How to Prevent Mask Acne or Maskne?

As with most ailments, prevention is better than cure and for me personally I am not keen on dealing with acne yet again.

I personally had very little  teenage acne while the majority of my classmates at school did. At one stage, I was perplexed by this, as I thought I may have not entered into teenage hood. I'm only guessing that I would have felt better if I had teenage acne then, as opposed to adult acne, in that way I could "fit in".

Anyhow, suffering from adult acne was not great for my self-esteem and to make matters worse I would wear thick layers of foundation to cover all the scars and acne. Not even my dermatologists (I had been to a few) had expressed the importance of cleansing and rehabilitating my skin to be healthy. All I knew is at that time, I would not want to be caught dead without makeup.

I have previously discussed the profound effects of how acne can affect mental health in a previous blog. But just to re-iterate acne impacts our relationships, performance and can sometimes cause anxiety and depression. The stress of the pandemic also sees changes in your skin’s physiology.

So just when you think all your acne woes are over, after perhaps having teenage and/or adult acne, some of us may develop acne from wearing a mask. "Maskne" is the term coined on social media for this type of acne that affects areas around the peri-oral areas i.e. mouth and nose. Maskne is the result mechanical friction of the fabric against the skin that results in breakouts. It is not a new phenomenon and is well described in athletes who wear helmets and chin guards for extended periods of time.

So why are these breakouts even happening? Wearing a mask for long hours, creates a conducive moisture-rich environment for bacteria and organisms to thrive therefore clogging pores. The friction and pressure of the mask can irritate the hair follicles on our faces that results in acne. This can further be exacerbated in conditions of high humidity, heat and exercise.

So what steps can we take in order to prevent maskne from occuring? 

CHOOSE A COTTON MASK

If you are not a healthworker or frontline worker, choose a 100% reusable cotton mask for breathability. Always keep a clean, spare mask in a sealed bag to avoid contamination before use.

WASH YOUR MASK REGULARLY

Wash your mask regularly and completely dry it after every use. If you are in the habit of leaving your mask in your car or in the sun, be aware that only some viruses will be killed if the temperature is high enough and that heat provides a favourable breeding ground for bacteria. A clean, fresh mask should be worn straight after exercise too.

 USE A GENTLE CLEANSER

The next thing you would want to do is to invest in a gentle cleanser that is SLS/SLES-free. This is because SLS or sodium lauryl sulphate is harsh on the skin and strips the skin of its natural oils and interferes with the skin barrier. Cleansing minimises congested skin and clogged pores, which can lead to inflammation, large pores, blackheads and dull and uneven complexion. Besides washing my face in the morning and evening, I immediately wash my face straight after a trip to the supermarket or when I wear my mask for long periods of time.  For this I would recommend the Nirvana Natural Bliss Oil Control Facial Cleanser, that contains tea-tree oil and is effective in removing excess oil and eliminating impurities.

USE AN ALCOHOL-FREE ACNE SPOT TREATMENT UNDER YOUR MASK

If by any chance you do get a spot of acne, use an alcohol-free blemish repair stick that is convenient to spot directly on the acne. Do not squeeze or pop anything as this can cause a flare up.  An alcohol-free option will not dry out the skin and cause redness or inflammation, but will gently treat the spot. Bear in mind that benzoyl peroxide will bleach your mask. I would recommend Nirvana Natural Bliss Acne & Blemish Repair Stick.

 

USE A FRAGRANCE-FREE MOISTURISER

You would also want to choose a fragrance-free moisturiser or sunscreen and wait for about 15 minutes after application before wearing your mask. During this time of Covid-19 one is presumably more anxious and your skin physiology also changes in response to stress. It is best to steer clear of fragranced moisturisers as this is more likely to trigger inflammation. All Nirvana Natural Bliss Moisturisers are fragrance-free.

 

TAKE CARE OF YOUR LIPS

Take care of your lips as you know it is one of the thinnest layers of your skin, but refrain from using petroleum jelly on your lips as this could interfere with the integrity of the mask and seal.

 

SKIP MAKE UP ON YOUR LOWER FACE

Since it’s going to be covered by the mask anyway, wearing foundation on your lower face and lipstick could create more breakouts and clog your pores. If possible just stick to a moisturizer only that will serve to help keep intact your skins protective moisture barrier.

 

SEE A DERMATOLOGIST

If your mask gives you a rash, this may be related to your skin’s sensitivity or the mask itself or what you use to wash or mask or even the fabric of your mask. It is best to see a medical professional or dermatologist.