Wearing face masks has become normal as people take action in preventing the spread of COVID-19. As the use of face masks increases, though, it has begun to cause skin irritation and acne breakouts, which the internet has nick-named “maskne.” In response to the new issue, dermatologists across the country have put together some skin care recommendations to help prevent and soothe mask-causing inflammation.
Those dealing with breakouts because of their masks are actually experiencing acne mechanica, which is the result of excessive heat, friction, and rubbing. New York City-based dermatologist Angela Lamb, M.D., also says irritation occurs because of trapped moisture and oil on the skin’s surface, which combined with rubbing from the mask results in irritation and white heads.
To help prevent further irritation and breakouts, dermatologic surgeon Dendy Engelman, M.D., put together tips to protect the skin. “Cleanse, cleanse, and don’t forget to cleanse!” said Engelman. “This first step is crucial, otherwise you are trapping bacteria under the mask and pushing it further into your skin. Use a gentle cleanser to not strip the skin of natural oils and keep the skin barrier intact.”
Lamb also suggests that people avoid toners, and instead incorporating a good moisturizer into the skincare regime. “Avoid using stripping products, like toners, on their faces and trying to apply good moisturizers to prevent irritation,” said Lamb.
As pores become clogged with dirt and oils, it is important to clean out pores in order to prevent acne. Engelman suggests using a chemical exfoliant for deep penetration. “Rather than harsh scrubs that can irritate compromised skin, choose a chemical exfoliant, such as one containing salicylic acid, which penetrates deep into pores to unclog them,” said Engelman. “Exfoliating will prevent further breakouts and speed up recovery time.”
Makeup should also be minimized as products such as thick concealers and foundations can trap bacteria in pores. “Swap out thick foundations and concealers for lighter, non-comedogenic formulas,” suggests Engelman. “Makeup plus sweat, plus a mask is trapping bacteria in your pores with nowhere to go.”
Preparing the skin beforehand is essential, but taking care of the skin once you take the mask off is just as important. Engelman recommends cleansing the skin again after wearing a mask warning that irritated skin is more prone to breakouts. “Wash your face immediately after removing your mask,” said Engleman. “Pat—don’t rub—your skin dry; irritated skin is also more vulnerable to acne-causing bacteria and breakouts.”