About the author: Scott McDougall (MPharm) is the co-founder and registered manager of The Independent Pharmacy, an online pharmacy and healthcare resource based in the UK. As co-founder of a leading online pharmacy, Scott has a particular interest in the safe and responsible implementation of online healthcare services.
Wearing face masks has become a part of everyday life during the pandemic. And while they’re an important part of fighting the spread of COVID-19 many people are finding they’re getting unwanted skin problems from wearing a mask. With requirements to wear a mask set to remain for the foreseeable future, we’ve taken a look at how you can treat and prevent maskne.
Maskne is an outbreak of spots and blemishes caused by wearing a face mask for prolonged periods of time. They occur mostly around the chin, but all areas of skin underneath the mask can be affected.
The constant contact between the mask and your face causes micro-tears in the skin and makes it easy for bacteria and dirt to clog up pores. On top of this, breathing inside the mask creates a moist environment and increases the build-up of sweat, oil, and bacteria, which exacerbates the problem and leads to pimples and acne cysts.
Once these skin problems have started to show up, wearing masks again often makes them even worse. So it’s important to be aware of how to treat your skin when you experience maskne and what steps you can take to minimise or prevent it from happening in the first place.
Wash your face
Use a gentle cleanser or face wash and warm water to clean your face before wearing a mask. This helps to get rid of any dirt and bacteria that’s already on your skin that can cause breakouts when you put the mask on.
The next step before putting a mask on is to apply a moisturiser that’s suitable for sensitive skin. If your skin feels oily you might think it’s counterintuitive to use moisturiser but it can actually help. It’s important to keep your skin hydrated and minimise irritation, and the moisturiser can also act as a barrier to reduce some of the friction.
If you can, try to stop wearing makeup underneath your mask, it can help further clog up your pores and also makes the inside of your mask dirty. If you want to still wear makeup, choose lighter products that are suitable for sensitive skin. And remember to regularly clean your brushes or applicators to stop a build-up of germs from the acne.
Keep washing your mask
Cotton, reusable masks are a lot better for your skin than disposable masks that are made with synthetic materials. However, it’s essential to wash your masks after every single time you wear them. A used mask is full of dirt and bacteria, so putting it back on is going to make your skin worse. If you’re wearing a mask for a full day, try to change it halfway through.
You also need to be careful about what kind of laundry detergent you use, as fragrances and fabric softener can irritate your skin further.
Treat it like other acne
Although the initial cause is slightly different, you can treat maskne the same way you would any other kind of acne. To start, it’s important to understand your skin type so you can treat it in the best way.
Try to use mostly oil-free skin care products and avoid thick, heavy creams that are going to further clog your pores. The Elemis Hydra-Balance Day Cream is a good choice for balancing out your skin and reducing excess oil.
Eating a balanced diet without too much dairy and sugar can also make a difference to the skin for some people. It’s also important to avoid touching your face as much as possible and don’t be tempted to pick at any spots, it can end up making it a lot worse and even leave you with scarring.
If your maskne is still getting worse then it’s worth considering specific acne treatments. You can ask advice from a pharmacist but look for products that contain certain ingredients to help acne. In particular, Benzoyl peroxide can reduce the bacteria on your skin, retinoids help unclog pores and make skin less oily, and salicylic acid also unclogs pores and reduces inflammation.
A commonly prescribed treatment is Duac gel, which contains benzoyl peroxide, and clindamycin, an antibiotic ingredient. If you’re wondering how long does Duac take to work, don’t fret but be patient — it can be two or four weeks before you start to see your skin clearing up.
Before using it you should read up on how Duac works to get a complete understanding of whether it might be a good option for you. There are also lots of other prescription treatments you can try for persistent maskne, so it might take some time to find the best one for your skin.
Don’t stress your skin out
While it can be really tempting to use harsh products that dry out your skin or wash your face multiple times a day, this can actually make things worse. It can make your skin react more, and if your skin is too dry it can overcompensate and end up producing more oil, which causes more spots. Try to only wash your face once in the morning, once at night, and after you’ve done a workout or exercise.
While maskne can be frustrating, by following these steps, treating your skin well, and wearing clean masks you should be able to prevent further breakouts.