“Maskne” is a new term coined during the COVID-19 pandemic to describes acne that develops under the area where a face mask is worn. And it’s being experienced by growing numbers of health-care workers and the general public.
So what causes it? This type of acne has been previously referred to as acne mechanica. This term refers to skin irritation from excess pressure, heat and rubbing against the skin. When the skin is constantly rubbed and irritated, it becomes rough and forms acne-like bumps. Masks can worsen existing skin problems or cause new ones. Additionally, heat and humidity can create the perfect storm for bacteria causing acne to grow on the skin. Fortunately, there are several simple steps that can be taken to ensure skin health underneath your mask.
[READ: Skin Health When Wearing a Mask.]
1. Wash your face. Use a gentle, mild soap-free cleanser. This will remove excess dirt and oil that clog the pores and cause breakouts.
2. Moisturize. Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated and act as a barrier between your skin and the mask to reduce friction. Look for ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which can provide additional protection.
3. Skip the makeup. Avoid wearing makeup under your mask, as this can contribute to clogged pores and leave residue on the mask.
[Read: How to Get Rid of Mask Breath.]
4. Wash your mask. Sweat, bacteria and oil accumulate on masks. If you’re using a cloth mask, wash it daily. (And opt for 100% cotton, which allows the skin to breathe. These are also less likely to cause breakouts when compared to blended or synthetic material.) If you’re wearing a medical mask, change it daily.
If you do end up with acne despite these simple measures, try an over-the-counter remedy first. But keep in mind, all products that treat acne can be dry and irritating, so start with one medicated product at a time. Ingredients in over-the-counter products like salicylic acid, adapalene, retinol and benzoyl peroxide can treat acne.
In addition to acne, other skin issues can arise due to masks. For example, contact dermatitis can occur if you’re allergic to any of the components of a mask, such as the dyes, rubber and fabrics. This presents as a rash and can be very itchy. If this occurs, using a mild topical steroid like hydrocortisone can be helpful.
Rosacea can also be flared by the heat and humidity underneath a mask.
If your skin issues persists despite trying the steps outlined here, it’s important to seek medical attention and see a board-certified dermatologist for additional treatment options.
More from U.S. News