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Face masks have become part of our everyday routine, and you can find them in just about every color and pattern imaginable. Many clothing and accessory companies have added masks to their product lines, making it possible to wear face masks by your favorite brands.
But while our simple, fabric face masks are helping fight COVID-19 and keeping us safe, some people are experiencing skin issues such as irritation and breakouts. For people with sensitive skin, this is nothing new, but even those who haven’t had acne-prone skin can be affected. In fact, mask acne has become so common that it has come to be referred to as ‘maskne.’ So while we should keep the COVID fighting to the masks, we, however, can definitely fight back against maskne.
Maskne is a general term to describe several skin conditions that are caused by wearing a face mask. It can include:
Acne happens when your pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and dirt. It can cause pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads.
If you have rosacea, wearing a mask may cause flare-ups. This can also lead to pimples and redness.
Contact dermatitis happens when you have an allergy or sensitivity to the material of your mask. It can result in a red rash, irritation, and sometimes blisters.
Folliculitis is an infection of your hair follicles that causes bumps that look like an acne breakout. You might also experience itchiness or pain.
Conventional surgical face masks aren't very good for preventing acne—in fact, it may encourage skin irritation and breakouts, according to Yoram Harth, MD, a board certified dermatologist and chief medical officer at MDAcne.
"The common, single-use surgical masks and N95 masks are actually made from polypropylene, a type of plastic that is very similar to polyethylene in our trash bags," Harth commented. "This dense synthetic material traps hot air and humidity under the mask, creating the perfect breeding environment for bacteria and fungi—cause for more acne breakouts."
Not only are disposable masks potentially irritating to your skin, and a breeding ground for all types of icky bacteria, throwing away millions of face masks everyday can have a negative impact on our environment as well. Consider reusable face masks infused with special nanoparticles that help fight bacteria growth.
More and more people are finding that mask irritation is causing skin conditions such as clogged pores, acne breakouts, and even oily skin. “It has always been an issue in professions where you have to wear a mask regularly,” says dermatologist, Amy Kassouf, MD, “But now that the general public has to wear masks, the incidence of it has certainly increased.”
When you breathe and talk, your mask traps a lot of hot air and particles. This creates a warm, humid environment, which is ideal for yeast and bacteria to grow. Dr. Kassouf says that these bacterial imbalances plus the friction from your mask can promote acne and skin irritation flare-ups as well as something called perioral dermatitis. This is when fine pimples and pustules appear around the nose and mouth.
Even though these skin problems are super frustrating, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that we all wear face masks to protect ourselves and others in public places.
If your skin is experiencing irritation and breakouts, don’t fret. Below are a few simple ways to treat maskne.
Clean your mask
Even though lightweight fabrics are better for your skin, they don’t really offer the level of protection needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Tight weave fabrics and masks with several layers are the best protection. However, washing a cloth or fabric mask first will help remove any finishes on the fabric and that will help reduce the possibility of irritation.
Changing and washing your masks regularly helps reduce bacteria, especially after sweating or exercising. After each use, we recommend washing your masks with a fragrance-free detergent, rinsing them twice, and putting them in the dryer or letting them air dry. Not only does washing your masks help make them more tolerable to wear, but this process is also very important for infection control.
Wash your face
Now’s not the time to skip your skincare routine. Using a cleanser that isn’t irritating or drying when washing your face wash should cleanse away dirt, oil, and bacteria to help treat and prevent breakouts. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash with Salicylic Acid is gentle enough to use every day and actively reduces redness and irritation.
If your schedule is packed and you have limited time, grab Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes. You only need one wipe to sweep away dirt, oil, and impurities that could be causing maskne. There’s no need to rinse either, which makes these wipes perfect for when you’re on the go.
Use an oil-free moisturizer.
We know it could sound weird to suggest using more moisturizer, especially when face masks are causing the production of extra moisture. But, don’t roll your eyes just yet! Oil-free moisturizers can provide your skin with the good kind of hydrating moisture that acts as a protective skin barrier. Aveeno Clear Complexion Face Moisturizer is formulated for all skin types and helps prevent acne breakouts.
Avoid makeup when you can.
We know it’s tempting to use foundation and concealer to cover up irritated skin, but makeup could actually cause more problems. Letting your skin breathe and giving it time to heal by showing off your natural skin will help reduce flare ups. It’s understandable that this can be a tough one, especially when you have video calls and other commitments. If you really can’t avoid wearing some makeup, the AAD suggests that you apply non-comedogenic or oil-free makeup that won’t clog pores.
Dry skin, irritations, and acne are quite frustrating, but masks have become a part of our everyday lives for now, so it’s best to find the right ways to combat it. Thankfully, with the right products and skin care routines, maskne can be a thing of the past.
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