Maskne: Causes, Prevention And Treatment

By Jia Ling (theAsianParent),
September 18, 2020

Medical experts have confirmed that wearing a face mask while stepping out of home is one of the effective ways to keep oneself safe from the deadly coronavirus and curb its spread.

For the past 3 months, my face mask has become an essential part of my outfit. I do not step out of my home without it and have been diligently wearing it the whole time. Now, all of a sudden, I’ve noticed acne flare-ups around my mouth area. I consulted my dermatologist and she concluded that it is ‘Maskne’, a type of acne clinically known as “Acne Mechanica”.

What is Acne Mechanica?

Acne Mechanica is a form of acne that is triggered due to excess heat, friction, pressure or rubbing of the skin.

It is quite common in students, soldiers and athletes, and can develop on the face or other areas of the body like the back and shoulders. The acne varies in appearance, from tiny blackheads to red, inflamed pustules. In the initial stages, the skin may feel rough but then it progresses into inflamed blemishes and papules (tiny, raised bump on the skin). 

Causes of Mask Acne or ‘Maskne’

Mask acne or ‘Maskne’ is a new term coined for acne caused by wearing a mask, and is steadily gaining popularity during the pandemic.

Dr. Seemal Desai, assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center says that in recent times, acne, especially perioral dermatitis that occurs around the mouth and nose, has been on the rise. Desai said that this type of acne is caused due to the combined effects of wearing a mask and stress from the pandemic. The moisture-rich atmosphere around the mouth and the nose provides an ideal environment for bacteria to flourish.

Given below are some of the ways in which masks can cause acne:

  • Friction – Wearing a mask can cause irritation due to friction, especially around the mouth and the bridge of the nose. The pressure on the skin and the constant rubbing of the mask against the skin causes Maskne.

  • Mask fabric – According to CDC, surgical masks and respirators must be reserved for healthcare workers. Reusable cloth masks have been recommended for the public. The cloth mask must be tightly woven and made from natural fibres like cotton. Choosing the right fabric for your mask is very important to ensure breathability as well as it being gentle on your skin. Synthetic fabric like polyester is ineffective and can be harsh on your skin as it does not absorb the sweat, causing a high risk of Maskne. Fabric-like denim is not recommended for creating masks as it can be rough on the skin.

  • Trapped breath and clogged pores – Your mask can trap your breath, which can cause the skin in the area around your mouth and nose to be warm and moist. This can clog pores, thereby enabling bacteria to flourish and leading to acne and infections.

Ways to Prevent Maskne

Given below are some preventive measures that can help prevent Maskne.

  • Change your mask regularly – Purchase or make (here’s a diy tutorial for your homemade mask) multiple masks. Ensure that you use a mask made using natural fabric like cotton. Wash it before using for the first time—as well as regularly afterwards—to prevent build-up of bacteria. Carry some extra masks in your bag so that you can change them whenever necessary.

  • Wash your face – If you have sensitive skin that is prone to acne, wash it at least two to three times a day with a mild face wash containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to keep the pores clean. Avoid over-washing your face to prevent dryness and inflammation of skin.

  • Use a non-comedogenic moisturiser – Invest in a rich moisturiser with hyaluronic acid and ceramides. A non-comedogenic moisturiser will prevent your pores from getting clogged. Apply moisturiser during the day as well as at night, or whenever your skin feels dry. Avoid oil-containing products that can lead to clogged pores.

  • Do not reuse surgical masks – The CDC recommends that the public do not use surgical masks, as they are to be reserved for healthcare workers. However, if you decide to use them, make sure that you do not reuse it because these types of masks cannot be cleaned.

  • Skip the makeup – Makeup beneath your mask can clog pores and lead to breakouts. Masks are like occlusive barriers that trap your breath and makeup residues, making the area moist and susceptible to bacterial growth.

Treating Maskne and Other Skin-Related Issues Due to Masks

Maskne is treatable as well as other skin-related issues that arise due to wearing masks.

  • Maskne – If you notice Maskne, be gentle on your skin. Ditch the makeup and do not overdo skincare. Whenever we notice breakouts, we tend to use a lot of products like face wash, toners, scrubs, etc. This washes away the skin’s natural oils leaving the skin dry and flaky. Wash your face with a mild cleanser that contains salicylic acid to help unclog the pores.

  • Dryness – Wearing a mask for long periods of time can cause dryness. If your skin lacks moisture, it can get sensitive, dry and prone to blackheads and acne over time.

  • Fissures – In case you notice fissures or cuts in your skin, apply a hydrocolloid dressing before wearing your mask. After removing your mask and washing your face, apply a layer of petroleum jelly.

  • Swelling – In case you notice swelling or redness, take some ice cubes in a clean towel and gently apply to the affected areas. This process increases blood circulation, closes open pores and soothes inflammation. Ice cubes are also effective for breakouts. If the Maskne does not get better with your skincare treatment at home, seek medical attention immediately. Following the right skincare routine and maintaining hygiene will protect you from Maskne or Acne Mechanica.  

This article was first published on theAsianparent and republished with permission.