As the world embraces face masks as a daily accessory in response to the Covid19 Pandemic, I am seeing a rise in a very irritating side effect emerge; “maskne.” I am seeing a huge increase in acne, particularly around the mouth area and bridge of the nose.
I have many patients reaching out to me in despair, “I have never really had a zit before and suddenly my face is breaking out like a teenager, what is going on?!” My fellow nurses and health care professionals who are wearing a mask with a tight seal for days on end with no reprieve are being hit the hardest.
I get it, it’s not fun! Of course, a few pimples are worth the safety that the mask provides but wouldn’t it be best if we could just avoid a breakout all together?!
What is Acne Mechanica?
The technical term for “maskne” is Acne Mechanica. The acne is caused by the mechanical friction of the mask against the skin. Sports players, surgeons, or anyone who is used to wearing a mask will tell you this is no new diagnosis. Here is what happens, we have tiny pores and hair follicles on the face. When those are obstructed, blocked and covered by the mask, they become irritated from the friction. The combination of the physical friction and the moisture trapped behind the mask results in acne. You will likely notice that when outside in the heat or working out & sweating with the mask on, the acne will worsen.
How to Treat Acne Mechanica or ‘Maskne’
Treating acne mechanica can be difficult but I do have some tips for you, with prevention being #1. I highly recommend a barrier cream with a touch of hydrocortisone and aloe vera, like our Rescue Cream that is made especially for protecting you from maskne.
The best thing to do for Acne Mechanica is to keep your skin clean, well-hydrated and moisturized by applying the Rescue Cream at least a half-hour before putting your mask on. This cream can be applied in place of your moisturizer in the AM & PM.
The Rescue cream will help prevent Acne Mechanica by calming the inflammation the mask causes through that heat and friction It is an aloe-based cream blended with a light steroid to soothe and hydrate the barrier of the skin without clogging pores.
I use it in many of my patients’ skincare plans for multiple different reasons. Last week in my very own family, I used this on my sister’s inflamed skin from the powerful Forever Young Retinol and Koji-C Pads and also on Enzo’s little sun kissed cheeks. Both of them were healed within 48 hours – it’s that good!
Other Tips to Avoid and Treat Maskne
- Do not wear makeup under the mask if avoidable. This is a big one. If you are wearing makeup under a mask for a long period of time you will break out. There is no way around it.
- Wash your mask regularly, if it is a cloth, washable mask. Think of the makeup, sunscreen, and debris from your mouth breeding tiny little microbes on your mask. They get contaminated pretty quickly. It’s definitely worth investing in 2-5 cloth masks if you have to wear one daily so that you aren’t constantly doing laundry.
- If you workout with a mask on, make sure to change it out as soon as you are done. You don’t want to sit in a sweaty mask. That will breed more acne quickly.
- Use medical grade skincare. I typically recommend a gentle wash and a night time exfoliant or acne treatment to help combat acne and maskne when it is non-inflamed. It can take some time to adjust to medical grade skincare. I have a blog that describes that process here.
Perioral Dermatitis and Masks
- In addition to acne, I am seeing a rise in perioral dermatitis, a skin condition where the skin around the nose and mouth becomes increasingly red, irritated, and inflamed. The best thing to do if you are experiencing this is…at first, nothing. Leaving the skin open and dry to air as much as possible is where I find the most success in treating PO dermatitis. It can take a couple of weeks but it typically goes away when it is left alone. Unless it is a severe case, I usually allow patients to continue their skincare everywhere else on the face while avoiding the perioral region.
I know how disheartening acne and skin conditions can be. I see it first hand and it breaks my heart when someone is lacking confidence because of it. If you are suffering, you are not alone and you do not have to live with skin you are not comfortable in! We can improve your skin with the right products and approach. I just recently had a patient tell me that she “truly never thought it was possible to love her skin, and now she loves seeing her face in mirrors and feels confident to face anything and anyone!”
If you are experiencing any of the above and would like help, please do not hesitate to reach out. My online skin consults are complementary and I will give you product recommendations that will suit your skin type and goals!