Wearing a mask in crowded or confined spaces continues to be the norm for many people, and while this is a great way to protect the health of yourself and others during the latest pandemic, it is also leading to an increase in skin problems. From chapped lips to dry patches, face masks can cause several conditions when worn for an extended length of time.
One of the biggest complaints by far since the start of the pandemic? Acne.
Clinical trials prove that wearing a face mask acts as a trigger for acne and rosacea, and studies show that those already prone to such conditions can see worse flare-ups than usual when consistently using a facial covering for long periods. While this form of protection is great for slowing the spread of the virus, it is not so kind to our skin.
Named 'maskne' due to its link to wearing a face mask, this condition is characterised by blemishes around the cheeks, nose and chin. Those suffering from this problem may also observe redness, irritation, and uneven texture. But why does wearing a covering for a few hours cause such effects?
What Causes Maskne?
Science suggests that breakouts and bumpiness are a result of added moisture and friction. Your breath gets trapped inside the barrier, and this warm and humid environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Plus, the fabric of the mask itself rubs against the surface of the skin like a constant form of exfoliation. Add to this any detergents used to wash the material, and it's a terrible trifecta that results in unwanted spots and sometimes even dermatitis.
How To Prevent and Heal Maskne
Dermatologists have been offering advice to combat the effects of maskne since the start of the pandemic, and public statements have even been made by official groups like the AAD to address the rise in cases.
Basic hygiene including thoroughly washing your face can make a big difference as it eliminates sweat and build-up from the day. Choosing a gentle cleanser can ease skin stress and add a needed dose of moisture back into your face.
Regularly using an acid exfoliator can help slough away dead cells and prevent the formation of whiteheads (which will ultimately develop into spots) under the skin's surface.
It's also suggested to ease up on makeup when wearing a facial covering, as products like foundation and concealer can clog pores and exaggerate any negative effects.
Studies also show that the type of mask used can impact the level of irritation experienced. The ideal design minimises textile-skin contact, and it will have a high thread count with no metal nose bridge. When using a reusable mask (a great choice for reducing plastic waste!), it is especially important to make sure the covering allows for movement when speaking. Also, be sure to wash it every day to avoid gathering bacteria, dirt, and dead skin cells!
Another way to prevent maskne is to give your face a break every four hours. Take off the covering for fifteen minutes to let your cheeks, chin, and nose breathe. This could also be a great time to refresh your skin if needed and reapply a lightweight moisturiser to support the skin barrier.