If you thought you were safe from the occasional breakout now that you don't wear makeup daily (hello, work from home) or expose your skin to the harsh weather or environment, you're in for a surprise!
In 2020 we added an arsenal of new words to our vocabulary: social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, and now "Maskne."
Aside from anxiety of coronavirus and consistently having to wear a mask - we've added bumps and zits on the bridge of the nose, chin, and across your cheeks. Breakouts in these areas are due to wearing a mask and coined "Maskne."
What is Maskne?
As implied by the name, it's a breakout due to wearing a face mask for long hours. The formation of acne in the masked regions is primarily due to friction, pressure, a buildup of moisture and heat, and rubbing and stretching of the mask. The technical term for maskne is "acne mechanica."
Why does a technical term for maskne already exist when it just came to our attention during the pandemic? Before the onset of COVID-19, this form of facial irritation was already a norm for athletes. Sweat, heat, and friction in helmets, straps, and tights often lead to this form of acne.
So why does Maskne happen?
The leading cause results from follicles and pores blocked with sweat, makeup, or oil. Wearing the mask for long periods and breathing creates humidity and heat, forming a breeding ground for acne. In addition, the friction and tendency to wear an unclean mask can result in the formation of comedones (blackheads, whiteheads).
Most people opt for single-use (surgical) masks; others have elected to handmake masks with an array of materials (cotton, silk, cloth). Many have switched due to single-use masks being sprayed with chemicals resulting in irritation. Therefore, opting for alternative mask choices reduces exposure to chemicals and helps to reduce friction and absorb heat. With a reusable mask, the biggest concern would be wash frequency and ensuring not to use heavily scented detergents. These can result in the development of "maskne," due to skin sensitivities.
So now the question is, how can you prevent and treat maskne?
It's better to be proactive than reactive. Prevention can help stop, limit, or reduce the appearance or onset of "maskne." We have a general rule of thumb when it comes to single-use or reusable masks. With a single-use mask, we recommend disposing of after every use, changing them frequently throughout the day, or airing out between uses thoroughly. We recommend keeping two or three reusable masks in rotation throughout the day to change between uses and wash them daily.
If you have developed maskne, remember to be gentle with your skin. Most people have been overzealous with skincare during quarantine and most likely will or have compromised the skin's protective barrier. When developing maskne, the goal is to keep the follicles clean and help maintain the protective barrier.
Building a consistent skincare routine with skin-loving products is a must. Returning to a basic three-step routine of a Cleanser, Toner, and Moisturizer until irritation, inflammation, and congestion have subsided may be the best track. Others may benefit from a more detailed routine, including a Cleanser, Exfoliation, Toner, and Moisturizer. Whatever the routine, consistency will be the key!
Avoiding makeup when possible is ideal, but it's recommended to keep makeup application light or only on places visible when wearing the mask if deemed necessary. Remember, makeup can clog and congest the follicle and pore adding the addition of friction from the mask can add to the problem. Therefore, it's critical to have a solid skincare routine to ensure the follicle stays clean and clear of dirt, debris, and pollutants as much as possible.
Whenever possible, allow the skin to breathe!