Masking Causing Acne? How to Treat "Maskne"

With the advent of COVID-19, mask use has become almost universal and life-saving. They have become part of our everyday lives to prevent the spread of and protect ourselves from infection. However, several side effects of mask use have become more prevalent, such as acne.

Key takeaways:
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    Maskne has become more of a problem since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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    Masks can cause acne, rosacea, folliculitis, perioral dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and eczema outbreaks.
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    Proper facial and mask hygiene can help prevent maskne.

This acne or maskne (acne that comes from mask use) has caused patients significant despair in an already difficult, stressful time in our lives.

Acne caused by wearing a mask, also referred to as maskne, was once only a problem for healthcare workers. Because of the spread of Covid-19, mask use became more prevalent, and subsequent maskne affects more people. Also, maskne has morphed into a term that encompasses not only acne, but also other mask-induced rashes, like contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, perioral dermatitis, rosacea, and folliculitis.

What causes maskne?

True maskne, or mask-induced acne, is caused by the interplay of various factors, such as heat, sweat, friction, and bacteria. Since there is no free-flowing air circulation under the mask, a significant amount is heat is produced. This leads to sweating and dirt, oil, and bacteria being deposited onto the mask. As this mask rubs against your face all day long, it causes friction and implantation of dirt, oil, and bacteria into the skin's pores. Once trapped in there, acne is formed. This is the same mechanism by which rosacea, perioral dermatitis, and folliculitis develop.

Maskne, which refers to dermatitis or rashes caused by masks, arises by different mechanisms. Constant contact and friction between the fabric or filter material and your skin can lead to irritation, also called irritant contact dermatitis. If you are allergic to whatever materials the masks are made from, that will cause allergic contact dermatitis. Also, the heat that causes sweating under the mask will make your skin more sensitive to contact dermatitis and even eczema and seborrheic dermatitis flares.

How can I treat maskne?

To treat acne, rosacea, perioral dermatitis, and folliculitis, there are a few simple things you can try first before resorting to medications:

Wash your face twice daily to remove dirt, oil, and bacteria.

Select a mask that is comfortable and fits properly to avoid friction.

Give your face breaks throughout the day go outside and remove your mask to let your skin breathe.

Wash mask in hot water daily with dye and fragrance-free detergents or use a new disposable mask daily. Avoid washing with bleach or fabric softener.

Do not wear makeup under your mask. This not only causes acne, but ruins the integrity of the mask and makes it less effective.

If these steps do not help, you may need to add an acne face wash or acne treatment cream. Over-the-counter options contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. If you are still suffering, seek treatment from a board-certified dermatologist who can prescribe stronger medications.

To treat dermatitis (irritant, allergic, seborrheic, and eczema), you will follow similar steps as those above. Wash your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser, select a properly fitted mask, and use a clean mask daily. A good oil-free, non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic moisturizer is key. It will protect your face from friction, soothe your skin, and help repair it. Short-term use of over-the-counter hydrocortisone may benefit by reducing inflammation. Long-term use can cause severe side effects. If you are not getting any relief from these steps, seek treatment from a board-certified dermatologist.

How to prevent maskne

Prevention of skin problems is always preferred over having to treat them. If you are prone to acne/rosacea, suffer from sensitive skin, or have a history of eczema/rashes, you should take precautions. Use only hypoallergenic, dye and fragrance-free, oil-free, and non-comedogenic products, such as cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreens. Do not wear makeup. Cleanse and moisturize your face twice daily. Use lighter moisturizers during the day and reparative ones at night, such as those containing ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and squalene.

Wash your mask in hot water with dye and fragrance-free detergents. Avoid bleach and fabric softener. Dry in the dryer with high heat. If you do not use fabric masks, change your disposable masks daily. Also, make sure your mask fits properly. Some mask materials are softer than others.

Maskne has increased in prevalence since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While masks are life-saving, they often cause skin issues. With proper hygiene and a little extra care, maskne can be prevented and treated. If you are not having any luck with over-the-counter products, seek treatment early from a board-certified dermatologist.


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