By: Regina Taylor
Masks have become a new staple in our everyday lives this past year – we now grab one before we go anywhere, along with our keys, wallet, and phone. Even now as Covid-19 vaccines become widely available to the general public, masks will certainly outlast the pandemic. Wearing a mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19 has been pivotal throughout this period of time, due to the mask’s ability to keep potentially viral respiratory droplets contained. Still, over the past year there’s been a negative secondary effect of wearing masks that some have experienced involving face acne, known as “mask-ne”.
If you noticed a difference in your skin’s general appearance over the last year around your cheeks and nose, you are not alone. In fact, studies have shown mask wearing can cause instances of acne, rosacea, contact dermatitis, and folliculitis (Nunez, 2020). People who already have one or more of these conditions are especially prone to developing irritation and reactions to their masks (Nunez, 2020).
This is largely due to the fact that skin underneath your mask has higher surface temperature and humidity, as a result of the perspiration and “recycled” air gathering here as you breathe and speak (Han et al, 2020). Increases in temperature cause an increase in the rate that your skin secretes sebum, which can clog pores and lead to breakouts (Han et al, 2020). The skin’s sebum composition and hydration levels also experience changes when wearing a mask, causing an imbalance in bacterial microflora on the skin and more breakouts (Han et al, 2020). The most obviously negative side of wearing a mask is that it traps all dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and bacteria on the skin’s surface, which creates a recipe for mask-ne in many cases (Nunez, 2020).
Some tips for avoiding the negative effects of mask wearing on skin and fighting “mask-ne” can be found below:
- Replace your masks often. It’s recommended to not keep a surgical or N95 mask past 4 hours and 3 days, respectively (Han et al, 2020). For cloth masks, they should be ideally washed after every use (with hypoallergenic detergent) and then left to air dry (Nunez, 2020).
- Wash your hands before you touch your face (and mask). Before putting on or removing your mask, make sure your hands are nice and clean to avoid trapping more dirt on your skin/mask.
- Try mask inserts. To reduce the amount of moisture inside of your mask, you can try inserting gauze to absorb the perspiration and water vapor that builds up inside it as you are wearing it (Han et al, 2020).
- Be careful if you have oily skin. Individuals with oily skin may need to wipe their face with water and moisturize regularly using products that contain oil control ingredients (Han et al, 2020).
- Moisturize before wearing your mask. A good moisturizer (make sure it’s non comedogenic) can serve as a barrier between your skin and mask and won’t clog your pores. Hydrated skin is also less prone to breakouts (Nunez, 2020).
- Take a break from makeup. Ingredients in concealer, foundation, and other cosmetics can clog your pores and make it harder for your skin to repair from any acne or irritated spots; so, avoid applying a full-face when you can (Nunez, 2020).
Even with a bad case or flare-up of mask-ne, it is still much more important to wear a mask and protect yourself from contracting and/or transmitting Covid-19. To counter the effects of mask wearing, keep up with your skincare routine and wear the right type of mask with a fabric that doesn’t irritate or chafe against your skin. In severe or persistent cases, it is always a good idea to talk to a dermatologist or healthcare provider to see what specific advice may be required for your skin type.
Han, C., Shi, J., Chen, Y., & Zhang, Z. (2020, July 2). Increased flare of acne caused by long‐time mask wearing during COVID‐19 pandemic among general population. Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dth.13704.
Nunez, K. (2020, November 24). How to Avoid Maskne (Mask Acne) Breakouts. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/maskne.