Find out what causes maskne and how you can keep it at bay
A mask might protect you and the public from COVID-19, but it may not protect you from acne and dermatitis. A research done on the effect of face mask on Polish healthcare workers revealed that 37.4 percent of healthcare workers saw an increase in acne and seborrheic dermatitis (itchy rashes and flakey scales) during the pandemic. The cases of mask-induced acne are so common that there is now a name for it: Maskne.
Although maskne is a portmanteau for mask and acne, it is used as an umbrella term for all skin related issues (like itchiness, redness, and bumps) that are caused due to prolonged mask-wearing.
What are the causes of maskne?
- Friction: Maskne can be caused due to acne mechanica, a condition where acne develops due to pressure and friction on the skin. Footballers and rugby players suffer from it as their helmet frequently rubs against their face and neck. Similarly during the pandemic, the friction caused by masks on people’s skin has led to more cases of acne mechanica.
- Humidity and clogged pores: A mask traps humidity, which is produced by your breath and sweat, to your face. This humidity then reacts with the dead skin cells and natural oil produced by your sebaceous glands and clogs your pores. These clogged pores further develop into pimples or flare-ups.
- Contact eczema: In contact eczema, your skin breaks into an allergic reaction when it comes in contact with a specific object. For many people, this triggering object can be polypropylene fibre (the material used to make N95 masks), polymer (the material used to make surgical masks) or synthetic fabrics like nylon. If you are someone with other pre-existing skin issues like rosacea or psoriasis, then a mask can aggravate them.
Is there a maskne treatment?
Skin complications are trivial in comparison with the spread of COVID-19. Therefore you should consider maskne treatments instead of compromising your mask-wearing habits. Because maskne depends on several factors, there is no specific maskne treatment. However, here are some preventive tips that can act as maskne treatment:
- Cleansing: You must wash your face before and after wearing your mask. Use a mild cleanser that does not contain alcohol or fragrance to minimise the risk of irritation and inflammation. If you use makeup then you should double cleanse, first with an oil-based cleanser and then with a water-based face wash to remove all traces of accumulated makeup. Those who have acne-prone skin can try cleansers that have salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, but the concentration of these active ingredients should not be more than two percent and five percent respectively.
- Moisturisation: The lack of moisturisation can stimulate your oil gland to produce more oil and this can lead to acne. Therefore, you must use a non-comedogenic moisturiser, in the day and before going to bed.
- Follow mask hygiene: An advisory by doctors suggests that one must replace N95 masks every three days and surgical masks should be replaced every four hours. They also recommend that one should stuff two layers of gauze inside the mask to reduce the amount of perspiration and water vapour that comes from one’s mouth. A 100 percent cotton mask has proven to be more non-allergic than the masks made out of synthetic fabric.
Although mask-wearing can cause skin problems and inflammation, it is important to wear masks every time you step out to keep yourself and the people around you safe. Regular cleansing, moisturisation, wearing the right type of mask, and following good mask hygiene can help contain skin breakouts.