As we were clinking our glasses on New Years Eve, who knew that we’d be adding a new word into our lexicon and having to deal with Maskne in 2020? I bet you can guess that it means acne from wearing a mask, but if you don’t know now you know.
With Summer descending upon us, it will get harder to stay committed to wearing a protective mask. My first thought was to figure out a way to make a lightweight mask, but realized quickly it’s a bad idea since the whole point is to block the aerosolized microbes. Good grief! So, some of us will have to learn how to deal with maskne.
What Causes Maskne
Each time you breathe, you are releasing heat and moisture. This can build up within the space between your mask and face, making you feel very uncomfortable and causing acne. For some people, wearing a mask in hot weather can trigger a heat-rash. A heat rash is somewhat different from acne in that it is specifically caused by heat and only affects areas with sweat glands. Heat rashes appear when sweat glands become blocked by fabric, dirt or overproduction.
Poorly Fitting Masks
The first step in preventing maskne is to choose a mask that fits well. An N95 mask that is too small can cause physical micro trauma to your skin. This is because pressure from a tightly fitting mask can break apart dermal cells, causing tiny tears in your skin. These tears, when combined with friction, moisture, and a lack of oxygen, lead to the formation of acne mechanica which looks a lot like acne.
Even if the mask fits properly, wearing it for long periods of time blocks hair follicles and allows dirt to build up. This causes contact irritation and acne. In one study on COVID healthcare workers, 97% of respondents experienced skin damage from wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Irritation in the form of small whiteheads around the bridge of the nose, cheeks, and chin is the most common sign of mask-induced acne.
What can you do about Maskne?
How to deal with maskne starts with prevention. Adhere to your regular skin cleansing routine religiously. Be sure to emphasize moisturizing to prevent your skin from drying out. Drier skin is less flexible and prone to forming cracks where bacteria can enter. Cherry-O is an excellent solution for this since it is a natural soothing balm with healing properties. You can apply it right before bedtime on top of your favorite moisturizer.
If you are also dealing with whiteheads and oil you can use the Adios Tonic, Bye Serum or get a one-month supply of the Goodbye mask to use as a clearing treatment. You can play around with these different products to figure out which combination works the best for your issues.
Protecting Your Face from Masks
In a previous post I talked about the benefits of silicone strips for wrinkles, but you could just as easily use them to protect your face from mask friction. For example, you can take a 4×4 silicone sheet and cut it into thin strips. If you plan on wearing a mask for a long period of time you can place a strip between your skin and the mask where it rubs. The silicone is inert, so it shouldn’t add to the problems. It also reduces friction and pressure, lessening the degree of skin trauma. Also consider using a liquid skin protectant to create a barrier between your skin and your mask. Both this and the silicone sheets will also help your skin from becoming too dry.
Cleaning Your Mask
My last post sheds light on how to clean your mask. It discusses challenges with wearing masks and sanitation. One of the most convenient ways to sanitize a mask is to use a portable UVC light box. If your mask is washable you can hang it to dry and pop it into the light box to be sure you’ve killed bacteria and viruses.
Lastly, I opened a funny little online store called The Pun Shop by Shelley where you can purchase face masks and t-shirts to give some comic relief during the pandemic.