22 June 2022
Maskne/ acne- Is your face mask causing you acne or pimples and sensitive skin? If you answered yes, you are not alone. Wearing a face mask is one of the key recommendations in Singapore to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and flattening the curve. For some of us who need to wear face masks for a prolonged period of time, you may be experiencing problems such as pimples or acne; abrasions; and pressure ulcers. In this guide, I’ll be explaining about Maskne and:
• How wearing face masks causes acne and pimples; and
• How you can treat and prevent these pimples related to wearing face masks
This post is part of a series of dermatological posts related to Covid-19. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy the following blogposts:
Regardless of the mask used- N95; surgical face mask; reusable cloth mask- covering your mouth and nose causes humidity and heat to build up. The build up of humidity and heat can alter the PH and conditions on the skin to encourage inflammation and the growth of bacteria (such as Cutibacterium acnes) and yeast.
Friction from face masks can also cause acne i.e. acne mechanica. Excessive rubbing and pressure on the skin from face masks causes inflammation and eruption of microcomedones to form papules and cystic nodules. These are the angry pimples that may cause scarring.
Another contributing factor to maskne/ acne that should not be negated during this Covid-19 pandemic is emotional stress. The constant stream news of the global outbreak of Covid-19 and its impact on the people we care about and our community can take a toll on our emotional wellbeing. When we are emotionally stressed, our bodies produce higher amounts of a hormone called corticotropin-releasing-hormone (CRH). CRH acts on the sebaceous glands in the skin to increase sebum production. Increased sebum production is one of the causes of maskne/ acne.
Related blogposts for Maskne:
Now that we’ve learnt about how wearing masks causes acne; let’s move on to understanding how you treat and prevent maskne or pimples on your own.
Tip #1: Skip the makeup
This sounds obvious enough but makeup can clog pores and worsen breakouts, especially when the humidity is increased by the mask. If you really need to wear makeup, avoid high coverage or heavy formulations and apply on areas of your face above the mask.
Tip #2: Cleanse the right way
Cleanse right without overdoing it. Using astringent cleansers or cleansing too frequently can strip the skin of its protective lipids and worsen skin sensitivity and dryness. What you can do is double cleanse- use a remover for makeup and a non-foaming facial cleanser to get a good balance.
Tip #3: Use an acid to remove excess sebum and clogged pores
Incorporate acids in your skincare routine to remove excess oils and clogged pores. You can easily find acids in skincare products such as facial cleansers and toners. Over the counter acid products may not be as effective as in-clinic chemical peels; but they can help with improving acne or pimples to an extent.
I would recommend using beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) or salicylic acid to remove blackheads and whiteheads. If you have sensitive skin or an allergy to salicylic acid; consider using milder acids like polyhydroxyacids (PHA) instead.
Tip #4: Go light with your skincare routine
Your skincare routine remains important to keep your skin’s health in tip top condition. However, if it’s giving you problems with mask wearing; it’s time to get smart without necessarily ditching key steps. For example, instead of using oils or creams that are more likely to clog pores; switch to lightweight gels and lotions that contain hyaluronic acid to moisturise skin.
Tip #5: Bring in the acne busters
Time to bring in the acne busters if your acne still persists. Ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide, Niacinamide and Azelaic acid can reduce Cutibacterium acnes bacterial load, sebum formation and inflammation to combat pimples in maskne.
These skincare ingredients can be found in over the counter skin care products. They may not compare to prescription grade medications or skincare products, but they can help with mild cases of acne/ pimples/ maskne.
Tip #6: Don’t pop the pimple!
Rule number one of pimples is not to pop them; regardless of how tempting they may seem. As my blogpost Acne Steroid Injections and When Popping A Pimple Could Kill You; bursting that pimple could cause depressed scars and infection.
If your maskne still persists, it’s time to get some help from your doctor to bust those pimples. You might need medications like retinoids or antibiotics and in-clinic treatments like Q-switched laser and chemical peels (after Circuit Breaker ends of course).
Medications, Q-switch laser and chemical peels can give you the improvement that you need; especially if these home remedies have failed. These treatments also double up in lightening the dark scars (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) caused by acne.