During the coronavirus pandemic, people are being advised to wear face masks to protect themselves and others when out in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, wearing a face mask may have unintentional side effects—on your skin.
More and more people are starting to notice breakouts around the lower face, with masks being the #1 culprit. Whether you sew your own mask, buy one online, or go the DIY route with a bandana, keeping your nose and mouth covered can come with some unfortunate side effects: chafing, irritation, redness, and breakouts.
A new skin condition has come about, and it's been nicknamed "MASKNE"! As the name suggests, maskne is a term derived from 'mask' and 'acne' -- the acne that comes from wearing a protective mask for an extended period. The pimples that crop up around the mouth, nose, and chin are due to a combination of friction from masks (leading to clogged pores and general irritation), higher humidity and the lovely collection of bacteria, sweat, and skin oils that get trapped under your mask. These factors create a perfect environment for nasty breakouts.
Now that wearing a face mask is part of the so-called "new normal," we've had a ton of patients ask about how to prevent acne caused by wearing a mask for multiple hours a day. We rounded up some tips for taking care of your skin when you're wearing a protective mask out and about:
The delicate skin of the face needs to "breathe," so choose a face mask made of tightly woven cotton. Face masks made from tightly woven cotton instead of synthetic fabric are softer, more breathable, and less likely to rub against your skin and cause rash and irritation.
You should never skip this step, but especially if you have been wearing a face mask all day. A properly fitted face mask that comes in direct contact with your skin is the perfect place for sweat, dirt, bacteria, and oil to build up. That's why it's important to wash your face with a gentle cleanser before and after putting on your mask.
You may need to adjust your skincare regimen. During these times, you want to be more gentle with your skin. Acne-fighting ingredients are amazing, but you want to opt for soothing ingredients to calm redness and irritation. Salicylic acid is an excellent choice for its ability to penetrate clogged pores and reduce inflammation. You will also want to apply a lightweight moisturizer during the day, taking special care in areas where the mask has been rubbing. At bedtime, use retinol or retinoic acid and non-comedogenic moisturizer to help replenish skin cells and repair damage.
Whether you are wearing a cloth or cotton mask, ensure that you wash it with a gentle laundry detergent every 1-2 days. If you are using a disposable mask, try to air dry in between uses and hang it in the sun.
Face masks create a warm, humid environment for your skin that can affect sebum production and lead to clogged pores and breakouts. The combination of that plus makeup can be a feeding ground for pimples. If you're noticing acne around your nose, mouth, and chin, try minimizing the makeup you wear underneath your mask, especially foundation and concealer.
Studies have shown that we tend to touch our face more often when we wear masks, so try to be more aware of touching your face and be sure to wash your hands (or at least use frequent hand sanitizer). Now that masks are an integral part of our lives in the present and near future, we must find new ways to incorporate them successfully. If you're still having trouble getting your skin under control, we're always here to help. Wash your hands, and stay healthy!