Wearing masks that cover our mouths and noses over prolonged periods of time has lead to a new phenomenon called “maskne” — mask-related acne. But how do you treat and prevent maskne?
First, What Is Maskne?
While it might be new for many of us, maskne has always been an issue in professions where face masks are worn on a regular basis. Now that the general public has to wear them, cases of mask-related acne have been rising steadily. According to a study from telehealth platform Nurx, 66% of those surveyed say that mask-wearing due to the pandemic has caused them to break out.
A combination of hormones, genetics and environmental factors can cause acne at almost any stage of life. The latest surge of maskne, however, is a specific affliction resulting from pandemic stress, coupled with local irritation around the mouth and nose.
When you talk or breathe, your mask traps hot air, creating a warm, humid environment for bacteria to grow. “In some cases, maskne might not be classic acne, it may be rosacea, folliculitis, perioral dermatitis, or contact dermatitis,” says Dr. Nancy Shannon, a Medical Advisor for Nurx, an online medical practice.
Shannon tells Parentology that the condition has serious negative impacts on quality of life. In the same survey, 85% said they experience acne at least monthly, and 1 in 4 experience it always or nearly always. In addition, 61% said that an important life event had been negatively impacted by their acne, and 1 in 3 have actually skipped a social event due to an embarrassing breakout.
Of the 900 patients surveyed, 65% believed that pandemic-related stress made their acne worse.
So, how do you treat and prevent maskne?
How to Treat Maskne at Home
If you need professional help, the same pandemic that causes these skin issues can also be a solution. “Telehealth has been an absolutely essential solution by making healthcare convenient and accessible any time, from home,” says Dr. Shannon. Indeed, Nurx recently added dermatology to its roster, and sessions can include a consultation with a medical professional, a personalized treatment plan, home delivery of medication, and ongoing care.
Online medical treatment has a list of advantages, among them convenience. Digital medical solutions eliminate the need for in-person appointments, traveling to a medical office, paying for parking, or waiting in line at the local pharmacy.
There are numerous over-the-counter treatments, but Dr. Shannon says it can often look worse before it gets better. Likewise, some patients give up too quickly and tend to cycle through a lot of different acne treatments, ending up frustrated.
“Give a treatment plan three to four months before deciding it doesn’t work and then move up the ladder of prescription treatment options,” she says.
Regardless of your treatment plan, Dr. Shannon advises that acne sufferers remember to moisturize their skin, which can seem counterintuitive when maskne is created by a moist environment; however, drying out your skin by avoiding moisturizer can actually make the problem worse.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, avoid scrubbing or applying astringents to already troubled skin. Instead, apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer specifically developed for acne-prone skin twice per day after washing your face.
Also, if you wear a reusable mask, make sure to clean it regularly and properly. Just like you wouldn’t wear dirty clothes or undergarments, you should treat face masks the same way.
Finally, it’s important to remember sunscreen. “Many acne treatments put people at higher risk for sunburns, so be extra-conscientious,” says Dr. Shannon, who recommends practicing sun protection by wearing a non-comedogenic sunscreen of SPF 30+, avoiding the sun during peak hours of 10-2, wearing a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors, and reapplying sunscreen every two hours when outdoors or after the skin gets wet. For darker-skinned individuals, she suggests an SPF 50+ to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
While we’re still required to wear masks, it’s important that maskne sufferers develop good skincare habits to see them through the pandemic and beyond.