Expert tips on how to relieve “mask-ne”

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ST. LOUIS – Masks have become a way of life and some people have no problems with them, others are experiencing skin issues where the mask hits the face. There’s a name for that, it’s called “mask-ne”

SLUCare dermatologist Dr. Eran Chen explains how to relieve that irritation.

Facemasks are part of our daily lives and will probably be here for the foreseeable future. Wearing a reusable or disposable face mask in public helps slow the spread of COVID-19. While this protective barrier helps shield you and others around you from the deadly virus, using these masks frequently can take a toll on your skin’s natural barrier—often causing irritation and breakouts on your chin or around your mouth and nose—thanks to trapped sweat, dirt as well as heat and moisture from your breath. 

These tiny zits or mask-induced acne are commonly known as ‘maskne,’ which is another term for ‘acne mechanica,’ which are acne lesions that form on the skin in areas that are occluded such as under a mask.Maskne is not just limited to acne; it can also include conditions like rosacea, eczema and/or perioral dermatitis. Maskne may also be an exacerbation of a previous condition or new development of a skin condition.

Here are several dermatologic recommendations to keep maskne at bay:

  • Wash your reusable mask daily with a gentle soap. Avoid bleach which can irritate the skin.
  • Try to take mask breaks when it’s safe to do so – ideally a 15-minute break for every four hours of mask wearing.
  • Avoid wearing makeup under your mask. Heavy makeup can clog pores.
  • Don’t pick at the zits. That can irritate the skin further and lead to scarring.
  • Make sure your mask isn’t too tight as this can cause further irritation.
  • Don’t overdo your skincare routine which can have a drying effect
  • Consider a silk face mask, which is gentler on the skin and is naturally antibacterial.
  • Moisturize often to protect your skin and restore its natural barrier.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen even while you’re wearing a mask.

    If, despite following the above measures, your skin is still inflamed, irritated and/or enduring breakouts from your frequent mask-wearing, consider seeing a dermatologist, who can recommend some prescription and over-the-counter solutions to improve your skin and help prevent further irritation.  In more severe cases involving nodular or cystic (deep, painful and pus-filled) acne, a combination of topical, oral and light-based treatments such as lasers and intense pulsed light will be needed. Oral medications such as isotretinoin, antibiotics, hormonal contraceptives and spironolactone may have a variety of side effects, so it’s best to be followed up regularly by your dermatologist. Steroid injections or incision and drainage of a cyst can also be performed to quickly reduce inflammation and the chances of scarring. Pay attention to any unusual skin irritation that develops. Dr. Chen has even performed Mohs surgery on a few patients recently, who had skin cancers that they noticed due to the rubbing and irritation caused by their facemasks.

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