In a world changing so fast, keeping up can be difficult. A less common issue has struck the world, ultimately becoming common place. The dreaded “Maskne”. A term merging the word mask and acne together is used to describe a rash acquired by wearing masks to prevent the transmission of respiratory diseases, namely COVID-19. We don’t know when COVID-19 is going away, and we certainly don’t know when masks may be necessary in the future with possible other outbreaks. Now the question arises, what is it and what can we do to prevent and treat it? Well, there are multiple factors that lead to the rash which means multiple things need to be done to combat it.
Part of the problem is that masks block the oil glands on the face. Friction, heat, and pressure from the mask irritate the skin and lead to an acne-like rash. The medical name for the most common cause of “Maskne” is acne mechanica. This process creates a rash that is similar to acne in appearance. To battle this issue, avoid using occlusive materials like oil based products and heavy makeup in the areas the mask comes into contact with. Products that block the oil glands of the face or increase the oil on the skin are going to predispose you to acne like outbreaks. Once you are able, after wearing masks wash your face with a gentle cleanser.
Another common issue is due to contact dermatitis, a rash that occurs either from skin damage or an allergy to certain chemicals or materials. Different fabrics have different properties related to their protection from airborne diseases. Cleaning the mask frequently is important as some fabrics will retain oils, moisture, and other irritating substances. Using a fragrance free detergent is important to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Also, cotton is recommended because it allows the skin to breathe. Last, avoid touching your face and clean your hands and cell phone frequently.
What is one supposed to do when they already have Maskne? Well, the simple answer is starting with a treatment regimen similar to treating acne. We want to clean the pores, decrease the bacteria on the skin, exfoliate gently, create a barrier by hydrating the skin, and decrease inflammation. As always, I am a fan of retinoids, a group of medications including prescription tretinoin (Retin-A™), over-the-counter adapalene (differin™), and others that help the skin in numerous ways. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid washes help clean out the pores, exfoliate, and decrease bacteria. A gentle moisturizer like CeraVe™ works well to hydrate skin and create a barrier between you and the mask.
For those experiencing a rash resistant to this approach it is best to have a dermatologist evaluate your skin, as the rash may be due to other causes such as allergic reactions, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis and others. It’s important to remember everyone’s skin is unique and requires care tailored to the individual. Sometimes there are multiple causes and a combination approach is best. If the rash is not improving, or you have any questions about your skin, a dermatologist can work with you to find the treatment that works best for you. These skin care tips will help your skin stay healthy and clear even after masks are no longer needed. It’s never too early to start a good skin care regimen.