Yes, “Maskne” Is A Thing. Here’s What To Do About It

Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant

Many people have developed acne and skin irritation from the mask or face covering they wear every day to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This has led to a phenomenon known as “maskne,” which refers to mask-induced acne.

Maskne happens for several reasons. First, the mask rubs against the skin, which causes chafing and skin breakdown.

Second, the mask occludes the skin, which leads to clogged pores. Mask occlusion also traps exhaled breath against the face. This moist, warm environment creates a breeding ground for the strains of bacteria that cause acne.

And third, the mask the skin because it traps irritating compounds against your face. If you wear makeup or wash your face covering with detergent, these chemicals -- along with your skin’s natural oils -- can become trapped inside the mask and irritate your skin.

Here are the best tips and tricks we have to help you avoid this common condition.

1. Wash your cloth face-covering after each use.

Dermatologists recommend that if you’re using a cloth face covering, you wash it after each use. Make sure you wash it in the hottest water possible and use a hypoallergenic soap or detergent. Washing your face covering frequently is beneficial not only because it washes off any COVID-19 viral particles, but also because it removes bacteria and skin cells that can clog your pores.

2. Replace your disposable mask after each use.

If you’re using a disposable surgical mask, it’s wise to replace it frequently because there’s no good way to disinfect it after it’s been used. Since it can’t be cleaned well, bacteria and skin cells build up with each reuse, which can irritate your skin and clog your pores.

3. Minimize your makeup.

Wearing a face covering while wearing a full face of makeup is problematic -- not only because your makeup smears on your face and on the inner surface of the face-covering, but also because the chemicals in your makeup can irritate your skin or clog your pores when they’re trapped against your face.

If you do want to wear makeup, it’s better to focus on eye makeup rather than cosmetics that cover the lower portion of your face.

4. Don’t overdo your skincare routine.

When it comes to your skincare routine, sometimes less is more. Dermatologists recommend that you wash your face with a gentle cleanser once a day.

Washing your face more frequently, scrubbing your face too aggressively, or using harsh skin products like chemical peels can do more harm than good because they irritate the skin, leading to rashes, redness, and acne.

5. Let your skin breathe.

Your skin needs a break from the constant rubbing, irritation, and occlusion masks cause. While it’s important to wear your mask according to Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, it’s also a good idea to give your skin a 15-minute mask break every 4 hours, and avoid wearing it when you don’t have to -- for instance, if you’re driving alone or working from home.

6. Seek medical treatment for stubborn skin conditions.

While the above tips often eliminate the problem of maskne, in some cases, patients with stubborn skin conditions that don’t improve with these steps will benefit from a consultation with a healthcare professional to see if a prescription-strength treatment is indicated for their skin condition.  Both topical treatments and oral medications are available to help patients who are suffering from severe acne or other skin problems.


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