As if 2020 wasn't bad enough already, maskne is now a thing! No doubt wearing face masks is essential for controlling the pandemic. However, more people are beginning to experience a range of skin problems with ongoing mask use. These include acne, breakouts, skin peeling and irritation. These skin problems can be painful and don't look great. There's good news though. There's a lot you can do to prevent face mask skin problems and treat skin issues like maskne.
What causes maskne and other face mask skin problems?
The biggest issue with wearing any masks is that it creates a moist environment in which your skin sits for long periods. This has some serious consequences for your skin. Firstly this humid environment can cause constant irritation and lead to dermatitis. It can manifest as rashes, redness and even sores which are painful and look terrible. In this closed and humid environment, it's easier for your skin to get clogged up by any oil, makeup or dirt. Another problem with this environment is that it's a great breeding ground for the bacteria involved in producing acne. Hence the increase we're seeing in face mask related acne or "maskne". This can then give rise to breakouts, blemishes and bumps in areas covered by the mask.
How to treat and prevent maskne and other face mask skin problems
It's not all doom and gloom though! There are quite a few simple things you can do to prevent face mask skin problems and treat maskne.
Prevention & Protection
Before donning a mask, always apply a thick emollient moisturiser on the area where the mask covers which acts like a barrier for the skin. Look for moisturisers with ceramides and/or hyaluronic acid. This is particularly important if you have dry skin or a condition like eczema which makes you more prone to irritation. In that situation, you might want to even use something like a nappy rash cream since this is a similar process! These conditions are also favorable for breakouts/acne so you'll want to avoid wearing makeup under the mask as that will clog up the skin. The mask should also be tight enough to stay in place but not so tight that it digs into the skin as that can cause sores.
After you take off your mask (avoid touching your face) let your skin air out. Then it's a good idea to wash with a gentle cleanser and follow up with a hydrating moisturiser. If you're prone to acne, try using a salicylic acid toner once a day to help keep pores clean. If you're using retinol/acid based toners you may want to avoid applying them to the area where the mask covers. Alternatively, reduce their frequency to avoid irritating your skin even more.
Generally speaking, cotton masks may help reduce the risk of irritation as they are more breathable than synthetics. However, they need to be multi-layered as per government advice in order to be effective. In terms of reusable mask care, we recommend washing them before first use to reduce the risk of any contact allergy to chemicals from the factory. You may want to use a detergent for sensitive skin when washing your masks. It's also essential to make sure the mask is completely dry when you put it on.
Treating maskne and other face mask skin problems
If you're already at the stage where you're suffering from maskne or other face mask skin problems then there are a few options. To treat acne breakouts, try using cleansing products containing benzoyl peroxide and a toner containing salicylic acid. These can be purchased from any reputable skincare brand or chemist. If the breakout is quite bad and over the counter medication isn't helping then you may wish to consider an at home professional skin treatment kit like Obagi ClenziDERM MD or a course of chemical peels. Depending on the severity, your doctor may also recommend starting Retinol or Tretinoin to prevent further breakouts and treat any pigmentation or texture caused by the maskne.
For itchy, irritated and dry skin the solution is to firstly religiously follow the above prevention steps to break the cycle. Also, look at your current skincare and stop using anything that could be irritating like Retinol/retinoids, Vitamin C, and acid toners or cleansers. Opt for a hydrating cleanser (a cleansing balm or milk). Try adding a hyaluronic acid face essence before applying a rich moisturizer. If after the irritation resolves, you're left with very dry and flakey skin then you can resume or add in an exfoliant such as a glycolic acid toner. Alternatively, try a weekly exfoliating face mask (enzyme or chemical exfoliant) to remove dead skin. Professional skin treatments like Profhilo can help improve skin's hydration and quality. Just ease into these more active steps to avoid triggering another episode of irritation.
There's a lot to worry about right now without adding face maks skin problems and maskne to the list. A few simple protective measures can help reduce the conditions for skin breakouts and irritations. There are also a lot of over the counter and professional skin treatments that can help problems which have already started. Unfortunately, despite all this, some people will still experience ongoing skin irritation, sores, pain and breakouts. In that case, you might need to speak with your GP who may need to prescribe medication such as steroid creams or other treatments.
Have you had any experience of maskne or other face mask skin problems? Leave us a comment below we'd love to find out more from you.
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