How to avoid getting 'Maskne'
Acne mechanica, more commonly known as ‘maskne’, refers to the breakout of the skin from the wearing of face masks. Acne is a common skin condition that happens when hair follicles under the skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Pimples and blackheads can also form in the areas that are covered by the face mask.
Aside from the conditions mentioned, the wearing of face masks can also cause other skin problems. Some people develop dryness and cracking at the corners of the mouth, called “cheilitis”. The skin around the mouth can also become dry and red, referred to as “perioral dermatitis”. The hair follicles in the areas covered by the mask may also become infected. This condition is called “folliculitis”.
What causes Maskne?
The constant rubbing of the face mask against the skin causes the skin to become irritated and sensitive. With mask use, warm and moist air are trapped under our masks, making it an ideal environment for bacteria to grow and multiply. In addition, the excessively high humidity within the mask can cause our skin barrier to breakdown, giving rise to more flare-ups of eczema and rosacea. Skin cells are also unable to shed normally, leading to clogged pores.
All these factors caused by the wearing of the face masks increase the likelihood for skin breakouts.
How can we prevent Maskne?
If you are unable to avoid wearing a mask, especially when you are out, here are some key prevention tips you can take to prevent Maskne:
- Always use clean face masks
- Apply gentle moisturiser on the face at night
- Avoid using makeup under your face mask
- Make sure your mask fits your face properly
- Use gentle, mild soap to clean your face
Who is at risk of developing Maskne?
Although everyone who wears face masks can develop Maskne, certain individuals are at higher risk. These include healthcare workers who wear face masks for extended hours, people with pre-existing acne, people with other skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea.
How is Maskne treated?
Once Maskne develops, a proper skin care routine should be developed to treat this condition. Wash your face regularly using gentle cleansers. Apply moisturisers over areas of dry skin and use products containing benzoyl peroxide if you have pimples. Avoid overusing facial scrubs and facial astringents, as these can aggravate skin dryness and cause worsening of skin irritation. Anti-inflammatory creams may also be used for areas of inflamed skin. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor first before using anti-inflammatory creams.
When to see a doctor?
See a doctor whenever you experience the following:
- Persistent acne or rash despite proper skin care
- Signs of infection such as pain, fever and pus formation
If you have any concerns about Maskne, it is best to consult a primary care doctor or dermatologist to get proper evaluation and advice.
Article reviewed by Dr Jean Ho, dermatologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital
LaMotte S. 'Maskne': Why your face is breaking out under your mask and how to stop it, retrieved on 4 September 2020 from https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/25/health/maskne-acne-covid-masks-wellness/index.html. (25 June 2020)
Rubin C. Maskne Is the New Acne, and Here’s What Is Causing It, retrieved on 4 September 2020 from https://www.nytimes.com/article/maskne-acne.html. (17 June 2020)
Potts DJ. Suffering from breakouts under your mask? How to fight ‘maskne’, retrieved on 4 September 2020 from https://news.llu.edu/health-wellness/suffering-from-breakouts-under-your-mask-how-fight-maskne. (17 August 2020)
Chien ALL. Coronavirus: Tips to Avoid "Maskne" Skin Irritation, retrieved on 4 September 2020 from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-tips-to-avoid-maskne-skin-irritation. (3 August 2020)
The struggle with maskne is very real, retrieved on 4 September 2020 from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-struggle-with-maskne-is-very-real/. (13 July 2020)