If you’ve been noticing more zits since masking began, you are not alone. Meet maskne, the annoying skin problem of the pandemic! Here’s a closer look at why maskne erupts and the steps you could take to keep flares away.
Maskne: Know what you’re dealing with
Maskne (‘mask acne’) refers to blemishes caused by wearing a mask. The condition has been around for years in industries where workers don face masks for long periods. But with COVID-19 imposing face masks on us all, maskne is now everybody’s problem.
The term ‘maskne’ refers to not only pimples caused by mask-wearing but also redness, irritation, and itching (among other symptoms) that may occur after putting on a mask. Here’s a closer look at what maskne could cover.
- Acne: This is the commonest type of maskne. Pores clogged by excess oil, dirt, and dead skin lead to blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts. (Read about the different grades of acne.)
- Folliculitis: Friction between the mask and your skin could result in infected hair follicles. The bumps of folliculitis resemble acne, and they can be painful and itchy.
- Irritant contact dermatitis: Dry and scaly patches, red rashes, and blisters along the cheeks and nose are common if you are sensitive to materials used on the mask.
Rosacea: This is marked by small, red, pus-filled bumps all along the area
where your mask sits.
- Atopic dermatitis: This common type of eczema is marked by patches of dry and itchy skin that may crack, bleed, or get infected.
- Urticaria: Caused by pressure from a tight-fitting mask or an allergic reaction to the mask material, urticaria usually disappears soon after the mask is removed.
- Seborrheic eczema: This takes the form of greasy, yellow scales along the nose and lips. Some people notice flares on the forehead and scalp too.
- Perioral dermatitis: Fine pustules and papules may show up around the nose and mouth regions.
If you are already prone to these skin conditions, wearing a mask for long periods may worsen the symptoms.
Common maskne triggers
- Clogged pores: When you wear a mask, you tend to sweat more and the skin does not get aired. Oil, dirt, and dead skin cells tend to accumulate faster as a result, leading to pore blockages and acne.
- Hot air traps: Masks trap hot air as you breathe and talk. This creates a warm and humid environment where bacteria, yeast, and skin mites can grow, which causes acne, rosacea, and other flares.
- Friction: Friction between the mask and the skin may result in chafing, redness, and peeling. Too much friction could lead to sores on the skin.
- Allergies: If you are allergic to the material used on the mask, skin irritation is likely. Also, check if you are allergic to the laundry detergent rather than the mask itself.
Steps to take against maskne
Never skip your skincare regimen in the new normal. Just a few simple steps can make a world of difference to your complexion.
- Wash your face: Cleanse your face every morning and night, plus every time you sweat and after removing the mask. Wet your face with lukewarm water before applying a gentle cleanser. Once you’ve rinsed off the product (again with lukewarm water), pat dry with a soft, clean towel. (Here’s a quick guide to face cleansing!)
- Apply moisturiser: A light layer serves as a protective barrier between your skin and the mask. Moisturising also prevents breakouts caused by dry skin, which is another problem for many mask wearers.
- Target the maskne: Sometimes blemishes need to be helped along. Consult your dermatologist for advice or look for a powerful over-the-counter (OTC) formula.
Tip: Try an OTC product like Clearica Anti-Acne Cream that tackles multiple symptoms. It cleans out the pores, reduces inflammation, eliminates bacteria, and prevents the spread of acne. With regular use, it promotes healthy, blemish-free skin.
Amp up your masking game
Since masks are here to stay, it makes sense to upgrade the masks you use and the way you use them.
- Focus on fit: A good mask fits snug over the nose and cheeks and under the skin. Masks that are too tight or too loose aggravate maskne due to friction. Plus, you may end up adjusting the mask frequently, thus transferring germs to your skin.
- Choose the fabric: Masks made from soft, natural, and breathable fabrics like cotton are kinder on the skin. Avoid synthetic fabrics like rayon, nylon, or polyester as these could irritate the skin.
- Wash your mask: Launder used fabric masks every day with an unscented and hypoallergenic detergent. Washing new masks before using them for the first time will remove pokey bits and prevent irritation.
- Take mask-free breaks: If you can practice safe physical distancing, remove the mask for 15 minutes every four hours. This allows your skin to breathe and gives you a chance to wash off the sweat.
- Avoid makeup: Cosmetics like foundation and blush can clog the pores. If you must use makeup, use non-comedogenic products and keep it light. However, do not team makeup with an N95 mask that you plan to reuse, as makeup would make the mask hard to clean.
- Dry your beard: Gents, make sure to dry your skin and facial hair completely before putting on the mask.
Keep your mask on
Until COVID-19 disappears completely, it’s best to mask up and be safe. With the right skincare regimen, a few common-sense tips, and a well-fitting mask, you can prevent your skin from breaking out. And as you’ve discovered already, it doesn’t have to be hard.
Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.