COVID-19: Face Masks and Acne

With the wearing of face mask as one of the prescribed ways to avoiding the contraction and prevention of the Covid-19 virus, facial acne is seen to be one of the side effects of this preventive measure.

An American dermatologist, Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC said that Cloth masks can cause acne, and the breakouts are becoming so common that they now have a clever little name—maskne. In addition to a publication on CNN health, board-certified Dr. Seemal Desai, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said, “there is a flare of a type of acne called perioral dermatitis, which tends to happen typically around the mouth and in the areas around the nose”.

Consequently, the technical term for maskne is “acne mechanica,” and is the result of the mechanical friction of a fabric against the skin. It’s not a new phenomenon— sports figures who wear helmets and chin guards are quite familiar with such breakouts. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center states that “we all have these tiny little hair follicles on our face, chest and back, and wearing any kind of a mask or protective equipment that’s creating friction and pressure can irritate the hair follicles and result in an acne flare.”

Clearly, this is brought on by the ideal breeding ground for bacteria created by the breathing in and out of individuals while wearing a face mask. The breathing in and out causes an increase in temperature and humidity around the areas of the face covered by the mask as well as the constant friction of the mask against the skin, which harms the outer protective layer. “Face coverings create a humid environment that traps sweat, oil, and bacteria on the skin,” explains Dr. Zeichner, “and they’re likely what’s causing acne in the form of whiteheads, red bumps, and pustules in the areas of skin covered by the mask.”

The damage of the protective layer of the skin in tandem with bacteria easily penetrates the skin and causes clogged oil glands, causing increased inflammation and acne breakouts.

Some suggested ways of preventing face mask induced acne include;

  • Wash your mask; masks should be washed and completely dried after every use.
  • Cleanse and moisturize your skin immediately after you remove the mask.
  • Touch the mask with your hands as little as possible.
  • Do not use mask that are too tight.
  • Wear minimal or no makeup under your mask to prevent your pores from being clogged.
  • Use gentle skin care products and wait at least thirty minutes before wearing your mask after the application of these skin care products.
  • Don’t use petroleum protection such as petroleum jelly because they interfere with the integrity of the masks.
  • Finally, if your skin is oily, you can use oil-free wipes or blotting papers to remove excess oil and sweat that can accumulate under your mask throughout the day.

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