Maskne has been a recurrent topic of discussion since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The medical term is acne mechanica, and it is not a new phenomenon. Those who wear masks have been plagued with this condition for as long as the mask has been around. This is a type of acne caused by heat, occlusion, and friction. Wearing masks for long periods mixed with heat and humidity is the perfect storm for maskne, and it can present in many ways, including pimples, pustules, redness, and itchy dry or raw skin. When it comes to creating the conditions leading to these acne symptoms, South Florida certainly has the climate!
You can help prevent maskne by wearing a clean mask. With each use, your oil, saliva, sweat, and nasal secretions build up on your mask. If your mask is disposable, you need to replace it regularly. If it is a cloth mask, then it should be washed daily with an unscented, mild detergent and rinsed well. It does appear that soft cotton fabrics are better for those suffering from maskne. In addition, avoid wearing makeup under the mask. The mask plus makeup—plus a moist environment—is a haven for acne to thrive. Finally, wash your face once you can remove the mask. A mild cleanser and gentle massage with your fingertips is all that is needed to cleanse the skin.
If it is too late to prevent maskne, we have many treatment options. The first step is using topical agents to unplug pores, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, azelaic acid, and retinoids. It is important to note that you can overdo these acne treatments, resulting in the skin becoming too dry. Therefore, I recommend just starting with one of these agents and making an appointment to create a treatment plan. If the acne is severe enough, I sometimes use short courses of oral antibiotics. On the other hand, if the concern is more of irritation and allergy, rather than acne, other topical treatments are necessary.
Maskne is not an excuse to not wear a mask. The widespread use of facial masks lessens the spread of the coronavirus. We will help you get through the maskne while protecting yourself and your community.