can opt for a benzoyl peroxide-based cleanser, while oily skin can be cleaned up using a salicylic acid-based cleanser.  In cases with dry skin issues, cleansers containing ceramides or even hyaluronic acid, are recommended. 

7) Moisture is key

Frequently applying a moisturizer to hydrate your skin, is a good way to protect the skin barrier and keep it healthy. Prefer fragrance-free and oil-free moisturizer products to reduce the load on your skin pores. Allow your skin to breathe easily and absorb moisture. 

Keep Maskne at Arm’s Length, Here’s How: 

Face masks have become an integral part of our everyday wear since 2020. So has maskne. At least for some of us. However, there are effective treatments for maskne we can consider.

Dr Chiam explains that in addition to medicated products for treating acne outbreaks, a variety of lasers and energy-based devices are capable of easily erasing the scars that result from untreated maskne. Just contact the Ensoul Medical Clinic, and their friendly staff will help you with the entire treatment process. Remember, maskne is a new skin condition, speak to a doctor on how to better control and manage your skin.