For many people, this is causing an embarrassing and unpleasant side effect: blemishes, pimples, pimples, or what dermatologists call acne.
“I have desperate patients calling ‘What’s going on? I’ve never had an outbreak before and now my face looks like a teenager’s!'” Said Dr. Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist, clinical assistant professor at dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
“We are seeing a lot of acne breakouts, especially a type called perioral dermatitis, which tends to typically occur around the mouth and in the areas around the nose,” said Dr. Seemal Desai, an assistant professor at the board-certified University . from Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Outbreaks that occur after wearing a mask have become so common that mask acne has been dubbed “maskne” on social media.
“We believe that the use of these masks, combined with the stress of the pandemic, is causing a larger, moisture-rich environment for the proliferation of bacteria and organisms,” said Desai, “causing a skin breakdown and inflammation of some of these conditions. “
Nurses and other health professionals on the front lines of the battle against Covid-19 are the hardest hit, Desai said, due to the necessary seal of personal protective equipment to keep the virus at bay.
“I see a lot more skin diseases in healthcare workers because they wear PPE and N95 respirators that cause skin ulcers, breakdown and bleeding,” said Desai, who is a spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatologists.
Compared to the bruised and bleeding faces of doctors and nurses, some pimples may seem inconsequential. But it’s an important issue that shouldn’t be trivialized, said Bowe, also a spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatologists.
“Acne is significantly associated with self-esteem, even if it’s just one or two pimples,” he explained. “Even having mild and minimal acne can have profound effects on interpersonal relationships, how we socialize, job performance, depression and anxiety.”
The technical term for maskne is “acne mechanica” and is the result of mechanical friction of a tissue against the skin. It’s not new – sports figures wearing helmets and chin straps are quite familiar with such outbreaks.
“We all have these little hair follicles on our faces, chest and back, and wearing any type of mask or protective gear that generates friction and pressure can irritate the hair follicles and cause an acne breakout,” Bowe said.
“That is compounded by the moisture trapped under the fabric, which is made worse by moisture, heat and exercise,” he said.
If you haven’t experienced the mask yet, chances are you’ll be able to spend more time outdoors this summer, due to heat, humidity, sunscreen, and facial products.
And treatment is complicated, experts say. You cannot use powerful products like alpha hydroxy acids, chemical peels, or Retin A to destroy acne as they will further damage the fragile skin barrier, making it more sensitive to the irritating effects of the mask.
If you use those products, “you may not have spots, but you may end up with eczema patches, dry patches, itching, burning, swelling, all signs of an impaired skin barrier,” Bowe said.
Of course, the best you can do is prevent the maskne from happening in the first place. Since we can’t, or shouldn’t, stop wearing masks around others for the foreseeable future, here are some key prevention tips.
Wash that mask
Do you wear your mask, then take it off and toss it in a sunny spot in your car to kill the germs (raising your hand shyly)?
That could help kill the virus, but it spawns maskne, Bowe said.
“If you put it on your couch or put it in your closet and then put it back in a couple of days, just think of all the microbes that have been growing in the fabric of the fabric,” he said. “It’s dirty. If you’ve been wearing a little makeup, moisturizer, or sunscreen, it gets contaminated very quickly.”
Bowe advised that masks should be thoroughly washed and dried after each use, adding that he prefers cotton masks as they allow the skin to breathe.
“And if you exercise or sweat during the day with a mask on, then you want to change that mask and put on a fresh, clean mask right away,” he said. “You don’t want to sit in a sweaty mask, that will only lead to more acne.”
Use mild skin care products
“Simple, good-quality skin care doesn’t have to be the fancy $ 500 product. Just use mild, mild, non-greasy, non-rough cleansers,” Desai said.
“I tell people to avoid anything with FLS or sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a strong sulfate that really strips the skin of its natural oils and damages the barrier,” Bowe said. “I also tell people to avoid any scrub, anything that looks like sand or sand. Those are things you really don’t want to use because they will damage the skin barrier.”
Clean your skin twice a day, morning and night, he added, only with the tips of your fingers.
“No instruments, no polishing, no sponge, no wipe, your fingers are all you need,” he said. “Dry your face with a clean towel and put on a light, fragrance-free moisturizer.”
Check labels carefully when it comes to unscented products, Desai suggested.
“Having less fragrance doesn’t mean fragrance-free,” he warned. “Don’t buy them unless you say ‘unscented’ on the label. It’s very easy to trip over that.”
Don’t use heavy ingredients, like cocoa butter or coconut oil, and skip any type of oil-based base, Bowe said.
“If you can go baseless and use a mineral sunscreen instead during the summer, I think that’s really the way to go,” he said.
Wait 15 minutes after applying the moisturizer or sunscreen before putting on the mask, 30 minutes if you are wearing an N95 mask, he suggested.
“You really want those ingredients to penetrate the skin if you’re going to try to create that seal,” said Bowe. “If your skin is slippery, the seal will not work as well.”
Use lip conditioners with a more waxy finish or a lip serum to hydrate the lips while wearing the mask, Bowe added, but not a lip gloss or anything that might stick to the mask.
Finally, at night after cleansing with mild products, it’s okay to put on a moisture-rich cream to repair the skin’s barrier and retain moisture, he said.
Putting that new skincare regimen on hold
If you use anti-aging products, be careful not to overdo it, Desai said, for the same reason that it’s not a good idea to use them to clear acne.
“You don’t want to end up with something that is an open area on the skin, and create a stress-induced collapse, tear, or breakout.”
This is also not the time to start a new skincare regimen.
“I have people tell me all the time, ‘I’ve been wearing the same makeup for 25 years! I don’t know why it’s causing a problem now.’ It is because your skin is more prone to having an immune response,” he said.
Even if your skin is not sensitive to fragrances or your previous skin care, Desai explained, you are wearing a mask, probably eager for Covid-19 and possibly wearing more equipment similar to PPE. All that stress can change the physiology of your skin.
Another reason, Bowe said, is that putting a mask on a fragrant cream or The new makeup will bring more of those ingredients into contact with the deeper layers of the skin, triggering inflammation, sometimes even if you use products labeled “natural.”
“There is a big misconception among my patients that nature is always better,” he said. “But many of my patients are reacting to these natural products that contain botanicals and essential oils.”
“So if you use a product and you smell a fragrance, even if it says unscented, then you probably don’t want to use it under the mask. ”
Do not use oil protection.
Many of us might be looking for a thick soothing cream or petroleum jelly to spread on our face where our mask is rubbed, but that’s a mistake, especially for anyone who needs to wear protective gear, Desai said.
“Petroleum products and many of these things can interfere with the integrity of the mask and seal,” he said.
“If you have skin problems, ulcers, or erosion of your personal protective equipment, talk to a board-certified dermatologist because there are products that can be prescribed to help.”